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Tenancy rights and the terminology used varies between the different countries in the UK. For more information on all aspects of renting in the four countries visit Shelter.
- Agents normally charge administration and reference-checking fees which are sometimes excessive.
- Always ask about fees before signing anything or handing over any money. Agents can only charge fees once you accept the accommodation – by law you can’t be charged registration or viewing fees.
- If you’re not sure about a property, don’t pay a holding deposit, as you’ll lose the money if you change your mind. Holding deposits are off-set against agency administration charges or your first month’s rent. If the landlord changes their mind about renting the property you’re entitled to get the full holding deposit back.
- If you’re having problems paying your rent contact your landlord or agency – some charge if you pay late, but may agree not to if you speak to them first.
- Make sure that you sign an assured tenancy agreement unless you have a resident landlord, in which case you have fewer rights regarding eviction and must sign an excluded tenancy agreement.
- Check if your university offers advice and listings for private rented accommodation.
The landlord is responsible for all maintenance issues, in the exterior and interior of the house, throughout the tenancy. If problems are not resolved you may be entitled to compensation.
If you have any maintenance problems follow these rules. They will strengthen any compensation claim in the event of you having to make one and will help get work done:
- Always inform the landlord of problems in writing. Date the letter and keep it. Do not rely on verbal communication. If the landlord agrees to do something verbally, confirm it in an email straight after.
- Always keep evidence of problems and any extra costs that you have incurred because of them. Take photos, keep receipts and keep copies of all communication with the landlord. This will help if you need to ask for compensation.
- If something looks dangerous in the house inform the landlord in writing. They should then rectify the problem to keep you safe. If an accident did occur, the fact you had notified the landlord would strengthen your claim for compensation.
- If the problems in your house are such that you think they might be putting your health and safety at risk, contact your local council’s environmental health officers (see Shelter’s website for more details). Not only can they order the landlord to do work on the house, but their report may add strength to a compensation claim if you have to make one.
- If you are having problems in your house you may be able to get help from your Student Union or university advice centre. Many have housing advisors who can help get maintenance issues seen to, advise when to get environmental health involved and help you make a claim for compensation.
Return of your deposit
If the landlord claims that you are not entitled to your money back, write and ask for a detailed list of deductions along specific amounts and evidence. Say you require this within 14 days.
When you receive the list go through each deduction in turn and see if you can collect evidence to counteract the claims:
- Assess the viability of the evidence the landlord has provided – has he sent a copies of invoices for work done, and receipts for replaced items?
- Check the landlord is not trying to charge you for general wear and tear or for improvements.
- If the landlord claims that items were broken and you know they were not, see if you can find a photo from when you moved out with the undamaged product in it.
- If the landlord claims that things have had to be replaced, go round to the property and ask the new tenants if you can have a look to see if they actually have been – take photos if they have not.
- Get testimonials from the current tenants as to the state of the house when they moved in.
- If the landlord is trying to charge you for damages that were there when you moved in see if you have evidence to show that they occurred before you lived there. Did you take photos when you moved in? Did you notify the landlord of the damages in writing when you moved in?
Once you have collected all the evidence, reply to the landlord disputing his claims. Present your evidence clearly and state how much of your deposit you think you are entitled to back. You can negotiate with them according to the evidence both you and they have provided. Hopefully the landlord will realise which of their claims are unsubstantiated and pay up. If you come to an agreement you are happy with, get confirmation in writing and request the money within 14 days.
What to do if the landlord does not pay up?
The first thing to do if your landlord doesn’t pay up is seek advice. There may be an advice service at your Student Union or University which will be able to help you. If you cannot find, or do not have, an advice service you can try getting in touch with Citizens Advice.
If the landlord or agent has refused to return your deposit even when the above methods have been exhausted:
If you still do not receive your deposit back then you can legally take the landlord to court. The official way to do this is to write a seven day warning letter. This needs to state ‘If I do not receive my deposit of £…… within seven days I shall be claiming back the full amount plus court fees in the county court’.
It is a requirement to send a seven day warning letter before initiating any court action, and sending one tells the landlord that you mean business. You do not have to make a claim in court just because you send a seven day warning letter. You also do not have to make a claim within seven days, even if you wish to make one at a later date.
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