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What a landlord cannot do

All landlords need to provide a home for the tenants that is safe and secure and there may be issues over what a landlord cannot do.

While most landlords want to provide a service and provide a quality home for their tenants – and hopefully keep them for as long as possible – they also have legal responsibilities.

Even if these responsibilities are not stated explicitly in the tenancy agreement that is used, there are legal rules and regulations to meet.

For example, in England, all landlords will need to check the immigration status of a potential tenant or risk a fine for failing to do so.

These are called the ‘Right to Rent’ checks and must be carried out.

What landlords cannot do with tenants

Here is a quick round-up of what landlords cannot do with the rights of tenants:

Tenancy deposit

Tenancy deposit

The regulations over holding a tenant’s deposit are strict and a landlord is no longer allowed to retain it. Instead, they must lodge a tenant’s security deposit with a Government-approved third-party service such as the Tenancy Deposit Scheme which will deal with any claims against the money by the landlord who may want to repair their property or pay for wear and tear. The security deposit must be placed with a scheme within 30 days of the landlord receiving it and not following the rules makes it more difficult to evict a tenant.

There are financial penalties should a landlord not place the deposit with an approved scheme and they must also tell the tenant where their security deposit is being held.

Handover information

When the tenancy begins, the landlord cannot withhold information such as the Energy Performance Certificate and also a Gas Safety certificate. This gas safety check must be carried out every year to ensure the property’s gas appliances are safe to use. A landlord must also handover a ‘How to rent guide’.

Unannounced visits

A landlord cannot simply turn up at their rental property and demand access because tenants must live without unnecessary interference. A landlord cannot let themselves into the property without their tenant’s permission – and doing so regularly may be seen as harassment.

Stressful issues for tenants

Among the stressful issues for tenants over what their landlord can and cannot do, will be over the eviction process.

There are regular news reports, sadly, of landlords taking the law into their own hands and evicting a tenant, along with all of their belongings, without giving them notice in writing.

Also, a landlord will need a court order before bailiffs can be instructed to evict you from the property.

As mentioned, most landlords do appreciate that there are rules and regulations over the letting of property, but it’s also worth considering:

  • Discrimination: Landlords cannot discriminate against a tenant on the basis of their gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief.
  • Locks: A landlord cannot change the locks of their property, even if the tenant is in rent arrears. However, they can change the locks if a tenancy agreement has come to a legal end.
  • Leave: A landlord cannot force tenants to leave a property if they are selling it, they must still follow the rules and give proper notice unless the tenancy agreement clearly states that there is an early termination notice in place.
  • Repairs: A landlord cannot refuse to carry out repairs to their property. There are regulations that essential repairs, including repairs to the exterior, must be carried out and cannot be refused, particularly in the supply of hot water, light, heat and sanitation.
  • Rent increases: A landlord cannot increase the rent until the tenancy agreement comes to an end. They need to provide a notice period for any increase and have this written into the tenancy agreement if the tenant remains the property.
  • Fees: A landlord cannot charge an excessive fee for the late payment of rent and if it’s too high, the tenant can dispute this.

Questions that a tenant may have

Questions that a tenant may have

It’s also worth looking at some questions that a tenant may have over what their landlord cannot do.

Can you sue a landlord for emotional distress?

There are a number of reasons why you may have grounds to sue a landlord for emotional distress, including harassment and the impact of being injured in a rental property.

The rules that a landlord must follow to ensure that their home is properly maintained for tenants are laid down in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Regardless of what may be stated in a tenancy agreement, these rules cannot be ignored.

The tenant can also sue for inconvenience if their daily life is disrupted by not having full use of the property.

The Housing Ombudsman explains that a landlord may be expected to pay discretionary compensation, also known as a gesture of goodwill, should their actions or lack of action lead to emotional distress of their tenant.

As explained previously, harassing a tenant is illegal by either turning up unannounced and demanding entry or calling or texting on a regular basis which could, some would say, lead to emotional distress.

landlord harassment

What is considered landlord harassment?

Leading on from the previous answer, the issues that will be considered as landlord harassment include:

Any activity undertaken by a landlord that deliberately disrupts a tenant’s life along with any moves and actions to make a tenant leave a property.

The harassment does not have to be carried out by the landlord – this extends to the letting agent or the landlord’s family.

Essentially, landlord harassment is seen as a criminal offence and will include issues such as:

  • Visiting the tenant’s home regularly without prior warning
  • Cutting off or restricting the supply of electricity, gas or water
  • Threatening their tenant
  • Sending builders without prior notice
  • Entering the tenant’s home without permission and without them being there
  • Harassing a tenant because of their race, gender or sexuality.

The rights of a tenant extend to a landlord who takes a course of action that leads to a tenant leaving the property without the proper legal procedures being followed will also count as harassment.

It also needs to be noted that should the harassment be carried out by a letting agent, and the landlord is aware of what is happening, then they will be held responsible under the law.

Are landlords allowed to go through your stuff?

In answer to the question: Are landlords allowed to go through your stuff? The answer is absolutely not.

That’s because a tenant should expect the ‘quiet enjoyment’ of living in their rental home, which means a landlord, for whatever reason, cannot go through the private belongings of their tenant.

It’s also worth noting that landlords cannot interfere with their tenant’s post – and these actions could be deemed as being harassment, which is illegal.

What are my rights as a tenant in the UK?

If you want to know: ‘What are my rights as a tenant in the UK’, then these are clearly laid down in the law.

It’s also important that the tenancy agreement that you sign should not only be fair, but should also comply with the regulations.

Your rights as a tenant include:

  • The right to live in a property that is in a good state of repair and safe
  • Have the deposit returned when you leave
  • Know who the landlord is
  • Live in a rental property undisturbed
  • See the Energy Performance Certificate for the property
  • You have rights over paying a ‘fair rent’ and being evicted unfairly.

Essentially, it’s important that you know who your landlord is and if you do not, then you need to write to the company or person you are paying rent to. If you are not informed about who your landlord is they could be fined if they do not give this information within 21 days.

The Gov.uk website has more information about tenant rights when renting a private property.

Can my landlord enter my house when I’m not there?

Again, the rights of a landlord or anybody who is asking, Can my landlord enter into my house when I’m not there? Has a simple answer.

Your landlord cannot enter the rental property without your express permission.

Unless there is an emergency, then you have the right to the quiet enjoyment of your rental home and the landlord will need to give at least 24 hours’ notice that they want to enter the property.

A landlord can only enter their property if the tenant gives permission or permission is granted by the courts. Otherwise, the tenant is under no obligation to give their landlord access to the property which may lead to court action taking place for eviction.

Also, the landlord can only arrange to visit their property at a reasonable time of the day, so this precludes visiting early in the morning or late at night.

How much notice does a landlord have to give?

How much notice does a landlord have to give?

For a tenant asking, ‘How much notice does a landlord have to give?’, then the rules over this are quite clear.

For those who have signed an assured shorthold tenancy, the landlord can take back their property without giving a reason. However, they have to comply with various rules, including protecting the security deposit and if a complaint has been made to the council over the property’s living conditions, then it is more difficult to give the tenant notice.

The law changed over the written notice period for a landlord to get their property back, also known as giving notice to quit, so a landlord must give at least:

  • If the notice was issued before 26 March 2020, then it’s two months’ notice.
  • For any notice issued on or after 26 March 2020, then it will be three months’ notice.

These rules changed to cover the impact of the Coronavirus lockdown.

As mentioned previously, for any tenancy that began after 30 September 2015 the tenant cannot be evicted by their landlord unless they have been handed the ‘How to rent’ leaflet, have a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate and the Gas Safety certificate.

For those tenants who have an agreement in place and their landlord asks them to leave during the fixed term, which means the agreement is valid, then they’ll need to give reasons for wanting possession.

These are explained in the Housing Act 1988 and will only be effective if the tenant has been using the rental property for illegal purposes, for example, selling drugs, or the tenant has failed to pay rent and is building up arrears.

Also, should a landlord want to move back into their own property, then they can give notice. This notice period was extended to be at least three months’ on or after 26 March 2020.

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