Brighton University Law Blog

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Student’s Guide: Landlord & Tenant Issues by Giovanni Parcou

A particular uphill battle is seen in Brighton and in other places across the UK for students is renting.

Issues range from the quality of properties available through to the level of care given by agents or landlords toward students. However, like any other Tenant of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, students are granted rights and entitlements hand-in-hand with responsibilities that come with becoming a Tenant.

What is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy?
By way of the section 98 of the Housing Act 1996 (amending section 1 of the Housing Act 1988) an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is a type of limited tenure to reside within a dwelling-house; in other words the period to which you stay at your property is fixed or specified in the documents you agree to, and there are particular rules in which the Landlord, or Agent of the Landlord, must follow whilst you reside within their property.

What are my basic rights?
Usually all your rights and obligations are set out in your AST contract signed at the beginning of your tenancy, but it can be quite difficult to decipher what basic rights you will have during your residence if you have trouble understanding the terminology set out in the documents you are provided. On the other hand, not every contract is bona fide, and it is not the contract which determines your statutory rights, it is legislation.

When you begin your AST most landlords will ask for a Tenancy deposit. This deposit is designed to afford some protection to your landlord in the event you neglect to fulfill your AST obligations. Upon payment of this deposit the landlord or letting agent must have joined a Tenancy Deposit Scheme which provides solutions to both landlords and tenants in the event disputes arise when the deposit, as agreed, is returned (Housing Act 2004)

Upon submission of the funds for the deposit on the property your landlord must register the deposit within 30 days of receipt. In addition to this, your landlord is obligated to provide what is described as ‘Prescribed Information’. This information is essentially everything you need to know about how your deposit is protected by the scheme. If your Agent or Landlord fails to do so they could be in breach of their legal obligation toward you, and you can issue a claim with the scheme provider for an award of anywhere between naught to three time the amount of your deposit.

Rent increases in AST’s only occur once the fixed term has ended, unless the tenancy agreement stipulates some formula as to how rent increases are to be made. However, the Housing Act 1988 Section 13 prescribes what could be termed a ‘rent increase procedure’ which outlines the steps the landlord must take in order to notify you of an increase in your rent.

Repairs and adjustments are partly your landlord’s responsibility and partly your responsibility as a tenant. Your landlord, by way of section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 has the following responsibilities toward your AST property:

  • To keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),
  • To keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
  • To keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.

Non-conformity could result in your landlord breaching their statutory obligations toward your AST.

Eviction is an area which tenants should be aware of as it can lead to CCJ’s being issued and as a consequence of that affecting your credit file. In England and Wales there are two ways in which a Landlord can start the eviction process: either by issuing a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice. In brief:

Section 21 Notice: If your tenancy started before 1st October 2015 the notice must be served in writing and give you (the tenant) a minimum of two months to vacate the property. The notice must expire after the end of the fixed term. However if your tenancy has started or had been renewed on 1st October 2015 the Landlord must wait at least 4 months from the start of your original tenancy to serve a section 21 notice. If your landlord fails to comply with the rules relation to HMO’s, Prescribed information, Deposit Protection or Repairs and Condition, your landlord’s section 21 notice will be invalid.

Section 8 Notice: This method is often known as the accelerated procedure and has shorter time limits, but can only be issued under certain circumstances. Under a section 8 your landlord has to prove that they have grounds for possession, and if satisfied they can evict you through the court (apply for a possession order).

What are my basic responsibilities?
In any AST agreement your ultimate responsibilities will be to pay rent on time and take care of the property which you are living in.

Many other things such as Council tax and Utilities will be down to you to arrange, unless your AST agreement stipulates otherwise.

A common dispute arising from student tenancies is who bares the responsibility of taking care of mould in the property. Usually it will be the tenant’s responsibility to take care of it and clean it. Mould is a common problem across the properties in Britain; around 10 million homes suffer from poor state of repair involving damp walls or rotten windows.

Mould and damp often can be prevented with regular ventilation and correctly heating the property which you live in. Where mould is a result of a structural defect your landlord or letting agent should be notified as soon as possible to prevent the problem escalating and allow them enough time to identify the cause and resolve it. In summary, where mould and damp result from a structural defect it isn’t your responsibility.

How do I resolve issues in relation to the property and your residence?
The most appropriate form of resolution is communication. Often problems develop with rented properties because tenants live in fear of eviction, or worse. If you have an issue, take it up with the landlord or managing agent; they are responsible for the property just as much as you are.

However, stay calm, approach them with wanting a solution and be co-operative. Remember, the property doesn’t belong to you and the landlord or managing agent will want to see issue resolved as soon as possible just as much as you would.

Bear in mind that if you have any particular issues and need to speak to someone in confidence Shelter (http://england.shelter.org.uk/) operate a helpline which you can use to for advice and solutions to housing issues you may be facing.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is for general information purposes only. The article is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice.

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Carmen Bonal-Romero • 09/06/2016


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