What are my landlord's responsibilities?

Everyone has a landlord horror story, but exactly how far do their responsibilities go? Sarah Mitchell of the charity Shelter, which helps 170,000 people a year ’find and keep a home‘, outlines tenants‘ legal position

  • Basic expectations

    ‘First and foremost are some basic safety standards all landlords should provide by law. They must get a (CORGI-registered) gas safety certificate for every appliance in the property and then ensure that any necessary work identified by gas engineers is carried out. Similarly, they must ensure that electrical equipment is safe and that any furniture meets with fire safety standards. It’s worth asking your landlord to provide (and maintain) a carbon monoxide detector. While it’s not a legal requirement, it’s in everyone’s interests for it to be fitted. ‘Landlords are also responsible for most kinds of repairs to the exterior and structure of the property. If repairs do need to be carried out, you shouldn’t be unduly disturbed as a tenant. Landlords can’t just turn up, you should be given proper notice (the amount may be specified in your agreement). Notice (written) plus a court order is usually necessary to evict a tenant.‘Landlords should be contactable and must give their name and a UK contact address – even if the property is managed by a letting agent. Make any requests in writing, send it recorded delivery and keep a copy. If you don’t get a reply within 21 days of them receiving it, they are committing a criminal offence.’

    What should tenants do if their landlord doesn’t carry out repairs?

    ‘Landlords are legally required to carry out most repairs on your property. But you need to consider the risk that your landlord might try to evict you rather than do the work, especially if you have a short tenancy. Think carefully about taking action. However, if your landlord is being unreasonable, you should contact a local advice centre to find out how you can take action. See the Shelter website for your nearest housing advice centre.’

    How can I make sure my landlord treats me fairly?

    ‘Landlords and tenants should have a written agreement set out at the beginning of a tenancy clearly stating the responsibilities of bothparties, giving them legal recourse if problems occur. If there is a discussion about damage, unpaid rent or withholding of deposits, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme will provide protection for landlords and tenants. At the moment, 127,000 private tenants have their deposits unfairly withheld by their landlord each year. The TDS will mean rental deposits will be held either in a custodial scheme or will be protected by an insurance scheme. The deposits will be held in a ring-fenced account, and obtained only through mutual agreement at the end of the tenancy.’For more on general tenants’ rights visit www.shelter.org.uk/knowyourrights, a new service aimed at 16 to 25-year-olds.

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