Thousands of tenants are being warned against law breaking landlords as part of Renters’ Rights Awareness Week – two years after a ban on excessive administrative and deposit fees came into force.
The rule changes mean tenants cannot be billed for cleaning costs without good reason and deposits must be capped at five weeks’ rent – to protect renters for eye-watering – and often rising – charges.
However, amid a rise in no-fault evictions – which allow landlords to evict tenants without reason, such as to raise rent, people are being reminded of their rights on evictions.
Generation rent, which is running a campaign into tenancy rights, says people are not aware that it’s illegal to use a no-fault eviction against a renter if the right licence has not been acquired.
It means if your landlord tries to evict you with a ‘no-fault’ notice without the right licence, you could be owed a whole years’ rent back.
Around 50 local authorities in England and Wales currently have licences in place for landlords – almost half of these are in London.
That means buy-to-let investors must apply for the correct one in order to let in the area.
Mandatory licensing – which is the most popular – applies if you’re letting out a large House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in England or Wales.
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HMO licences are also required if the property is being let to five or more people from more than one household who share facilities (such as kitchens and bathrooms).
In some cases, the local authority will have selective licencing in place. This means that some or all of the landlords in that area will have to follow specific requirements. This, for instance, may include a ‘fit and proper person’ test or an agreement to sign up to a charter or code of conduct.
Under the terms of the law, you may be protected from a no-fault eviction if the landlord or agent has not applied for the right licence and tries to evict you.
You may also be able to claim back up to one year’s rent as compensation.
You can find out if your landlord has the right licence by speaking to your local authority.
Renters are also being warned to do their checks before handing over any deposit for a new tenancy.
It is important that you get the landlord’s address, or check the letting agent is registered with a redress scheme, and be clear about your requirements and the agreed rent, before handing over your holding deposit.
If the tenancy falls through and you did everything that was asked of you, you should be entitled to all your money back.
If you don’t and the landlord doesn’t have a good reason, apply to the tribunal or contact your council to try to recover it.
Get everything in writing and keep correspondence with your landlord or letting agent in one place in case you ever need to raise a dispute.
There are different places that deal with different types of dispute: deposit protection schemes deal with unfair deductions, the tribunal deals with illegal fees, and county courts deal with unprotected deposits.
“While it is welcome that tenants won their money back in most cases, these scams shouldn’t be happening in the first place,” explains Dan Wilson Claw at Generation Rent.
“If you’re in dispute, the letting agent redress system could help, but when most of the offenders are landlords, it is clear they need to be subject to this system too.
“The case for a national register of landlords is clear – and the government must do more to raise awareness of tenants’ rights.