This is the second in a series of articles dealing with the rights of LGBT renters.
In our first article we dealt with new laws preventing retaliatory eviction. We touched on complaints to a landlord, but when can you complain – what are your rights?
The right to live in a safe property
This is the big one. Your landlord has obligations to ensure that any gas appliances are checked annually by a GasSafe qualified engineer – they have to obtain a certificate and, if they don’t provide this to you when you ask, alarm bells should ring. Speaking of alarms, landlords are also legally required to have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms installed in all rented premises. If they fail to do any of these things they are committing a criminal offence and can be prosecuted.
A landlord is also required to ensure that a property is fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy, and they have to make sure that the house or flat you are in is not “prejudicial to health”. This means that, if your bedroom is damp and causing you breathing problems, you could be entitled to compensation from the landlord. You could also be entitled to compensation if there are problems with the structure of the building, or with the electrics, gas or water.
So what should you do if the roof is leaking, mould is growing up the walls and there is no hot water? Complain to the landlord (or managing agent) as soon as a problem arises. If there is no response, speak to a housing officer at your local council about the steps you can go through to rectify the problem. And make sure you record everything. Photograph any mould (phone cameras usually record the date of any photographs). Keep all correspondence from the council. Communicate by email with your landlord: this means both you and your landlord (and, if necessary, a judge) will be able to see who said what and when.
The right to have your deposit protected in a government-approved scheme
For a few years now, tenants have enjoyed the security of deposit protection schemes. This means that a landlord must, within 30 days of payment, send you a certificate proving that they have protected all of your deposit. They must also provide you with a booklet issued by the scheme which explains how the deposit protection scheme works. From early 2016, there will be a requirement for the landlord also to provide you with guidance on renting more generally. A failure to do any of this will mean that they cannot serve you with a non-fault eviction notice (“also called a section 21 notice”). Note that we will deal with eviction notices in the next article. If the landlord doesn’t protect your deposit, you will also be entitled to compensation and a court order that the landlord either protects the deposit or returns it to you immediately.
The right for any managing agent to be licensed
Since October last year, all managing agents are required to be part of a government-approved regulation scheme. If they are not, they can be fined by the local council. All the major agents are members, but if you are renting through a smaller agency that is going to manage the property, don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
In addition, in many metropolitan boroughs, all landlords of residential premises must be licensed. Check the web page of your local council to see if this applies to your area. If you’re lucky enough to live in the land of song, compulsory registration of all landlords of Welsh homes was introduced on 23 November this year. It also looks very likely that, under a proposed new law, rogue landlords may be banned from renting out residential property at all. This is all good news for tenants.
There is a raft of law protecting you as a tenant. Usually, if you are a good tenant and a problem arises with your home, a polite request that it be rectified is enough to solve it. But if you feel like your landlord is out of order or he/she is just ignoring you, the chances are that there is a legal mechanism to force him or her to sort things out. If this happens, speak to the citizens’ advice bureau, Shelter (a charity) or get legal advice.
David Peachey is a barrister at Enterprise Chambers. Charles Irvine is a barrister at 1 Gray’s Inn Square Chambers. They both undertake cases in property, probate and co-ownership. This article is for general information only and you should contact a property specialist if you require advice about your individual circumstances.