Advice and protection for private tenants
Harassment and illegal eviction
The law protects people living in residential property against harassment and illegal eviction. It does this by making harassment and illegal eviction a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and by enabling someone who is harassed or illegally evicted, to claim damages through the civil court.
The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 makes it an offence to:
- do acts likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of a tenant or anyone living with him/her; or
- persistently withdraw or withhold services for which the tenant has a reasonable need to live in the premises as a home.
The Council has the power to prosecute persons who commit offences under the Act. Our Environmental Health Officers investigate complaints and mediate between the parties wherever possible. We will consider bringing a prosecution if there is sufficient evidence of an offence being committed and where it is in the public interest to prosecute.
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
The Council has powers to prosecute landlords who fail to fulfil their obligations under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Such matters include the failure of landlords to provide rent books and the failure of freeholders to give information to long leasehold tenants concerning service charges and insurance.
Where a complaint is received our Environmental Health Officers will try to ensure that the required information is provided. However we will consider prosecuting the landlord in the case of persistent failure to provide the information.
Gas, electricity and water supplies
The Council has the power to make arrangements to secure the restoration or continuance of gas, water or electricity supplies for the benefit of residents (usually tenants) where the supplies have been, or are likely to be, cut off because of failure by the owner of the property to pay for the services.
We will consider making such arrangements only as a last resort for emergency cases. In every case we will co-operate closely with the suppliers and wherever possible enlist the suppliers' support and assistance. Where the Council makes a payment to restore the supply or secure its continuance, we are entitled to recover the payment with interest from the owner of the premises.
Tenancy deposit schemes - general
From 6th April 2007, new provisions came into force under the Housing Act 2004 to give protection to tenants who have paid a cash deposit to landlords. These provisions aim to ensure that landlords are not able to withhold that deposit inappropriately at the end of the tenancy and include measures to improve the resolution of disputes.
From this date, if any new tenancy is created, the landlord can only take a deposit from the tenant if that deposit is protected by one of the five schemes the Act has introduced. The schemes are run by companies to whom the government have awarded contracts and are as follows:-
- The Deposit Protection Service
- Tenancy Deposit Scheme
- The Deposit Protection Service Insured
Tenancy deposit schemes - effect on landlords
Landlords have to choose one of the four schemes if they are taking a deposit from a tenant and must provide the tenant with certain information within 30 days of taking the deposit. If landlords fail to do this they may have difficulties if they wish to end the tenancy at a later date as they would not be allowed to serve a Section 21 notice to end the tenancy. They would therefore not have an automatic right of possession if the tenant does not leave and they have to seek an eviction order from the Court. The only way a landlord could seek possession of a property through the Court would be to prove that one of the grounds for possession in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 exists e.g. non-payment of rent.
There are also other penalties that will be incurred by landlords who do not comply with the new legislation. Any tenant (or person who paid the deposit on their behalf) who thinks that the landlord has not complied with the new rules, can make an application to the County Court. If the court is satisfied that the landlord has not complied, it can order that the deposit is lodged with an appropriate scheme. It can also order that the landlord pays the tenant a compensation payment of between 1 to 3 times the value of the deposit. A landlord who doesn't protect the deposit at all can also be fined by the court.
Gas Safety Certificate
Carbon monoxide leaks, from faulty gas appliances, can kill. Your landlord must show you a valid Gas Safety Certificate before you move in. He/she must have an annual check of all appliances in the house by a registered gas engineer. Since 1 April 2009 all gas engineers must be registered with the Gas Safe Register. Any repairs should be carried out before you move in. If these are delayed without explanation after you have moved in you should contact the Private Sector Housing Team (see contact details below).
Energy Performance Certificate
If you rent a whole house or flat, your landlord must show you an Energy Performance Certificate before you move in. With all properties now rated from A to G, finding a more energy efficient property could help save you money on your fuel bills. For further information visit the government website or contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 040506.
Does the property need a licence?
If the property has three or more storeys and houses five or more people who are not related, the landlord must obtain a licence from the local council. If the landlord fails to get a licence he can be taken to court and, on conviction, fined up to £20,000.
Following conviction, tenants can apply for a Rent Repayment Order from the Residential Property Tribunal Service to reimburse them for some of the rent, if they apply within a fixed time.
For more information see our section on HMO licensing.
Ensure the property is free from hazards
Avoid problems by visually checking that the properties you view are in reasonable condition before agreeing to rent one. Ask the landlord what fire precautions have been provided.
Apart from gas, electrical and fire safety you should be able to move around your home safely. Staircases must be well lit, have a firm handrail and should not have gaps that small children can slip through. Floors must be level to avoid trips or falls. Check that there are enough bolts and locks on doors and windows for security. Find out who holds the keys to the property and whether anyone else will have a key to your room. Ensure that the kitchen has sufficient storage, preparation and cooking space.
For further information see our section on housing hazards.
Recent laws have introduced better protection from bad housing and most people find good landlords. A few will have bad experiences and need expert advice. If you need help, information is available from housing and homelessness organisations such as Shelter, Crisis and the Citizens Advice Bureau. Alternatively you can contact us.
For further information on the above or any other issues you may have with your private tenancy, please use the contact details below - we may be able to offer some advice and assistance:Private Sector Housing Team
Waverley Borough Council
Tel: 01483 523372
Please note that phone calls may be recorded for training or monitoring purposes.
Page owner: Paula Mackenzie. Last updated: 19/03/2014 15:45