Landlord and Tenant
MCP provides advice and assistance to both Landlords and Tenants. The trick to ensuring a harmonious relationship between Landlord and Tenant is making sure that both parties know from the outset what their responsibilities are.
Landlord and Tenant law can be tricky and spending a little money on taking advice at the outset from our Landlord & Tenant lawyers can prevent having to spend a lot of money on rectifying problems later. This is important for both Tenants (as the property is their home) and Landlords (for whom the property is likely to be a major investment).
Must there be a written agreement?
It is not essential but is always best to have a written Agreement. Allowing a Tenant into a property without first entering into an Agreement may make it difficult for a Landlord to regain possession later. Although an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement does not have to be in writing, a written Agreement means there is less scope for argument and that any special conditions either party may want can be included.
The most common agreement is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement, but there may be circumstances when the parties' requirements mean a different Agreement is more appropriate. Our Landlord & Tenant lawyers can advise on the best one for you.
It is essential that if you have a written Agreement it is properly completed. Missing details which may seem insignificant at the outset can create problems if a Landlord wishes to regain possession.
What should happen to the deposit?
Since April 2007, if a Landlord takes a deposit from a Tenant under a new Agreement (or if an old Agreement is renewed and a deposit was taken at the beginning) then the Landlord must place it in one of three government approved schemes and advise the Tenant of this within 30 days of receipt or of the new Agreement.
There are only three approved providers and their details, together with details of the schemes can be found at www.direct.gov.uk/en/TenancyDeposit/DG_066383
It is not enough for the Landlord to place it in a separate bank account.
As well as ensuring the deposit is placed in an appropriate scheme the Landlord must give the Tenant certain “prescribed information” within 30 days of receiving the deposit.
What if one of the deposit schemes isn't used?
If the Landlord does not put the deposit in a scheme and properly notify the Tenant with the prescribed information then the Tenant can make an application to the court and is likely to receive an award of up to three times the amount of the deposit.
The Landlord may also find they cannot obtain possession when they want to.
Does the Tenant have to leave when the initial tenancy agreement ends?
Simply because the initial Agreement period has ended it does not necessarily mean the Agreement has ended. An Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement will continue on a month by month basis until a proper notice is served.
How can a tenant be forced to leave?
The only way to force a Tenant to leave is by obtaining a court order. It may be the Landlord’s house, but the Tenant is protected. Be very careful - our Landlord & Tenant lawyers can provide advice on how to proceed.
If a Landlord tries to force a Tenant to leave the Tenant could accuse them of harassment. This is a criminal offence and, as well as being prosecuted, the Landlord could be ordered to pay the Tenant substantial compensation.
Examples of harassment include:
- Changing the locks
- Turning off electricity, gas or water
- Boarding up the windows
- Threatening the Tenant
to try to make the Tenant leave, even if the Tenant is not paying rent.
Even where there is a court order giving a date for possession only a court appointed representative can evict the Tenant if they refuse to leave voluntarily. However, the Tenant may be required to pay court costs and fees if they do not leave voluntarily.
What is proper notice for removing Tenants?
Proper notice depends on the reason for possession. Even if the Tenant has done nothing wrong the Landlord may want the Tenant to leave, in which case the Landlord should use the Accelerated Possession Procedure.
Under this procedure the Landlord must give at least two months notice, in certain circumstances it may be more depending on whether the initial agreed period has expired. The requirements as to when the notice must end are very specific and failure to get it exactly right may mean the court will not order possession. It is always best to take advice before serving or acting on the notice.
If the Tenant is in breach of the Agreement then the notice period is likely to be shorter. The exact length of the notice period will depend on the type of breach. Again the notice must contain specific information to be valid and both Landlord and Tenant need to ensure it is correct before acting on it.
Can the Landlord enter the property without the Tenant’s permission?
A Tenant is entitled to quiet enjoyment, so whilst the property is still owned by the Landlord he cannot enter the property whenever he wishes. Normally the Tenancy Agreement will set out the basis on which the Landlord can enter the property. Usually the Landlord will need to give some form of notice to the Tenant first.
There may be some exceptional circumstances when the Landlord can enter without notice, but it would be best to obtain advice first from us. If a Landlord is constantly letting themselves in then the Tenant should seek advice as they may have a claim for compensation.
What if the tenant has abandoned the property?
A Landlord should only treat a property as having been abandoned if he is absolutely certain the Tenant has left and is not coming back. This will be different in each case.
If a Landlord takes possession unreasonably in these circumstances they could be guilty of unlawfully evicting a Tenant, which could result in a prosecution and compensation being awarded to the Tenant.
What is the Landlord responsible for?
Some of the Landlord's responsibilities will depend on the terms of the Tenancy agreement but there are certain things a Landlord must do and cannot get out of.
In particular a Landlord must ensure:
- The safety of gas and electrical appliances
- The structure of the building
- Sanitary installations
- Heating and hot water installations
- That any furniture provided complies with fire regulations
This is not a precise list and if either Landlord or Tenant has concerns about their obligations or entitlement they should seek advice from us.
Does letting the house affect the mortgage?
Whilst letting the house may not affect the Tenant, the Landlord could be in breach of his mortgage conditions if he does not seek permission of the mortgage company before entering into a Tenancy Agreement.
If you require assistance with either preparing a Tenancy Agreement or if you wish to regain possession of a property, please contact one of our experienced lawyers today who can advise you of the options and fixed fees that we offer.