The UK lettings industry can be a difficult place for tenants, there’s no doubt about that. Rents are high – and climbing – properties are few and far between and landlords can be a mixed bunch, from those who seem to believe they are untouchable to those who apparently have no concept of laws that apply to the dwellings they rent out. All this has led to a perception that tenants are the less equal party, that the status quo must be accepted and that there is never any room to question or negotiate.
You can negotiate
While we are not ignoring the fact that it’s tough for tenants to question landlords, at The Tenant’s Voice we’re also aware that there is a perception that everything is set in stone and we think it’s worth highlighting that this isn’t necessarily the case. If you’re not that familiar with the idea behind a tenancy agreement, it’s essentially a commercial contract between two parties who are both giving and getting something in return. The tenant ‘gives’ the rent and ‘gets’ exclusive possession of a property to live in for the duration of the tenancy; the landlord ‘gives’ exclusive possession for the length of the tenancy and ‘gets’ the rent payments. So, in theory, both parties are giving and getting equally.
What can you negotiate?
There are a number of situations within a tenancy in which you might be able to negotiate – and here, the old rule of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ really does apply. Here are a few examples:
Rent increases – if you don’t agree with the rent increase your landlord is proposing then, instead of simply refusing to accept it, offer an alternative. You might be able to meet somewhere in the middle, which could save a lot of hassle and conflict.
Damage caused – if you cause damage to the landlord’s property then you will need to make this good. Many tenants report the problem to the landlord and are then so worried about the consequences that they accept whatever price the landlord quotes for a replacement or a workman. You can shop around for your own quotes, you can also get someone in yourself to fix damage, you don’t have to accept the price the landlord sets, whether during the tenancy or afterwards when you’re dealing with deposit return.
Amendments to the tenancy – if you want to have a pet, you want to work from home, you want to sublet or there are repairs or upgrades you want done before you move in or renew a tenancy then you’re well within your rights to ask. The tenancy agreement can be amended, or additional clauses added, to allow you to do any of the above, usually with the landlord’s consent. Make any required repairs or work a condition to the tenancy – and written into it – to ensure it is done before you move in/renew the tenancy.
Where to avoid negotiating
It’s always better to avoid negotiating if you’re not sure of yourself but there are also some situations in which you simply don’t need to consider it.
Repairs around the property – if the landlord offers a ‘compromise’ whereby you pay for certain repairs and they pay for certain repairs then, most of the time, it’s better to refuse. A landlord is required to keep things like boilers, plumbing and fixtures in decent condition so there is no need for a tenant to negotiate here, unless the tenant has caused damage that needs to be fixed.
The damage deposit, wear and tear – if a landlord offers to negotiate over the cost of wear and tear (such as small marks on paintwork, faded sofa material etc), just say no. Your deposit is used to pay for damage only and not for wear and tear – that cost is 100% for the landlord to bear.
Not protecting the deposit – if your landlord claims it’s less hassle for everyone not to protect the deposit and offers you some sort of deal to agree that it won’t be protected, refuse. Even with your agreement not to protect, the law still requires deposit protection, but you will have a more difficult job questioning deductions and getting your deposit back if it has disappeared into the landlord’s bank account without trace.