Private R enters. in Brent. A Simple Guide for Private Tenants

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1 Private R enters in Brent A Simple Guide for Private Tenants

2 CONTENTS Rights and Duties Rights for assured shorthold tenants... 2 Tenancy deposits... 3 Rents... 3 Rent increases... 4 Repairs... 5 Quiet enjoyment of your home... 6 Remaining in your home... 6 Other rights... 7 Duties... 8 Unfair terms Support from other renters Getting help to use your rights Renters Rights Pop-Up Café Good things about private renting Property Licensing New Rules Some of the things landlords must do under the Licensing Rules No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form including any electronic means, mechanical means, photocopying, or recording by any information retrieval system without the express permission of Advice4Renters. All rights reserved. Licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Limited do not extend to this work. The Renters Rights Project Find out more Come and Join Us Renters Rights Project contact details You cannot be forced to leave IF... 22

3 PRIVATE TENANTS RIGHTS AND DUTIES RIGHTS FOR ASSURED SHORTHOLD TENANTS Most people who rent their home from a private landlord have assured shorthold tenancies. This is all tenants EXCEPT Those whose home is part of their job Those whose landlord lives in the same house Some tenants who have been renting the same home since before February 1997 Those who have been renting the same home since before January 1989 Those who have succeeded to a tenancy that was rented before January 1989 People living in hostels, B&Bs and some other forms of temporary accommodation Lettings to Companies. If you are one of these exceptions and you want to find out about your rights, contact our Renters Rights Project (see details on back cover) or visit the Shelter website, The information in this booklet is about your rights if you have an assured shorthold tenancy. Your assured shorthold tenancy gives you a legal interest in your home and that means you have LEGAL RIGHTS. Here are the main ones. You have a RIGHT TO HAVE YOUR TENANCY DEPOSIT PROTECTED. If you paid a deposit on your tenancy when you moved in, your landlord must not spend it. He must register it with one of the three Government approved Schemes. My deposits DPS (Deposit ProtectionScheme) You have a RIGHT TO A REASONABLE MARKET RENT. If, during the first six months of your tenancy, you find out that your rent is more than other rents in the area for similar lets, you can apply to a Property Tribunal to ask them to fix a lower rent. TENANCY DEPOSITS TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme) RENTS 2 3

4 RENT INCREASES If your landlord wants to increase your rent you have a right to challenge it, if you think it is unreasonable. If a fixed term tenancy ends and your landlord offers you a new fixed term at a higher rent, you do not have to accept the new fixed term. However you should think carefully about it as it will give you the right to remain for the new fixed term if you do accept it. If you don t have a new fixed term tenancy after the first one ends, your tenancy just rolls on from one rental period to the next. Your landlord can only increase the rent of your periodic tenancy if you reach an agreement about the amount of rent, or if the landlord gives you a formal Landlord s Notice Proposing a New Rent. If you think the proposed rent in the Landlord s Notice is higher than similar properties in your area. You can send the Notice to a Property Tribunal before the date of the proposed increase and ask them to decide your new rent. If you do not do this, the proposed rent will become the rent that is due from the date given in the Notice. You have a RIGHT TO GET REPAIRS DONE. Your landlord has a duty to keep the structure and outside of your house in good repair, including drains, gutters and pipes. He has a duty to keep all the installations in your home for the supply of water, gas and electricity in good working order. He must also keep in repair basins, sinks, baths and toilets as well as appliances for heating and hot water. The landlord should also keep your home free of serious hazards. This includes things that might cause you to fall such as stairs that are too steep or uneven surfaces. REPAIRS Other hazards include damp, infestations or homes that are hard (or too expensive) to keep warm. A failure to provide adequate locks to doors might be a hazard if there is a risk of intruders. You must first tell your landlord or his agent about any disrepair or hazards and give him a reasonable time to put things right. It s best to put this in writing, such as an or text that you can keep for a record. If the landlord does not sort out the problem, you have a RIGHT TO ASK BRENT COUNCIL TO INSPECT YOUR HOME AND ORDER YOUR LANDLORD TO PUT THINGS RIGHT.In addition, you have a RIGHT TO ASK THE COURT TO ORDER YOUR LANDLORD TO DO REPAIRS. 4 5

5 QUIET ENJOYMENT OF YOUR HOME You have a RIGHT TO THE QUIET ENJOYMENT OF YOUR HOME. This means that your landlord cannot keep coming round and disturbing you without good reason. The landlord should also protect you from unreasonable noise such as letting his builders work late in the evening. You have rights OTHER RIGHTS To have all the gas appliances checked. Your landlord must provide you with a Gas Safe Record every year certifying that the gas appliances are safe To know how energy efficient your home is. Accommodation should give details of the energy rating with an estimate of the fuel costs when it is advertised and landlords or their agents must give tenants and prospective tenants an Energy Performance Certificate To ask for the terms of your tenancy in writing You have rights, to know the name and address of your landlord. If you make a written request for this information to the person you pay your rent to, they must give it to you within 21 days REMAINING IN YOUR HOME You have a RIGHT TO REMAIN IN YOUR HOME for at least six months (or longer if you have a tenancy for a fixed term of more that six months), provided you are not breaking the law or the terms of your tenancy. As a shorthold tenant you cannot be forced to leave unless your landlord applies to court for a possession order and the court orders you to leave by a certain date. If you are still in your home after that date, your landlord cannot force you out without getting a court bailiff. See pages for when your landlord can t force you to leave. You also have a RIGHT TO BE PROVIDED WITH A NAME & ADDRESS IN ENGLAND AND WALES WHERE YOU CAN WRITE TO YOUR LANDLORD. This is the address you should use, for example, to give your landlord notice of any repairs needed, notice that you will be taking legal action against him, or notice that you wish to leave. This is so important that the law says no rent is payable until this name and address is provided. Any back rent will then have to be paid. 6 7

6 If you found your home through a letting agency and you don t think they treated you fairly you have a RIGHT TO REDRESS. This means you can make a Complaint to one of the schemes that the agent is a member of and ask to be compensated. The most common complaint is that the agents charge unreasonable fees. Other reasons for complaint might be that the agents did not provide truthful information about your new home or that they didn t provide an Energy Performance Certificate. Remember to act with caution You have lots of rights but you do not have very much security. It is not difficult for landlords to get a possession order from the court. If a landlord asks a court to order you to leave at any time after the first six months or at the end of a fixed term, he does not have to give any reason. He just has to provide evidence that the tenancy is a shorthold tenancy and that he has gone through the right process of giving you at least two months notice before he applies to court. So if your landlord doesn t like it when you use your rights, he may be able to evict you. ALWAYS GET HELP BEFORE YOU ASSERT YOUR TENANCY RIGHTS. If you have difficulty paying the rent, get advice as soon as you can. If you have rent arrears you could lose your home and if you do, the Council will not help you because they will say that you made yourself intentionally homeless. If your landlord gives you notice or applies to court for possession of your home, contact Advice4Renters Housing Advice Centre, contact details on page 21 of this booklet. You must also take reasonable care of your home including the furniture and fittings. If you don t the landlord may apply to court for possession and he may have a right to keep your tenancy deposit. DUTIES You need to know about your legal duties as a tenant as well as your rights. As an assured shorthold tenant, you must keep to the terms of your tenancy unless the terms are Unfair - see note about Unfair Terms below. The most important term of your tenancy is the rent. You must pay the rent that is due on time. Read your tenancy agreement carefully to see if you can decorate. Some landlords don t allow you to pin things on the wall, or keep pets without their written consent. You should keep your home reasonably warm and let adequate light and air in during the day, otherwise you may get mould from condensation. If there is a central heating boiler, learn how to set the thermostat. 8 9

7 You must also make sure that you do not obstruct the shared parts of the house such as landings, stairs and hallway. Bikes, prams, etc must not be placed where they could prevent anyone in the house from making a rapid exit in the case of an emergency. Remember that a fire will fill the house with smoke within seconds and objects like bikes will not be seen. You do not have to tolerate a landlord or agent coming round frequently for no good reason. When the landlord wants to visit he must give you at least 24 hours written notice unless it is a genuine emergency. You must give access to any Gas Safe engineer who comes to check that your gas appliances are safe. Make sure you check their identification before you let them in. You should keep your home clean and tidy. Don t let rubbish blow all over the place. If there are not enough dustbins for everyone in the house, ask your landlord to provide more. UNFAIR TERMS Most tenancies say that you can t sub-let your home although you can sometimes share with someone, provided this doesn t cause overcrowding. If you have friends round you are responsible for your friends behaviour and for any damage they may cause. Avoid late night parties or playing loud music that will disturb your neighbours. Most private rented homes don t have modern sound insulation, so be considerate to your neighbours. You must also allow the landlord or agent reasonable access. That means occasional visits to check for any disrepair, and to see that you are looking after the place. If there are conditions in your tenancy that are unfair (apart from the key terms such as the rent and the length of the tenancy), the landlord cannot force you to keep to them. For example, if you had a tenancy agreement for a fixed term of a year, which said that the landlord could give notice after six months but the tenant could not do the same, that would be unfair. A No Pets rule with no exceptions so that you couldn t even keep a goldfish would be unfair too. It s best to get legal advice before you ignore terms that you think are unfair though, just to be sure

8 SUPPORT FROM OTHER RENTERS GETTING HELP TO USE YOUR RIGHTS Asserting your rights as a tenant can sometimes be a bit scary. You might worry that your landlord will get angry, or worse, that he will try to evict you. That s why we suggest that you do not act on your own. A lot of tenants can get individual help from A4R s Housing Advice Centre but there are Government funding restrictions about who we can help and how we can help. We encourage all renters in Brent to join our Renters Rights Project for information and support about how you can use your rights as a tenant. Our Renters Rights Project is making contact with lots of private renters in Brent. There are more than 32,000 renters in the borough so when you come together you can be a huge force for change! Our Renters Rights Project team are knocking on doors to talk to you and find out your views. Don t wait for us to call. Get in touch with us and tell us about your own experiences of being a private tenant in Brent

9 RENTERS RIGHTS POP-UP CAFÉ The Project is running a Renters Rights Pop-Up Café. This will be a place for you to come and meet other renters and learn more about your housing rights. The Café will also be a place where tenants can organise and provide mutual support. If you have an address, please send it to us so that we can send you details of Pop-Up events. Our Renters Rights Project Workers can meet you on your own, or in a very small group, to hear more about your story and your views and to talk to you about how we can help each other to make private renting in Brent a much better experience. Do get in touch to arrange a time to meet see outside back cover. GOOD THINGS ABOUT PRIVATE RENTING So far this booklet has talked about using tenancy rights to get a better renting experience. That s because we see so many tenants with bad experiences of renting. BUILDING CONFIDENCE AND LEARNING NEW SKILLS We know it s hard for you to speak up if you are not used to doing so. If English is not your first language this can seem like another barrier. We know that some tenants have very good landlords. If you have a good experience of private renting please share it with us. We want lots of examples of what landlords do well. This will show other landlords that they can improve the experience of renting for their tenants too

10 Property Licensing NEW RULES There are special rules for private rented homes in Brent which are effective from 1 January The rules mean that landlords have to apply to Brent Council for a Licence to let their properties. Licensing covers all houses with non-self-contained accommodation anywhere in Brent. These are bedsits where tenants share bathrooms, toilets or kitchens with other tenants who are not part of the same family. In Willesden Green, Harlesden and Wembley Central, every type of rented home must be licensed. If you are not sure whether your home should be licensed, contact our Renters Rights Project to find out. SOME OF THE THINGS LANDLORDS MUST DO UNDER THE LICENSING RULES To meet the Licence requirements your landlord must Give you a written tenancy agreement Give you a record of the rent that you pay Protect your tenancy deposit Give you written confirmation about the arrangements in place for reporting disrepair and how the disrepair will be dealt with Use competent trades people to do repairs Give you a written Complaints Procedure which tells you what you can do if you want to make a complaint about your landlord or his agents Make sure your gas installation and appliances are safe by having them tested every year and letting Brent Council know Make sure your electrics are safe by arranging an electrical safety test every five years Make sure your furniture and furnishings are fire resistant Make sure that your home is secure with adequate locks and entry systems. Any mortise locks should be ones that you can open from the inside without a key, in case you need to exit quickly in an emergency. Change the locks between lettings Maintain and re-decorate the outside of your house when it needs it Keep gardens, fences, gates, etc, in good condition Keep your home free from infestations, including outside areas, and respond to reports from you about infestations within 7 days Keep smoke alarms in good working order Make sure that means of escape are free of obstruction and that fire precautions are maintained Put emergency management arrangements in place for times when the landlord or agent is not available 16 17

11 The landlord must also take reasonable and practical action to prevent anti-social behaviour by any tenants or their visitors. For new tenants, the landlord must ask for references. There are extra things landlords must do where tenants rent bedsits and share amenities with other tenants in the house. These are mainly about the size of rooms and making sure there are enough kitchens, toilets and bathrooms for the number of people in the house. There are also more fire precautions such as fire blankets in the shared kitchens. THE RENTERS RIGHTS PROJECT As you can see there are a lot of things your landlord is expected to do but they are all things a good landlord should do anyway. Under the Licensing rules, if your landlord does not do the things he should do, or if he continues to rent without applying for a licence the Council can take him to court. Your landlord cannot take possession action against you because of your shorthold tenancy if he should have a licence but does not have one. FIND OUT MORE Under certain circumstances you can apply to a tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order. That means that the landlord has to pay back all the rent you paid him while living in a home that should have been licensed but was not. Your landlord must not evict you as a way of trying to avoid having a licence or meeting the licence requirements. If your landlord threatens to evict you or tells you that you must leave, let us know straight away. In extreme cases, if your landlord manages your home so badly that your health and safety is at risk, Brent Council can take control away from the landlord and manage your home themselves, or appoint someone else to do so

12 Our Renters Rights Project will answer any questions you have about the things your landlord should do and how this will affect you. This booklet is produced by Advice4Renters (A4R) a charity which is also known as Brent Private Tenants Rights Group....COME AND JOIN US We think that Brent Council has set up Property Licensing because it really wants to improve living conditions for private renters. But Brent will never achieve this change on its own. Brent has recruited about 20 new licensing officers to run this scheme. That s a tiny number to tackle such big changes for the 32,000 private renters in Brent. The only way we can really improve things is if you get involved. We want you to tell us and other renters how you would like to see things change. We want you to join with other renters to bring about the changes we all want to see to make Brent a really great place to live! Housing Advice Centre We give housing advice to those who are financially eligible for legal aid. The main things we can assist with are serious disrepair, possession of your home, homelessness and landlord harassment and illegal eviction. Healthier Homes We help those whose housing conditions are having a serious effect on their health. We encourage GPs and other health providers to refer patients to us. Brent Advice Matters (BAM) We are partners in developing a new service to co-ordinate advice services for Brent residents Renters Legal We offer a one hour housing advice session for people who are not eligible for legal aid. For a flat fee of 100 (including VAT) a legal expert will explain what legal options are available to deal with individual housing problems Brent Mutual We offer Credit Union membership for small savers and those needing low interest loans. Renters Rights Project We run a Renters Rights Campaign to bring tenants together to campaign for more rights, better services from Brent Council and better laws to protect private tenants Willesden Lane, Kilburn, London NW6 7ST Tel: Website:

13 Assured Shorthold Tenants If your landlord wants you to leave without evidence that you have done anything wrong (such as not paying the rent), he can only force you to leave by following a process which is usually called a Section 21 procedure. This is because it is set out in s.21 of the Housing Act This procedure starts with a s.21 Notice of Requiring Possesion. You cannot be forced to leave. you have not received a written Notice Requiring Possession giving you at least two months before the notice period expires. the date the Notice expires is less than six months since your original tenancy began. the date of the Notice is served during a Fixed-Term tenancy and ends before the last day of the fixed term or before the break clause can be used if there is one. you have never had a fixed term tenancy and the day the Notice ends is not the last day of a tenancy period (this is the day before the next rent is due) Examples: if your rent is due on the 1st of each month the last day would be the last day of the month. If the rent is due every Saturday, the last day would be a Friday. you paid a tenancy deposit and your landlord has not protected it in a Government-approved Scheme. you live in a house that should be licensed by Brent Council but the house has not been licensed. It s complicated isn t it? So the best thing to do if your landlord gives you Notice in any form, is to take it to our Renters Rights Project Workers and ask for help. They are supported by Advice4Renters Legal team. you have been given the correct Notice, you do not have to leave during the notice period. If you remain in your home after that date, the landlord must apply to court. But if the s.21 Notice was served correctly and you do not tell the court that there is anything wrong with the Notice, the court MUST issue a Possession Order. They could also ask you to pay the landlord s legal costs. you are still in your home when the notice given in the Possession Order expires, the landlord cannot force you to leave. He must return to court and apply for an Eviction Notice. Then the Bailiffs will give you a date when they are coming and then you really must go. Remember that, if you are a family with children and you think you may need help from Brent Council in finding another home, you should not move out until the Court orders you to do so. If you do, the Council will say that you have made yourself homeless intentionally. That means they don t have a legal duty to help you find another home

14 Landlord s Address Name: Address: Telephone: Mobile: Agent s Address Name: Address: Telephone: Mobile: Emergency Phone Numbers REPAIRS: GAS: WATER: 24 25

15 We are running a Renters Rights Project in Brent Can we hear your story and listen to your opinions about renting in Brent? Do you want to get involved? Please get in touch: Tel: Tel: Supporting people who want change This booklet is funded by the TDS Charitable Foundation The information in this booklet is believed to be correct at the time of publication (January 2015), but gives only a broad outline of the legal position. Landlord and tenant law is complex and it changes. Tenants are advised to obtain legal advice about their own situation before taking any action. Copyright Advice4Renters 2015 Design Electric Paper, Hove BN3 5PH Illustration copyright GAMP Moral rights asserted. All rights reserved. Printed in England by Lambert Print

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