Know your renters’ rights

This is Part 1 a two-part blog post about your UK private renters’ rights. Check back next week for Part 2.

Bad flatmates, rent increases, and short tenancies – life can be hard for Generation Rent. But there are still some basic renters’ rights you are guaranteed as a private renter – and you can’t be penalised by your landlord for insisting you get them. These will pertain to Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs), which include all tenancies starting from 28 February 1997. These renters’ rights are guaranteed to you regardless of whether you were provided with and signed a written tenancy agreement.

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  1. Your tenancy agreement must be fair and legal

Although tenancy agreements don’t legally need to be written in England and Wales, they usually are. Because it can be harder to enforce oral agreements, we recommend that you get your agreement in writing, and keep a copy after you’ve signed it. Your written agreement should include:

  • names of people involved
  • rental price and method of payment
  • information on how and when rent is reviewed
  • deposit amount and protection, details of when the deposit can be withheld
  • property address
  • start and end dates of tenancy
  • tenant or landlord obligations
  • bills you are responsible for
  • when and how to end the tenancy early (a break clause)
  • who’s responsible for repairs (that the landlord isn’t legally responsible for)
  • whether you may sublet

In order to change the terms of your agreement during your tenancy, both you and your landlord must agree to the change. This might come up if you ask for permission to have a pet although your agreement forbids it (you should definitely not keep a pet without your landlord’s permission!), or if your landlord wants to raise the rent. Keep in mind that if your agreement has a rent increase procedure, your landlord must follow it. Otherwise:

  • Your landlord can only increase the rent during a fixed-term tenancy if you agree, otherwise it can only go up at the end of the term.
  • If you have a yearly tenancy, you must have 6 months’ notice of a rent increase.
  • For a periodic tenancy (weekly or monthly basis), the rent can’t be raised more than once per year without your agreement, and you must have a minimum of a month’s notice.
  • Rent increases must be fair and realistic, which means they’re in line with average local rents.
  1. You have the right to know who your landlord is

Maybe you worked with a letting agency or a management company, and you’re wondering who your landlord is. There are a number of reasons it might be good for you to know who they are and how to contact them, whether it is to raise a dispute, in the event of an emergency, or to verify whether a person wanting access to your home has the right to enter. You can make a written request to the person who collects your rent and they are required to provide you with the landlord’s name and address within 21 days.

  1. The property must be safe and in good repair

The landlord must ensure that the property is in good condition. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be beautiful, but it does have to be safe and usable when you move in, and kept that way throughout your tenancy.

  • Gas safety – installation and maintenance of gas equipment by a Gas Safe registered engineer, annual gas safety checks by a registered engineer, provide a copy of the gas safety check record before moving in or within 28 days of the check
  • Electrical safety – your landlord must ensure the electrical system is safe as are all appliances
    • Fire safety – safety regulation compliance, you need a smoke alarm on each storey, a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with a usable fireplace/woodburner, access to escape routes, fire safe furniture and furnishings, and fire alarms/extinguishers (if a large House in Multiple Occupation)

The landlord is always responsible for the property’s structure and exterior, basins/sinks, baths, pipes, drains, heating and hot water, gas appliances, flues, ventilation, electrical wiring, and any damage they cause while attempting repairs, and usually common areas in blocks of flats. You can’t be forced to do repairs that are the landlord’s responsibility.

  1. Your deposit must be returned at the end of your tenancy

Your tenancy agreement should outline in what instances part or all of your deposit can be retained by the landlord – generally, this would be if you were to cause damage to the property or any fittings inside it that belong to the landlord, like a carpet or a curtain. Your deposit cannot be retained over normal wear and tear to the interior, however. In many cases, your deposit must be protected by a government-approved scheme. Your agreement should provide the details of the protection scheme, which you can turn to if your landlord refuses to return your deposit. It is in your best interests to be aware of this information.

This is Part 1 a two-part blog post about your UK private renters’ rights. Check back next week for Part 2.

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5 Ways the Election Will Impact your Next House Move

The 7th May 2015 – the day of the General Election and possibly the most important day of the year for the UK as we decide who will shape the nation for the next five years. One topic that’s drawing a lot of attention is the housing market.

“How could first-time buyers be affected?”

“Will the new policies actually be implemented and when?”

“What are the impacts if I plan on renting?”

Property for saleThese are all good questions that you, the voters might be asking and the next government (whether that’s a coalition or minority government, which both seem quite likely) will have to address. Here are 5 ways we believe the upcoming election could impact your next house move.

 

All information stated is what has been promised by each party thus far and may be subject to change in the future.

 1. The Price of a Home for a First-Time Buyer

Just getting on the property ladder is tough, so all the main parties are proposing action. Whether or not it is enough remains to be seen, but the attempt by the Conservatives to re-introduce right-to-buy is a bold move. Both The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are offering first-time buyers a Help to Buy ISA whilst the Lib Dems and Labour are proposing to build over a million houses to fulfill demand and keep prices down.

Whatever happens in the election, our verdict is that it will still remain tough for first-time buyers although things may get a little easier over time.

2. Keeping Rent Costs Down

To let signs

If purchasing a house is not for you, then renting has its benefits, but the upcoming election is unlikely to make a huge impact. Only Labour and the Greens are looking to put a cap on rent or increases. Proposals to build more houses may increase availability and keep prices down but one million new houses won’t get built overnight!

3. Renting: For How Long? 

A short term rental agreement can be a worry when you don’t know where you will live in 6 months time. Both Labour, Lib Dems and the Green party have proposals to address this with policies for longer term tenancy agreements.

4. Caring for your environment, in beautiful surroundings

Nottingham - Second house price riser

If you care for the environment and your surroundings, there are policies to please! The Labour Party and Lib Dems both have proposals for ‘Garden Cities’, whilst the Green Party and UKIP also have interesting policies around the protection of Green belt land. 

This doesn’t guarantee there will be more houses in beautiful surroundings but more ‘Garden cities’ and protection of Green belt land all helps to make Britain a beautiful place to live!

5. The Economy

Once the election is over, it could get complicated in terms of who will be in government. Initial uncertainty could have a short term impact on the economy while a minority government with little power will struggle to get its policies adopted unless they are appealing to other supporting parties. This could also be a good thing as policies need to appease a wider audience on not just the rich or the poor.

The next election could also impact interest rates on which mortgage rates are based. We aren’t going to make any predictions on how the economy could be impacted but suffice to say it could be interesting!

 

Below is a table with some of the key policies we uncovered during our research:

 

What They’re Promising…
Conservative
Labour
Lib Dem
Green
UKIP
To Build
200,000
1 million
1.5 million
500,000
For First-Time Buyers
Help to Buy ISA and
20% discount to first-time buyers under 40
Give priority to local first-time buyers in new housing areas
Help to Buy ISA
In the Rental Market
Long term tenancy agreements in the private sector and Cap on rent increases
Rent to Own policy and Ban landlords letting out poorly insulated homes
Cap rent and introduce longer tenancies
To Introduce
Capital investment in housing
and local authorities given “use it or lose it” powers

New Towns and Garden Cities.

Right to Grow given to communities.
New homes advertised in the UK before overseas.
At least 10 new Garden Cities and
30,000 Rent to Own homes a year by 2020
Bring empty homes back into use
Brownfield agency for grants and loans.
 
Protection of green belt land and
Referendums on major planning decisions.
 
New homes exempt from stamp duty on first sale and
Social housing prioritised for locals

 

Sections with a dash ( – ) are those which have not been announced
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