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renting property solicitors sheffield

The laws on renting property. Know your rights

This article appeared in the January 2011 edition of Chic Lifestyle magazine.
renting property

The private rented sector has undergone a massive change in the last few years. The growth in popularity of city centre apartments coupled with the ongoing effects of the banking crisis mean that there are now three million households renting privately, with predictions that one in five people will be living in the sector by 2020.

Many first time buyers are being blocked from entering the purchase market as they cannot get together the sizeable deposits currently required by most mortgage lenders. A survey by the Council of Mortgage Lenders recently showed that the desire to become an owner-occupier is as strong as ever, but the means to finance it are more difficult than at any time in decades. Added to this many people are wary of falling house prices and concerned over the effect of government cuts on their own ability to meet long-term financial commitments.

Recent figures also show that rents are now increasing at their fastest rate in years as a result of the imbalance in supply and demand, with the Yorkshire and Humberside region suffering the biggest annual rise, up by 5.4%.

This combination of factors means that power is currently shifting towards landlords. A lot of people are entering the rental market for the first time with no clear idea of what a landlord is obliged to provide in terms of minimum standards and ongoing maintenance.

So if you are living in a rented property, what are your rights?

Here Solicitor Brian Wrigley of Norrie Waite & Slater Solicitors explains the obligations of landlords and tenants to carry out repairs in rented housing.

What are my landlord's obligations towards repairs?

Laws exist which oblige landlords to maintain properties in an adequate state of repair. The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 sets out the statutory duties of landlords, including:

  • Keeping the structure of the building in good repair, including:
    • guttering
    • drains and external pipes
    • the roof
    • exterior walls
    • windows and doors
  • Keeping systems used for heating and hot water in good repair.
  • Keeping systems used for the supply of essential services in working order. This means:
    • electricity
    • gas
    • sanitation (including sinks, baths, toilets)
    • water
My landlord won"t carry out repairs to the property, what can I do?

Your landlord has an obligation to ensure the property is maintained in an adequate state of repair.

If essential repairs are not carried out on the property it may be possible to take legal action to force your landlord to comply with their legal obligations. This may be in the form of a court order requiring your landlord to carry out the repairs. If the repairs have been delayed for no good reason then a solicitor may also be able to help you to claim compensation.

What are the obligations of a tenant?

Tenants also have obligations to their landlord and the property they reside in. These include:

  • paying the rent as agreed
  • paying utility bills such as gas and electricity if this was agreed with the landlord
  • in most cases paying the council tax, water and sewerage charges
  • keeping the property reasonably clean
  • not damaging the property and ensuring your guests do not damage the property
  • using the heating properly
  • carrying our minor maintenance, like checking smoke alarm batteries

If you do cause damage to the property or supplied furnishings then the landlord may be able to charge you for the cost of repairs or withhold some or all of your deposit.

Can I get Legal Aid for Housing problems?

Legal Aid (Public Funding) is available to help with housing problems and Norrie Waite and Slater solicitors are able to offer advice and representation on a legal aid basis.

If you are in receipt of Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance or Pension Credit you will qualify automatically for free legal aid. If you are in receipt of other benefits or are on a low income, legal aid may still be free and we will be able to assess if you qualify.

If you are not entitled to legal aid we may still be able to help you. We will discuss with you suitable alternative funding arrangements.

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