Navigating the Pitfalls
The majority of landlords operate within legal and ethical boundaries, providing an essential service in the housing market. However, there is a minority that engage in practices which can be considered exploitative, taking advantage of tenants’ lack of knowledge or vulnerabilities. Awareness of these tactics can empower tenants to assert their rights and seek fair treatment. Here are five tricks that some landlords use to exploit tenants and how they can be addressed:
1. Hidden Fees and Charges
Some unscrupulous landlords may try to impose hidden fees and charges that are not clearly outlined in the lease agreement. This could include excessive charges for repairs, maintenance, or administrative tasks that tenants are not legally obliged to pay.
Tenants should thoroughly review their lease agreement and question any charges not explicitly stated. Understanding tenancy law or seeking advice from organizations like Shelter or Citizens Advice can provide clarity on what a landlord can legally charge.
2. Withholding Deposits Unfairly
At the end of a tenancy, some landlords may withhold security deposits citing damage or wear and tear that is either pre-existing or considered normal. They might also overstate the cost of repairs as a means to retain a larger portion of the deposit.
Tenants should take date-stamped photos of the property upon moving in and out to document the condition. They should also request a detailed invoice for any deductions. Deposits should be protected in a government-approved scheme, allowing for a dispute resolution service if disagreements arise.
3. Unlawful Evictions
Evicting tenants without proper notice or through intimidation is another severe misuse of power by some landlords. Eviction laws are precise, and landlords must follow the correct procedures when asking tenants to leave.
If faced with eviction, tenants should seek immediate legal advice. Local councils or legal services can offer assistance, and eviction must be court-ordered to be lawful.
4. Ignoring Repairs and Maintenance Requests
By ignoring or delaying responses to repair requests, some landlords leave tenants living in conditions that may deteriorate, impacting health and safety. This neglects the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the property’s habitability.
Tenants should always put repair requests in writing and follow up persistently. If landlords fail to act, tenants may contact their local council, which can enforce repairs under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
5. Misleading Tenants About Their Rights
Landlords might mislead tenants about their rights, including the right to privacy, the requirement for a landlord to provide notice before entering the property, or tenant rights during a dispute.
Knowledge is power. Tenants should educate themselves on their rights and responsibilities. Resources and guides provided by housing charities and government websites can be invaluable for this purpose.
While the rental market is regulated to protect tenants, vigilance is required to prevent exploitation. Understanding one’s rights, maintaining clear communication with landlords, and knowing where to turn for help are all critical in ensuring a fair and just tenancy. For every bad actor in the rental market, there is legislation in place to protect tenants and legitimate avenues to address grievances, ensuring that renting remains a secure and viable option for housing in the UK.
If you are interested in becoming a Landlord, read our article about what it takes.