More than ever we are seeing a trend in people choosing to rent rather than purchase a property. In a recent live Q&A hosted by the Law Society, Damian Pitts Litigation Solicitor, answers questions aimed at the rights of tenants, who is responsible for property repairs and in light of the current coronavirus pandemic, can tenants request a rent reduction?
The rights of tenants Q&A
Q1. Who is responsible for repairs on a rental property? Do these need to be carried out within a certain time period?
If the property is rented under an assured shorthold tenancy, then under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (“LTA’85) a landlord has a statutory duty to carry out basic repairs to the property. The landlord must keep in repair the structure and exterior of the property and any installations in the property for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and heating water. The obligation to carry out any repairs not falling within Section 11 of the LTA’85 will depend on the terms of the tenancy. A landlord is not liable to carry out any repairs until he or she has been put on notice of the disrepair and the landlord then has a ‘reasonable’ time to affect the repair. There is no definition of what is a ‘reasonable’ time and the Court will look to a number of factors when deciding whether a landlord has failed to repair in a reasonable time, for example how bad is the disrepair and whether the tenant is living in the property.
Q2. Can a landlord choose not to rent to potential tenants because of age, children or pets?
A landlord must not unlawfully discriminate against any person on the basis of a characteristic protected by the Equality Act 2010 in choosing not to rent to a potential tenant. Age, having children or pets are not themselves protected characteristics, but the landlord still needs to be careful about indirect discrimination, for example choosing not to let to a person because they have a pet when that pet is a guide dog or choosing not to let to a person who has a new born baby (maternity being a protected characteristic).
Q3. What can a tenant do if they feel their deposit has been deducted unfairly?
A landlord is required to protect a tenants deposit in a recognised deposit protection scheme “DPS”). At the end of the tenancy a landlord and tenant need to agree how the deposit is to be apportioned between them. If they cannot reach an agreement, they can use the alternative dispute resolution “ADR”) service run by the DPS. If either the landlord or tenant does wish to use the ADR scheme, then the issue of the deposit will need to be dealt with by a Court and judge will have to decide how much the landlord can deduct from the deposit.
Q4. Based on the Government guidelines and with consideration of the Coronavirus pandemic, what rights do tenants have when asking for a temporary rent reduction?
A tenant does not have any right to insist on a rent reduction (temporary or otherwise) due to the Coronavirus pandemic and nor does the Coronavirus legislation have the effect of reducing any rents payable under private sector tenancies. However, we understand that the intention is that a pre-action protocol similar to the current pre-action protocol for social housing will be introduced for private sector residential tenancies and a landlord will be required to consider a tenant’s individual circumstances before starting a claim for rent arrears.
Q5. With consideration of the Coronavirus pandemic and the Government enforced lockdown, what protection do tenants have against eviction?
A number of protections for tenants have been introduced by the Government. Any notice seeking possession served prior to 30th September 2020 must now give a tenant 3 months’ notice. There has been a new Practice Direction in the Civil Procedure Rules which stays any claims for possession for 90 days. Evictions are also currently suspended until at least the beginning of June.
Unfortunately, landlords can sometimes find themselves in dispute with their tenants, if you are a Residential Landlord and need legal support or you would like to discuss any points raised in our Q&A on the rights of tenants, please contact our Landlord and Tenant Disputes team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01603 598000 and a member of the team will be happy to assist you.