In this article:
- As a tenant you have every right to expect the accommodation you are renting to be in safe condition and good state of repair.
- If you have some other problem with your tenancy, you also have the right to complain and seek assistance to resolve that problem.
- You should make your complaint to your landlord first and try to come to some agreement.
- If your landlord fails to address the complaint in a satisfying fashion, you can seek to resolve the matter with an alternative dispute resolution or an ADR
- You can seek the help of a trade body, which the landlord is a member of like – NLA, RLA, HOS
- Some local councils have a tenancy relations officer – TRO, who can help you defend your rights and require your landlord to abide to the law, or face prosecution.
- The local council has an environmental health department, which you can contact if your property is unsafe or in severe disrepair and your landlord will not address the problem.
- Finally, you can file a lawsuite against your landlord in the courts.
TTV wants you to know that as a tenant you have every right to expect a good standard of accommodation for the rent you pay. You should also never feel in any way intimidated, threatened or unfairly treated by your landlord. If you are unhappy with the state of the property or your landlord’s behaviour then there are a variety of ways you can make a complaint.
To start with you may find that landlords have their own complaints procedure, so you should try that first. If your landlord doesn’t, you can always turn to your local council, Citizens Advice and the Independent Property Ombudsman services.
Contact the landlord
Obvious, the first step is to get in contact with your landlord or letting agent. Send them an email or a written letter and state your problem. On the same day, you should give them a call to make sure the letter is received and they acknowledge there is a problem. Give them a couple of days to respond and send another one, restating the problem.
These steps are necessary to prove that you’ve contacted the landlord and have given them a reasonable time (reasonable is measured by the urgency of the problem) to address the situation and come up with a solution.
Most landlords will respond positively and write back, ask you for more details about the complaint, investigate the problem or come to inspect the property if it is part of your complaint.
If you landlord has not responded or has failed to satisfy your needs, you can proceed to the actual complaint.
If your landlord has a website it may include a complaints procedure form. You should use this first to make the complaint. If not, go by the known route and send them a complaint letter, stating that they have failed to alleviate your worries and you’re unsatisfied with their services.
Note: Yes, the landlord also provides services as part of the tenancy agreement like maintenance, repairs and guidance.
If your landlord fails to respond to the complaints form or the letter you have sent, then The Tenant’s Voice suggest you seek external help. There is a variety of institutions which can help you solve problems with your landlord.
ADR – Alternative Dispute Resolution
This stands for “alternative dispute resolution” and is basically a process that involves negotiation, mediation or arbitration. Most notably, tenancy deposit protection schemes will provide alternative dispute resolution for free when using their services to protect the deposit.
You can find the name of your tenancy deposit scheme on the “prescribed information” sheet, that your landlord has provided you. If you have never received such a document, your landlord has failed to execute the deposit protection procedure, and you have yet another thing to complain about.
You can still find your deposit scheme by running your post code in each of the three authorised companies:
If you cannot find information in any of these websites, then your deposit is not protected and your landlord is liable for up to 3 times the deposit amount in courts.
You can use another ADR service, but it might need you to pay for the service.
Whatever alternative dispute resolution service you choose, it will provide you with three options to settle the argument:
- Negotiation – is where you try to resolve the dispute between yourselves (i.e. – you as the tenant in discussion with the landlord)
- Mediation – involves a neutral individual to help settle the dispute. They will sit down in a meeting with you and your landlord and listen to each argument. They will then advise you on the legal rights and responsibilities of each party and suggest a solution that will honor each side, but also provide a just outcome.
- Arbitration – is an informal court hearing where an official arbitrator will decide the outcome. The arbitrator will review documents, evidence and statements related to the dispute. After consideration, they will use the legislation and regulations set in place to decide the matter.
Most of the time the adjudicator will produce a fair result with respect to the law and the given situation. If ADR fails, then another option is to settle the matter through the courts. This can be a long and costly process so it is best to get advice from Citizen’s Advice if you are unsure what to do.
Complain to an official trade body
This section may or may not apply to you given the status of your landlord. However, many landlords are members of a trade body or landlord association like:
- National Landlord Association – NLA
- Residential Landlord Association – RLA
- Housing Ombudsman Service – HOS
These are professional organizations which impose a “Code of conduct” to their members. This code can vary from one body to the other, but it always dictates that the landlord should act reasonably and within the law, should respect and protect the rights of their tenants and meet their legal responsibilities as landlords.
If your landlord is a member of any of these organizations, you can complain in front of them and ask them to assist you in dealing with your landlord.
Tenancy Relations Officer (TRO)
If you decide not to choose ADR or to go through the courts, then you can try contacting your local council for help. They have a Tenancy Relations Officer (TRO) who may be able to assist you, especially if your landlord is acting illegally.
For example, your landlord might be:
- Not complying with regulations regarding the property – safety checks, overcrowding, etc.
- Negligent towards repairs and living conditions in the property – not addressing due problems
- Trying to evict you illegally or as revenge for complaining about repairs
- Harassing you or discriminating you for your skin colour, ethnic background, religious beliefs or sexual orientation
The TRO can act on your behalf, follow up your complaint and contact your landlord to bring an end to the problem by reminding him or her about the law and their duties as a landlord. The tenancy relations officer has the authority to prosecute a landlord is they are threatening your safety with their actions or negligence towards the living conditions in the property.
Your council’s Environmental Health Department
This is the place to go if you have a complaint to make about a health and safety problem. Every council has an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) who deals with issues concerning:
- Interior and exterior structural problems
- Dangerous electrical wiring
- Faulty gas pipes or appliances
- Malfunctioning appliances
- No access to heating or hot water
- Rising damp
- Leaky roofs
- Incompliance with fire safety regulations
- Other hazards (such as asbestos)
The EHO will inspect your home and then make contact with the landlord. The EHO will either make an informal request for the problem to be fixed. Alternatively, the EHO can issue an “improvement notice” forcing the landlord to complete the work that needs doing.
If the landlord doesn’t follow the prescriptions in the improvement notice, they can be prosecuted and their property can be sealed and marked as unfit for habitation. This will effectively put them out of business until mandatory improvements are implemented, so most landlord will abide the notice.
For tenancies starting after October the 1st, 2015, your landlord will be unable to serve you with a Section 21 eviction notice for 6 months after the “improvement notice” has been served by the local council. This is a new regulation placed as a protective measure against retaliatory evictions.
The risks when making a complaint about your landlord
For tenancies started before the 1st of October, 2015, there is little protection against revenge evictions. As the law stands currently, your landlord may evict you at the end of your tenancy by giving you a minimum of two months notice if you have an AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy). Many landlords use the Section 21 notice as a leverage to keep their tenants quiet about problems and needed repairs.
So if you complain to the council for example, you run the risk of the landlord deciding to evict you at the end of the tenancy. If your landlord is reluctant to carry out repairs, TTV advises that you seek alternative accommodation before the end of your tenancy, just in case the worst happens.