Need repairs? Help is at hand
There’s now a new way for private tenants to work out whether or not their landlord is responsible for repairs to their rented homes. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has got together with the Ministry of Justice to develop a new online repair checker. It takes renters through a set of questions that aim to identify issues and then signposts next steps for advice and further information.
The Government hopes this will help tenants and their landlords understand their rights and obligations and means that issues over repairs can be resolved before they end up in a dispute.
On the face of it, this is a useful tool. But it also recognises a fundamental problem for many tenants – the fact that if they complain to their landlord, they are at risk of being evicted. Of course this should never happen – tenants are entitled to point our problems with the property they are renting and landlords are legally required to ensure their rental properties are in a good state of repair and fit for habitation.
However, in the real world this is often not the case. Pre-pandemic, research by Citizens Advice found that renters who made a formal complaint about their property have a 46% chance of being issued an eviction notice within 6 months. This is grossly unfair but in a very buoyant rental market, there is no reason to suppose that this has changed.
Some tenants, desperate for their landlord to carry out the repairs they request, will stop paying their rent and so provide the perfect excuse for eviction. So government advice is not to do this but to “continue to pay rent even if your landlord has not carried out repairs”. This leaves tenants at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords and stuck between a rock and a hard place. It may not be easy or even possible for them to simply move, so what should they do?
The new online checker points tenants towards their local council, or organisations such as Shelter or Citizens’ Advice who may be able to take up their case for them.
Our advice as professional property managers, is for tenants to use a reputable letting agent or to do their own due diligence before renting from an unknown landlord. Ask if they are a member of one of the landlord organisations, such as the NRLA, which has a formal complaints procedure and offers a mediation service.
If you are renting from a small buy-to-let landlord, here are some helpful tips from review site Marks out of Tenancy - which is like Trip Adviser for rentals:
- Check for tenancy reviews on Marks Out Of Tenancy. If there aren’t any, Google the landlord.
- Ask the landlord why the previous tenants moved out.
- Ask to see the EPC and gas and electrical safety certificates to check they are up-to-date and test the smoke alarms. If the landlord refuses any of these requests, this should ring alarm bells.
- Talk to the neighbours - they may have an insight into whether or not the previous tenancy went smoothly.
- And finally, never pay a deposit – or your rent - with cash, wire transfers or gift cards.
Rogue landlords are in the minority but they are out there and they can make tenants’ lives a misery, so do your homework before assuming that anyone you rent from will stick to the rules. To take a look at the new repairs checker, click here
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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