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Dealing with a Difficult Landlord

Precautions are wise, especially in law. As a tenant living in rented accommodation, you must be alert to the fact problems might emerge. And if they do, previously straightforward and friendly interactions with your landlord can rapidly become difficult. When any relationship deteriorates, people can start reaching for legal paperwork.

 

09 August 2017
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Whether wrongly blaming you for property damage or attempting to harass you out of the flat, there are many ways in which an unreasonable landlord can make your life frustrating and unpleasant.

Here are seven points to consider as you try to avoid, or address, the problems of dealing with a difficult landlord:

  • Take thorough precautions in the first place. Ensure your landlord conducts a meticulous inventory check (including dated photographs to show the condition of items) across the property before you move in. Better yet, ask for the inventory to be prepared by an independent third party. Was that door already scratched? Was that carpet already stained? You do not want to be blamed or charged for damage you did not cause.
  • Consider tenant’s insurance to protect yourself against accidental damage to your landlord’s property or possessions. You do not want to find yourself struggling to pay his or her bills at the end of your tenancy.
  • Landlords cannot just increase the rent whenever they wish. An assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreement, for example, is the most common form of tenancy in the UK. Although not all agreements are identical, if a fixed-term period is stipulated in the AST agreement, the landlord cannot ordinarily raise the rent before the end of that fixed-term period. The most likely exception to this rule is if you, as the tenant, agree to the rent increase (perhaps because the property has been dramatically modernised). If you feel your landlord is attempting to illegally increase your rent, consult a solicitor.
  • Similarly, if your landlord wants you to leave the property before the end of a fixed-term period stipulated in the AST agreement, he or she can only ask you to do so if they have grounds for wanting possession covered by the Housing Act 1988, such as rent arrears or the use of the property for illegal purposes (e.g. selling drugs). The required notice period varies from two weeks to two months, depending on the grounds.
  • Strict procedures must be followed if your landlord wants you to leave the property. Attempting to harass or force tenants out of a property, without following the correct procedures, is a crime. You might then have the right to claim damages. Harassment can range from stopping your services (such as electricity) through to physical violence or arranging for a third party to behave anti-socially toward you on behalf of the landlord. Similarly, your landlord might be guilty of illegal eviction if, for example, he or she changes the locks on the property.
  • Your landlord might own the house or flat in which you live, and should be available to support you when needed, but he or she must respect your privacy. The Housing Act 1988 states that, under normal circumstances, a landlord must give at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property. (Exceptional circumstances might include the need to carry out urgent repairs.) You have grounds for complaining if your landlord keeps popping round without warning at unsociable hours.
  • Be friendly and act responsibly. A good relationship with your landlord can go a long way in helping you avoid legal disputes. Make sure you’re not the person causing the problem. Yes, precautions are wise but distrustfully and aggressively questioning every word your landlord says won’t help at all in building the relationship.