Research which has been complied by one of the companies which provides insurance for landlords, Direct Line, has revealed that one in ten private landlords do not have a formal tenancy agreement in place with their tenants. It appears that an alarming amount of contracts in place are not actually legally compliant, leaving tenants lacking any real protection when it comes to their tenancies. It is important that as a tenant you have a contract in place to protect your interests and make it clear what is expected from you when renting a property.
The figures further reveal that of those landlords who do not use a letting agent to rent out their properties, 58% used adapted tenancy agreements, which either came from other landlords or were found online. A common theme according to this research is that such landlords use a letting agent when they first rent out a property, but then to save costs, cut their ties with the letting agent, choosing instead to use the contract template which they have been given for future rentals or for tenancy renewals. The result of this being that 13% of landlords have had problems with tenancy disputes within the last two years.
It is also alarming that 9% of landlords have not informed their tenants that their deposit is being held in a government-backed tenancy deposit protection scheme (TDP), despite the fact that this has been a legal requirement since 2007. Your Landlord must put your deposit in a TDP if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy and this tenancy started after 06 April 2007. They must do this within 30 days of receiving your deposit and they must also provide you with information about the scheme being used.
A court can order your landlord to pay you compensation if you're an assured shorthold tenant and your landlord fails to protect your deposit in a TDP, doesn't give you the required information about the scheme being used or takes too long to protect your deposit or give you the required information. The amount of compensation which can be awarded can be up to 3 times the value of your deposit. The court can also order your landlord to repay your deposit or protect it in a TDP. You can make a claim for compensation before or after your tenancy has ended.
However, most importantly, if your landlord tried to end your tenancy by using a section 21 Notice, this would not be valid if your deposit hadn’t been protected in a TDP, your deposit was protected more than 30 days after you paid it or if your landlord hadn’t given you the required information about the scheme they had used. This means that if your landlord started court proceedings to evict you, you would be able to defend the proceedings on the basis that the notice was invalid, meaning that you could not be evicted from your home.
Your landlord would have to refund your deposit or protect it in a scheme before they could then serve you with a new section 21 Notice, which would be valid.
If you receive any type of notice from your landlord or any court papers, it is important to seek specialist legal advice from a housing solicitor as early as possible. Stephensons have a dedicated housing department who can offer specialist advice and assistance.