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What Is Landlord & Tenant Law?

Under the Landlord and Tenant Acts of 1954 and 1985, both landlords and tenants have certain legal rights and obligations. This means that both parties have protection under the law when disputes arise, and both must abide by the law to settle disputes.

The main rights and responsibilities of a landlord and their tenant are detailed in the tenancy agreement that both sign when a tenant moves into a new property.

Landlord rights and responsibilities

Landlord rights include:

  • The ability to charge a fair market rent, and receive rent as stated in the tenancy agreement;
  • The right to visit the property, with 24 hours’ notice, providing visits are not overly frequent;
  • The right to apply to the courts to evict a tenant who breaks the tenancy agreement.

Landlord responsibilities include:

  • Placing the tenant’s deposit in a Government-approved deposit protection scheme.
  • Ensuring that fire safety regulations are followed, including the provision of smoke alarms, fire alarms, and extinguishers as appropriate;
  • Ensure any gas equipment is properly installed and maintained;
  • Ensure that electrical systems and appliances are safe and well-maintained;
  • Maintenance of the structure and exterior of the property, as well as interior fixtures and systems.

Tenant rights and responsibilities

Tenants have the right to:

  • Live in a property that is safe and well-maintained;
  • Know who your landlord is;
  • Protection from unfair eviction or excessively high rent;
  • Protection from discrimination based on race, religion, sex, gender, and sexuality;
  • Challenge rent and other charges that are excessively high;
  • Have your deposit returned to you at the end of your tenancy;
  • See the property’s Energy Performance Certificate;

Tenant responsibilities include:

  • Taking care of the property;
  • Adhering to the terms of the tenancy agreement; for instance, if pets or smoking are not permitted, the tenant should not smoke or keep a pet;
  • Paying rent and any other charges as agreed;
  • Pay for or repair any damage caused by you or your visitors;
  • Allowing your landlord access to the property, providing they give 24 hours’ notice.
  • Giving the required notice if they plan to vacate the property.

Disputes between Landlords and Tenants

Litigation via the court system is not usually an effective way to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants, especially if the dispute isn’t serious enough to warrant eviction. It’s typically more effective to use the methods set up specifically to help landlords and tenants resolve their disputes, or to engage the help of a solicitor.

For tenants

If a tenant has a problem with their landlord, the first step towards resolution is talking to the landlord themselves. Often, they can reach a resolution with informal negotiation. If this doesn’t help resolve the problem, there is a specific process that a tenant can follow to try and resolve the problem.

The next step for the tenant is to make a complaint to what’s known as a designated person. Depending on where you live, this might be a local councillor, your MP, or a tenant panel. There is no particular procedure that the designated person must follow to resolve the dispute. They have the authority to help resolve the dispute in whatever way they think will work. For instance, they might suggest a solution, or suggest a method such as mediation for resolving the dispute.

If the designated person is unable to help, they can refer the tenant’s complaint to the Housing Ombudsman. Or, if the tenant is not satisfied with the outcome, they can contact the Housing Ombudsman themselves.

For landlords

Rent arrears: For landlords, one of the primary causes of disputes is non-payment of rent. When this happens, the landlord has a set process they must follow to try and recover the money, or remove the tenant. Initially, the landlord can proceed by making an inquiry to the tenant asking why the rent is late, and find out if there is a legitimate reason for the non-payment. For more serious arrears, arranging a repayment plan can be a workable solution for both the landlord and the tenant.

The worst-case scenario is that the tenant owes a significant amount of rent, and is unable to pay. At this point, the landlord may need to apply to the court system to regain possession of the property and recover some or all of the rent they’re owed. Depending on the tenant, there may be other options; for instance, if the tenant is a beneficiary the landlord may have recourse to recover money from the benefit office.

Eviction: If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, they must first provide the tenant with an eviction notice. The eviction notice should give the tenant at least two months’ notice of their eviction. If the tenant hasn’t vacated the property at the end of the notice period, the landlord must apply for a possession order from the court. If the tenant doesn’t leave after the possession order is granted, the landlord can apply for an eviction warrant, which means bailiffs are sent to remove the tenants and their possessions.

How can a Solicitor Help?

For both landlords and tenants, a solicitor can provide help with dispute resolution and other matters relating to a housing tenancy. A law firm or solicitor can:

  • Advise you of your rights and obligations, and give you legal advice on your options for trying to resolve the dispute.
  • Negotiate with the other party involved in the dispute, or their solicitor.
  • Arrange for mediation as a possible method of dispute resolution.
  • For landlords who are attempting to recover rent or evict a tenant, a solicitor can help with serving an eviction notice, and with completing and filing paperwork to apply for a possession order or eviction warrant.
  • For tenants who feel they are being unfairly evicted, a solicitor can help you contest the eviction.
  • For tenants who have been unable to resolve a problem such as disrepair that makes the home unsafe, a solicitor can help you escalate the issue to ensure the repairs are carried out.
  • If a tenant is injured because a landlord has been negligent about making needed repairs, a solicitor can provide advice on whether it may be possible to claim compensation for personal injury.