With landlord legislation changing all the time – meaning there appears to be more red tape than ever to plough through – you may feel that you have fewer rights and control than ever when managing your property.
To help you understand what you can and cannot do – and so help your business run as smoothly and efficiently as possible – we have put together a useful reminder of nice rights you have.
Do note that these rights relate to landlords of properties in England only, are based on our current understanding of the law, and may be liable to change. We’ve provided some useful resources too where further explanation is needed. We hope these help you understand your rights a little more.
As a landlord, you currently have the right to …
1. Evict a tenant for “no-fault” under Section 21 of the Housing Act providing that they are in at least month four (in England) of their fixed-term contract. A Section 21 notice cannot be used during a fixed term. You can, however, use a Section 21 notice to conclude a tenancy at the end of an agreed fixed term, or during a periodic tenancy.
You cannot use a Section 21 notice if you have not provided the tenant with copies of relevant documentation:
The property’s Energy Performance Certificate
The How to Rent guide (only for tenancies agreed from 1 October 2015).
You must also make sure that the tenant has been given the relevant information around tenancy deposit protection. All security deposits must be protected with a deposit protection service in line with regulations.
If an eviction is challenged and goes to court, ideally a landlord should be able to produce confirmation that the tenant had signed and confirmed receipt for the documentation or sent an acknowledgement email if the documents were sent digitally. (Remember, you can use the Go Tenant! service to send and store all communications with your tenant in one, easy to access, place).
Do note that you may not be able to use the Section 21 notice for “no-fault” eviction indefinitely – in April 2019 the government announced controversial plans to scrap Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, instead proposing that landlords follow the Section 8 process which requires them to demonstrate that tenants are in breach of their rental agreement when serving notice.
2. Charge interest at the rate of 3% above the Bank of England base rate (which at the time of writing is 0.75%) if a tenant is 14 days in rent arrears.
3. Request a holding deposit at application stage that can be no more than 1 weeks’ rent. This can be used to contribute towards the first rent payment or the deposit – but you do need the tenant’s consent.
4. Enter your property without notice in emergencies. You are legally obliged to give a tenant 24 hours’ notice before entering the premises and must do so at a reasonable time of day (under Common Law, all tenants are entitled to live in ‘quiet enjoyment’). In the event of an emergency, however, such as a flood or fire in the property; the smell of gas coming from the property; or, if there is structural damage requiring urgent attention, you do not need to give notice.
For the avoidance of any doubt, you may wish to stipulate this in the Tenancy Agreement.
5 Show prospective new tenants around while the current tenant is in situ, provided the existing tenants have been given sufficient notice, and this is stipulated in their contract.
6. Dispose of any left behind belongings of the tenant, provided it complies with the Tort (Interference with Goods) Act 1977. This can be a tricky one for landlords – if the tenant has left something of value (e.g. audio equipment) does it belong to the tenant or a third party, such as a finance company?
This in-depth article by a law firm explains what you can and cannot do when disposing of abandoned tenant possessions.
7. Ask for a deposit which can be no more than five weeks’ rent – or six weeks’ if the rent is £50k a year or more.
8. Withhold the deposit in certain circumstances where damage is caused and proven to be the fault of the tenant. By taking photographs of key items and producing a detailed, dated inventory before the tenant moves in – and getting them to agree to and sign the inventory – you have photographic proof should the tenant challenge you.
Note that ‘fair wear and tear’ doesn’t count as damage.
9. Charge the tenant if they leave before the end of their fixed-term contract, to the value of your loss. Generally, the costs must not exceed the loss you have incurred. You can charge the loss of rent resulting from a tenant’s decision to leave and/or the costs of re-advertising or referencing, or the reasonable costs to the agent (such as marketing costs).
You can ask the tenant to pay rent as required under their tenancy agreement until a suitable replacement tenant is found. You cannot not charge the tenant if they have a break clause in their contract that allows them to leave before the end of their fixed-term (as long as they have given notice as per the terms of the agreement).