The Tenant’s Voice is one of the biggest tenant-led online communities and one of our principal aims is to help educate UK tenants on tenant rights. We see many posts on our forums that represent serious problems with landlord responses, with a lack of regulation of the sector and with the legislative structure of the UK lettings industry. However, there are just as many posts where tenants have ended up in a sticky situation as a result of not being aware of their own responsibilities. With that in mind, we’ve created a cheat sheet for tenants who want to have a better renting experience.
The tenancy agreement
– It’s up to you to read your tenancy agreement – every word – and to understand what you’re signing before you put pen to paper. The law may protect you to the extent that there is an unfair clause in the contract but you’d have to go through a legal process to get judgment that it was unenforceable and what seems unfair to you may not meet the legal definition of unfair.
– If you’re not happy with something in the tenancy then query it – and get the response in writing.
– Make sure you have signed and dated copies of the tenancy and chase these up if they aren’t given to you straight away. It’s your responsibility to make sure you know the document has been signed.
It’s in the interests of both landlord and tenant to ensure that an inventory is done on both move in and move out. However, landlords may not always drive this process.
– Protect your deposit by ensuring an inventory takes place when you move in.
– Chase up your copy of the inventory from the landlord/agent and make amends to anything that is incorrect. If the inventory records no damage to carpets when you move in, for example, and then there is significant damage when you move out you’ll most likely have to pay – even if the damage was there when you arrived but you forgot to add it to the inventory before you signed off on it.
– You’re entitled to be there when the inventory is carried out and to ask the inventory clerk questions (although not to influence what they record). The cost of the inventory is normally shared between landlord and tenant, which makes this a service you’re paying for, not one that the agent/landlord gets to dictate the terms of.
Your security deposit is to cover any damage that you might do to the property so it’s an insurance for the landlord. It is not for wear and tear, redecoration or replacing worn items that are not damaged. The money remains legally the property of the tenant until a tenant agrees to any deductions – agents and landlords often conveniently forget this and phrase deductions as already decided so it’s up to you to remind them that this is not the way it works.
– Find out how – and with which organisation – your deposit is going to be protected before you sign anything. You must be given this information within 30 days of moving in but you can get an idea of how reputable the people are you’re dealing with by asking the question in advance.
– Don’t be afraid to remind the landlord/agent that the deposit remains your property until deductions are agreed by both of you – the tenancy agreement should state this. Stand up for yourself and don’t be bullied by an aggressive landlord or agent – all that stands between them holding on to your deposit for something that they shouldn’t is you knowing your rights.
– If you don’t agree with suggested deductions then negotiate – get proof of how much it might cost to replace something if you think the estimate you’ve been given is wrong, make sure all correspondence is in writing, suggest a compromise if you believe an amount is too high.
– If you can’t come to agreement with the landlord then swiftly open a dispute with the deposit protection scheme through which your deposit is held. The landlord will need to provide proof of the right to deduct money from your deposit, such as the inventory, photos, bills for services etc. The scheme will decide what is fair, not the landlord but it’s up to you to open the dispute and provide some indication as to why the suggested deduction isn’t fair.