Options for dealing with a problem landlord
According to the Hamptons Letting Index there has been an increase in first-time landlords entering the buy-to-let sector, with many enticed by the stamp duty holiday and low interest rates. Unfortunately, some property investors think being a landlord is a way to make easy money and either do not understand or do not take their obligations and responsibilities seriously.
If you rent your home and are having problems with your landlord’s actions, or lack of action, then it is important that you know what your legal options are.
As Dawn Kiddy, a disputes resolution lawyer with Petersfields LLP in Cambridge and Haverhill explains, ‘Your rights of recourse will depend on the nature of the problems you are experiencing and may range from reporting your landlord to the local authority or the police, to taking them to court to claim compensation or to seek protection from unlawful eviction.’
To find out where you stand and increase the chances of a swift and amicable resolution, it is important that you seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity.
Causes for complaint against a landlord
Our team has experience in dealing with a wide range of disputes between tenants and their landlords. These include:
- Financial issues – such as where your landlord is trying to increase your rent during a fixed term tenancy or is unreasonably refusing to return your tenancy deposit when your lease ends.
- Repairs, maintenance and safety issues – including where your landlord is refusing to carry out repairs or maintenance for which they are legally responsible, for example in respect of gas appliances, pipes, flues, ventilation, electrical wiring or heating and hot water systems, and where this may or may not be putting the health and safety of your family at risk.
- Threatened or forced eviction – such as where you have been told by your landlord that you will have to leave your home because you have complained about their behaviour, or where your landlord has intimated an intention to forcibly remove you from your home without your consent and without having first obtained a court order.
- Discrimination – to include any case where you are being discriminated against by your landlord on the basis of your race, religion, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation or because you are pregnant or have a disability or mental health condition.
- Landlord behaviour – including where you are suffering from harassment, unnecessary personal visits, unwelcome advances, unsolicited phone calls or even requests for sex or sexual favours in lieu of rent.
- Absent landlords – including where you cannot track your landlord down and your property is in need of urgent repairs.
If you are in danger
If you feel you are in imminent danger as a result of your landlord’s behaviour, then the first thing you should do is contact the police. This includes where you are experiencing sexual or non-sexual harassment, stalking, violence or threats of violence, or where you have been threatened with unlawful eviction.
Options for redress
Your options for dealing with a difficult or bad landlord will vary depending on what it is that they have done. However, possible routes of recourse include:
- reporting your landlord to the local council where they are guilty of harassment, failing to carry out repairs which pose a risk to your health or safety, or threatening you with unlawful eviction or dealing with you in a dishonest or unfair way;
- reporting your landlord to the tenancy deposit scheme that your deposit monies have been lodged with – assuming that your landlord has protected your deposit as required;
- asking our solicitors to try to persuade your landlord to voluntarily correct or address whatever it is that they are doing that is wrong; or
- enlisting the support of our solicitors to issue court proceedings to force your landlord to take certain action, or to desist with certain behaviours, and to pay you appropriate compensation.
When might compensation be claimed?
It may be possible to claim compensation in a range of situations, including where:
- your home has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and as a result you have suffered distress, inconvenience, damage to your possessions or even the onset of a health condition, such as asthma brought on by damp and mould;
- you have been unlawfully evicted;
- your deposit has not been properly protected or has not been returned to you in circumstances where it should have been; or
- you have been discriminated against in circumstances where this cannot be justified, for example where your landlord has refused to make reasonable adjustments to their property to accommodate your disability.
How we can help
It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible, and where appropriate to make your local council aware of the problems you are experiencing.
By enlisting the help of a solicitor, you can increase the chances of your landlord listening seriously to the concerns that you have and thinking twice before doing anything to further aggregate the situation, like trying to unfairly force you out of your home.
In our experience, all that is often required to make a difficult or bad landlord realise that their behaviour is unacceptable is a formal solicitor’s letter which sets out what the law requires from them and highlights where they are falling short.
In those cases where an exchange of correspondence does not work, then we often find that a resolution can be achieved via the appointment of an independent and impartial mediator who, with our help, can work with you and your landlord to find a mutually agreeable way to move forward.
And in those cases where there is no option but to take your problem to court, you can rest assured that we will do everything that we can to make the process as simple and stress free as possible, and to ensure that you walk away achieving a good result and the financial compensation that you deserve.
This article is for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. The law may have changed since this article was published.