Rights and Obligations

Your Rights As A Tenant

Introduction

From the moment you sign your tenancy agreement you are entitled to peace and quiet enjoyment of your adopted home. To accompany the rights that you have, you also have legal obligations.

Knowing your rights and your obligations can avoid disputes with your landlord or letting agent often contracted to manage the property on their behalf.

From the moment you sign your tenancy you have the right to ‘peace and quiet enjoyment of your home’. This means that your landlord cannot turn up at any time, but must give you reasonable notice (usually a minimum of 24 hours unless it is an emergency).

Inspections

Both the landlord and the letting agent will occasionally carry out ‘property inspections’. These vary from agent to agent and landlord to landlord. 6 monthly or annually is not uncommon, every 3 months is rarer depending on the location and you. You should check the terms of your rental agreement.

Your landlord is legally obliged to

  • Insure the property – Make sure the property is adequately insured. This is usually a stipulation in mortgage or loan agreements and in some letting agent terms and conditions.
  • Repairs and maintenance – Arrange for necessary repairs to be undertaken to the structure of the property, including sanitary installations, electrical system, gas installation, heating and hot water and to pay for their regular upkeep. This should also include pathways, entrances and exits to the property.
  • Tenancy Deposit – Landlords are required upon termination of your tenancy to return your full deposit, or explain in writing why money has been deducted from it. (See Tenancy Deposit schemes)
  • Eviction – A landlord / letting agent cannot evict you unless the correct legal procedure has been followed including obtaining an eviction order from the court.
  • Tenancy termination – If you have a Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement, they cannot evict you under any circumstance within the first 6 months of the agreement, however they can give you 2 months’ notice to quit 4 months into the tenancy agreement thereby terminating the tenancy at the end of the 6 month period provided this states so in the tenancy agreement.
  • Gas Appliance safety – They must ensure that adequate gas safety checks are conducted by a qualified ‘Gas Safe registered engineer’ who is competent to undertake such inspections and repairs to all gas appliances, including fitting and flues to ensure they are safe. They must give you a CP12 certificate that indicates the gas installation and appliances are safe when the inspection is complete. This should be undertaken by law at least annually. Failure to do so is a criminal offence and liable to imprisonment.
  • Fire regulations – They must ensure that all soft furnishings in the property are compliant with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) Safety Regulations 1988. Such furnishing and furniture will normally have fire safety labels attached.
  • Electrical safety – Ensure that all electrical installations and appliances are safe and to supply the operating instructions of such appliances including safety notices. This is applicable before your tenancy begins. They may not be responsible for small electrical items such as irons, kettles, hoovers left in the property.
  • Reasonable adjustments – Landlords are obliged to meet equality legislation. They are not allowed to discriminate against tenants because of their disability and are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the property for disabled tenants.

Your landlord cannot do the following

  • Change the locks of the property without informing you and supplying you with new keys, they are however able to seek reasonable costs from you should you lose your keys
  • Disconnect essential amenities such as water, gas or electricity. It is an offence to interfere with these services and could constitute harassment
  • Use threatening behavior or too physically or verbally abuse you or members of your household or commit a hate crime against you
  • Interfere with your mail electronically or otherwise
  • Neglect the property so as to cause potential harm or injury to you or members of your household

Documents and information required from your landlord

When entering into a tenancy agreement it is the law for your landlord to provide to you the following documentation:

  • Deposit scheme information (after 30 days)
  • Gas safety certification
  • Rent book (if you are a periodic tenant)
  • Energy performance certificate (EPC)

Although not required by law it is good practice for a landlord to provide extra documentation when entering into a tenancy agreement:

  • A tenancy agreement
  • Building insurance certificate
  • Other insurance certificate (if applicable)
  • Inventory
  • Electrical safety certification

Houses In Multiple Occupation (HMO)

  • HMOs are houses that are shared households with often three or more separate renters and often consist of properties that are more than 3 storey high (including a basement let). As such they are subject to special licensing regulations including meeting higher standards of electrical and fire safety.
  • HMOs and licenses must have an inspection carried out of the full electrical installation every five years.
  • All HMOs and any property built later than June 1992 are legally obliged to have hard wired into the mains electrical supply a smoke detector on every floor of the building.

Where can I get information and advice?

If you feel at any time that your rights are being infringed upon, you should first try and resolve the matter directly with your landlord or letting agent. If this fails you can get in touch with the Welsh Tenants who can provide you with information about what you can do. We may on occasions sign post you to an appropriate specialist support agency such as Shelter Cymru, or Citizens Advice, your local Trading Standards or Environmental Protection officer of the local authority.

You may also want to contact the professional body of the landlord or letting agent belongs. In certain circumstances where there has been a hate crime incident report the crime to appropriate organisations such as the police.

Signing A Tenancy Agreement

Introduction

Signing the tenancy agreement is the final stage of the procedure when completing the formalities of renting a property. The tenancy agreement is an official document which states you have agreed to lease the property from the landlord or letting agent and you are therefore bound by certain terms and conditions and your obligations under law.

Welsh Tenants advise that all tenants ensure they are 100% happy with every aspect of what they will be entering into before signing the agreement. It is therefore vital you take the time to read through the agreement thoroughly and fully understand everything in it. If you are unclear about any aspects you should see advice.

On a very basic level, the agreement is officially stating that you have a right to occupy the property and your landlord has a right to collect rent from you for staying in the property.

The agreement should include

  • Names of all people involved
  • Rental price and how should be paid
  • Information on how and when the rent will be reviewed
  • The deposit amount and how it will be protected
  • When the deposit can be fully or partly withheld (e.g. to repair damage you’ve caused)
  • The property address
  • Start and end date of the tenancy
  • Any tenant or landlord obligations
  • Which bills you are responsible for

It can also include information on

  • Whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done
  • Who is responsible for minor repairs
  • Whether the property can be let to someone else (sublet) or whether you can have lodgers

The terms of the tenancy must be fair and comply with the law because the lease agreement is a form of consumer contract and therefore should be in plain language which is clear and easy to understand. If you think that it is unfair there is guidance available from the Office of Fair Trading under unfair terms and conditions of contract.

Welsh Tenants advise tenants that if you have any doubts about what you are signing, you should NOT sign the agreement. Instead you should seek further advice.

Once you have signed the agreement there is no going back, you cannot change your mind; you will be tied to the agreement from that moment on until the tenancy ends or is reviewed.

Where to go for further help and advice

You might be able to get alternative help and guidance from a solicitor, your local council’s housing department, Citizens Advice or the Housing Ombudsman.

Deposit Protection

Introduction

Since 2007 all landlords must protect a tenant’s deposit by putting it into a tenancy deposit scheme (TDS). Tenancy deposit schemes are run by independent organisations; they ensure that your deposit is safe should the landlord encounter financial difficulties. Your landlord does not have access to your deposit money without your permission.

This also means you both need to agree any end of tenancy deductions. If you can’t agree then the deposit protection scheme will bring into play a ‘dispute resolution processes. The onus will be on the landlord to prove that any deductions are valid and that you were at fault for any claimed damage.

The Law

When signing your Tenancy Agreement you may be required to pay the deposit to the landlord or letting agent in the usual way. Your landlord or letting agent must pay your deposit into the Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 30 days and must provide you with details of the scheme they use including the address and contact details. This is the case with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

There are two types of deposit schemes: Insurance Based and Custodial Protection.

1. A Custodial Protection scheme is a free service that will hold your deposit and collect interest on it.

At the end of the tenancy if both you and your landlord have agreed how much each will receive, the landlord must contact the service and it will pay out. You will get a share of any interest the deposit generated. Some landlords and agents will include a clause in the tenancy agreement to alter this that so that any interest earned on your deposit will be kept by them. This is legal and may be used to offset fees. Welsh Tenants always recommends that you read your tenancy agreement carefully and discuss any clauses like this with your landlord/agent if you are unsure.

2. An Insurance Based Scheme means that a landlord will keep your deposit but will register the amount with the Scheme. These schemes cost money to join.

When the tenancy ends you and your landlord must agree on how the deposit will be split and the money owed to you must be returned within 10 days.

What the Law means in practice

In practice you must be sure your deposit is being protected throughout your tenancy. If a landlord does not pay your deposit into a Scheme or register it with a Scheme they are breaking the law and can be fined up to three times the amount of the deposit.

In addition, if your deposit is not protected in a Scheme then your landlord will not be able to use a Section 21 Notice to quit against you or begin eviction proceedings.

If you are not in dispute with your landlord at the end of your tenancy then the deposit will be returned to you. If you are in dispute, then you and your landlord can use the ‘alternative dispute resolution’ process which is free with the scheme. If you do choose to use the ‘alternative dispute resolution’ option you have to go along with the final decision and cannot pursue the dispute afterwards in court.

What to ask for

Your landlord should inform you about which Tenancy Deposit Scheme they are going to use and then give you the details once the money has been deposited. These details will include

  • the date on which the money was lodged,
  • the amount and your name and address
  • the name and address of the TDS

If the landlord fails to provide these details simply ask for them and follow up with a written letter. Remember to include the date and keep a copy of any correspondence.

Once given the details of the scheme you can then check on the scheme’s website to confirm that your deposit has been registered. Write to your landlord if you haven’t heard within 30 days and request the details.

Knowing Who Your Landlord Is

Introduction

Tenants have a right, by law, to know the name and address of their landlord. This information should be clearly outlined in your tenancy agreement.

The Law

If you have entered a tenant-landlord agreement but have not been given the name and address of your landlord then you are within your rights to find out.

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that the letting agent or the landlord’s representative must give you the name and address of your landlord if you ask for it. The only requirements are that you:

  • Have paid rent
  • Ask for your landlord’s name and address in writing
  • Allow 21 days for a response

If the letting agent or landlord’s representative does not supply you with this information they are breaking the law and are liable for a fine.

What the law means

You have every right to contact your landlord should you want to. After all there are a few reasons you might need to get in touch with them such as:

  • To request repairs
  • To help mediate with a letting agent
  • In case of an emergency

In the event of an emergency where you need to get hold of your landlord quickly but cannot do so, you can use the GOV.UK website. From here you can get the contact details of your local authority which can deal with the emergency and then take steps to find out who your landlord is.

Be aware that if you take this option your landlord will be charged for any repairs that have to be carried out as a result of the emergency.

Where to go for help and advice

Citizens Advice offers clear instructions about how to find out who your landlord is. They recommend that you try and speak to them if you get no response from your written request.

The next step would be to take the matter to your Local authority Private Rented Officer; these are sometimes environmental health or housing options teams. They can issue your landlord with a fine for withholding information or a prohibition notice.

Some tenants fear that landlords will not be happy if they do this and might even try to evict them. This is referred to as ‘retaliatory eviction’. In most cases it is unlikely as it would be difficult for them to find any legitimate reason to enforce eviction.

Rent Increase

Introduction

You are unlikely to be protected from rent increases unless you have lived in your home since at least 1989 or have a very old-fashioned tenancy agreement. Usually, landlords increase the rent once a year and in line with inflation. However, sometimes an increase may be above inflation or you may feel that the new amount requested is unfair.

The Law

Controls limiting rent increases were abolished in 1988. However, landlords cannot legally raise your rent during the fixed term of your Assured Short-hold Tenancy, which is likely to be six to twelve months. Once your Assured Short-hold Tenancy has ended and you have a periodic tenancy, there are no legal restrictions on the amount by which landlords can increase your rent.

What the law means

Often landlords will increase the rent when they renew your tenancy agreement. This means that once the fixed-term of your tenancy has ended your landlord or letting agent will inform you the rent is going up. In reality, you don’t have much power to refuse this increase and if you refuse to accept it you can be given two months’ notice to move out of the property.

A few tenants have special protection from eviction and therefore may be able to get a proposed rent increase stopped. This is the case if you have:

  • A regulated tenancy (protected by the Rent Act of 1977) or have
  • An assured tenancy

What to look for

When you receive notice that your rent is going to go up you need to consider whether the amount is fair and affordable. Landlords would prefer their properties to be occupied rather than have possible periods of vacancy, so they may be open to negotiation. In this instance, Welsh Tenants advise that you write a realistic and polite letter outlining your concern and perhaps what you are willing to pay.

You could offer to compromise on the amount of the increase, or ask for the rent to be gradually increased over a period of time. If the amount is fair but unaffordable and you need to move out, you could ask your landlord to hold the increase while you look for another place to live. Be sure that the annual increase in rent outweighs the cost of moving, as you may find you would be better off accepting the increase for another twelve months given how time consuming and expensive it is to move.

Where to go for help and advice

Shelter has more information on rent increases which you can view on their website. If you do happen to have a remarkably long tenancy or an assured tenancy (which a few landlords or letting agents have offered for many years) then you can challenge a rent increase through the Rent Office, which you can find out about here http://wales.gov.uk/topics/housingandcommunity/housing/private/renting/rentofficers/contacts/?lang=en.

You can also go to the Rent Office to challenge the rent you signed up to during the initial fixed term of your agreement. It’s a risky idea since you may get the rent reduced but your landlord or letting agent is much less likely to let you stay on after the fixed term ends.

Furnished Properties

Introduction

All furnishings and furniture supplied by landlords must be fire safe. Landlords who provide any furniture – i.e. a sofa, beds, tables, chairs etc must make sure they adhere to The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended).

The Law

There is no specific law that states that landlords must adhere to fire safety regulations, but the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 contain information relating to fire safety within the home. The law does state that any furnishings or furniture which are hired or lent “in the course of business” are covered.

View the full version of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended) for the individual test requirements that supplied furniture and furnishings must pass.

What the law means

Since the law states that the regulations cover furnishings or furniture which are hired or lent “in the course of business” this means that any supplied by your landlord must be fire safe.

Non-compliance

If a landlord or letting agent allows tenants to move into a property which is furnished they must make sure that all furnishings and furniture meet the legal requirements. Landlords who do not comply are breaking the law and could face:

  • Up to six months in prison
  • A fine of up to £5,000 per item of furniture that does not meet safety standards
  • A manslaughter charge in the event of a tenant death
  • Being sued for civil damages by a tenant
  • The insurance for the property can be rendered invalid

Which items are included in the legislation?

  • Sofas, three piece suites, futons, sofa beds, arm chairs and all convertible furniture
  • Furniture for a nursery
  • Beds, headboards, divans, bed bases and pillows
  • Any garden furniture that could be used inside the property
  • Scatter cushions, pads for seats, stretch covers, loose covers and fitted covers for items of furniture

What are not included?

  • Any furniture or antiques which were made before 1950. The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 have a section on this.
  • Loose mattress covers, sleeping bags, pillow cases, curtains, bed covers, duvets and carpets

How to tell if furniture is fire safe?

As a tenant you have the right to check if your furnishings and furniture supplied by your landlord are safe. Here are a few of the ways to find out:

  • Check the manufacturers label on items of furniture. All items must have one of these and it is a permanent label which cannot be removed. This will give you information on the materials used to make the item
  • Any upholstered items must have a filling which is fire resistant and they must pass the ‘match resilience test’ and the ‘cigarette test’. For more information on what these tests are take a look at the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended)
  • Mattresses and bed bases must have a label that shows that they meet BS7177 – a safety standard set down by law

Where to go for help and advice

Citizens Advice is able to provide help and advice on what to do if the furniture supplied by your landlord is not fire safe. The Trading Standards website can also be helpful and has links to fire safety sites which can give you even more information.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

Introduction

If you are renting a flat or house it is only right that you would expect it to be safe and free from all health hazards. There should be nothing in or about the accommodation which might cause you injury or make you ill. It is important that you keep an eye on the day-to-day condition of the property you rent and report any defects as soon as possible.

The Law

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 makes your landlord responsible for the following health and safety issues in your home:

  • Stability
  • Freedom from damp
  • Water supply
  • Drainage and sanitary conveniences
  • Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
  • Ventilation

What the law means

Your landlord knows it is their responsibility to make sure your home is as risk-free as possible. If you were to sustain an injury or fall ill as a result of an unsanitary or unsafe home then they would be legally responsible. For this reason, your landlord will probably take your concerns about health hazards seriously. However, it falls on you to notify them of anything which you think might pose a threat. Therefore TTV strongly recommends you report to your landlord or letting agent immediately if any dangerous or potentially hazardous issue arises.

What to look for

  • Structural defects – Loose masonry, guttering and slates, they are unlikely to be deadly but they can cause a nasty accident
  • Damp – don’t wait until it spreads; tell your landlord immediately. Leaving it will just make the repair more expensive, and your landlord should appreciate being notified
  • Rickety or steep stairs – this is most important if you have young children or elderly family members. Stairs cause more accidents than anything else in the home (around 230,000 per year) and kill more than twice as many people as fires
  • Torn wooden flooring – it is a small thing but there is no need to put up with it. You may be able to step round and it would probably only result in a splinter if you didn’t, but any unnecessary risk should be seen to
  • Exposed hot pipes – again, they are far from deadly but they can give you a nasty burn and should therefore be boxed in

If you are worried about any of these things or the checklist above (under law) you should not hesitate to tell your landlord. Your landlord can end up in a criminal court for being negligent, so it is in their interests to take your concerns seriously.

It is a strong Welsh Tenants recommendation that all tenants should be aware that they need to look after themselves and their families and friends when living in their rented accommodation. Ultimately, lack of common sense is the biggest danger, but it is still worth pointing out any dangers you spot to your landlord or letting agent. They know the law and should be happy to make your home as safe as they possibly can.

Communication

Polite and effective communication between you and your landlord is vital to a positive rental experience. It is a good idea to take photos of the health hazard and send them in an email or letter to your landlord as soon as possible. Ensure the date is included in the letter and keep a copy for your own records.

Where to go for help and advice

If you are concerned about something being unsafe in your home and your landlord is being slow to react to getting it fixed, TTV suggest you check out our information here on Getting your landlord or letting agent to do repairs. If you are unsure about whether something really is a danger check out the forums [need hyperlink to forum] on this site and/or take advice from the Citizens Advice online service here.

Property Structure

Introduction

One of the main attractions for tenants renting a flat or house is the fact that they are not liable for ensuring the exterior or structure of the property is maintained or repaired. Your landlord is almost always responsible for everything on the outside of your home. The only exception is if the property has been damaged by you in some way.

Welsh Tenants would like to emphasise that it is important for tenants to know that even if you have caused damage to the exterior of the property accidentally, you will be liable for the cost of repair. Obviously if you have damaged the property on purpose, then that is your own fault.

The Law

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 makes your landlord responsible for repairing the structure and exterior of your home so long as your tenancy is for a term of less than seven years.

The Housing Act 2004 makes it clear that ‘the structure and exterior of the property’ includes all outside walls, roof, external doors and windows.

What the law means

Your landlord should make sure that your home is wind free and watertight at all times

They must also make sure there is nothing dangerous about the exterior such as loose gutters or pipes, loose slates, crumbling garden wall, potholes etc

If your property has a garden, your landlord can put a clause in your agreement making it your responsibility to maintain it. Often this amounts to just cutting the grass.

If you are a garden-lover and want to have some freedom to arrange the garden to your liking it is okay to ask the landlord if you can be responsible for the garden. Some tenants request this if they would rather not have the landlord around more often than necessary, and again that is a valid reason to request to take on the responsibility for the garden.

However, Welsh Tenants recommends you get something in writing to clarify what exactly you can and can’t touch in the garden. Or have it included in the tenancy agreement. You should also be clear concerning what you have to do when you leave.

What to look for

Hence being a tenant with no responsibility for the maintenance of the structure and exterior of the property is all well and good and gives you some peace of mind as far as extra costs might go while you inhabit your rented home.

However, that does not mean you don’t have another responsibility – and that is to report any signs of faults or damage that needs fixing.

Things to look out for are

  • Anything loose – bricks, slates and stonework which are loose are likely to cause more crumbling and could be dangerous
  • Damp patches – most damp comes from leaks. If your rented property has damp patches, yet is properly aired, then your exterior is not watertight and needs to be fixed
  • Blocked drains and gutters, and leaking pipes – with gutters it might just be a minute’s work to clear them yourself but with blockages below the ground you will probably need to alert your landlord. If you do decide to clear gutters then make sure you do it safely. Welsh Tenants recommends if you can’t do it safely call the landlord or letting agency. Similarly with leaking pipes where pipe-work and joints might need to be replaced by a plumber or drainage firm

Communication

Polite and effective communication between you and your landlord is vital to a positive rental experience. Welsh Tenants suggests that if tenants see something wrong occurring structurally or externally with the property they are renting they should notify the landlord or letting agent (or both) immediately. It is better to report it early, even if it appears minor, as this will not only show that you are a conscientious tenant, but it will save the landlord greater expense later and they will be grateful for your prompt action.

This is good practice since should you have to move on and require a reference, the duty of care you have demonstrated as a tenant should be well reflected in any reference your ex-landlord gives you.

If you have caused damage to the exterior of the building you should take photos of the damage caused and send them in an email or letter to your landlord as soon as possible. Ensure the date is included in the letter and keep a copy for your own records. Let your landlord know that you will be taking the necessary steps to repair or replace what has been damaged and ask if they have any preferred tradesmen or companies they would like you to work with.

If you do not carry out these repairs or they are carried out to a poor standard you could face eviction and your landlord could ask for the cost of the repairs to be taken out of your deposit.

Where to go for help and advice

If you find anything wrong with the exterior of your home draw their attention to this fact. In most cases you will not need to be around when the landlord or builder comes to fix the problem. However, in some cases it might help if you are around to check they fix the correct part of the building.

If you are not sure that you have the right to ask for a particular repair check out the relevant forums of the Welsh Tenants.

EPC’s Energy Performance Certificate

Introduction

By law all landlords and letting agents must have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) in place for any property that they advertise and let for rent.

An EPC is an Energy Performance Certificate which is produced by a Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA). An EPC gives a property a rating based on its energy efficiency and its carbon dioxide emissions. The ratings for an EPC go from A which is the most efficient to G which is the least efficient.

Once an EPC has been created it will remain valid for a period of ten years. An EPC rating is calculated based on the construction of a property, the type of dwelling, the type of boiler, insulation, double glazing and heating systems that are in place.

EPCs do not only contain efficiency and emissions ratings, they also have recommendations on how to make a property more energy efficient and information on the estimated fuel costs for a property.

The Law

EPCs were first mentioned in the Energy Performance of Buildings Certificate of Inspection (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 and state that “An EPC is required by law when a building is constructed, sold or put up for rent” – the full legislation can be found here. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/1669/contents/made

This EPC law has been in force since the 1st October 2008 and it means that all letting agents and landlords must have an EPC for all of their rental properties. If they do not they are breaking the law and if they are caught attempting to rent a property without one, they can face significant penalties.

The public can check out an EPC for a property using the EPC Register which can be found on the Landmark website https://www.epcregister.com/ . This is very easy to search – just type in the postcode and all EPCs recorded for that street will be shown; to find the relevant EPC just click onto the house number. If there is no EPC in place you need to know why. It may be that you have rented the property prior to 2008 and therefore may not be logged. However, if after 2008 it should be recorded.

What the law means

A landlord or letting agent must show you an EPC that is valid. It is against the law to advertise a property for rent without an EPC. If you didn’t know you had to see an EPC before you signed a tenancy agreement, and you have learned that your home does not have one, you can make a complaint to your local Trading Standards office. It is also advisable to ask your landlord first.

Trading Standards will advise the landlord or letting agents that an EPC needs to be produced for the property in question and if they do not comply they can be fined £200.

Benefits of an energy efficient property

On the surface many tenants may think that an EPC is just another piece of red tape, but it isn’t. An EPC can actually help tenants in the following ways:

  • You can see how energy efficient a property is before signing a tenancy agreement. If the property has a lower rating tenants can try to agree on a discount in rent until alterations are made to increase its rating (be aware that if your have an AST agreement the landlord may think that you are too much trouble and issue you with a section 21 notice, don’t be too clever, give the landlord reasonable time)
  • EPCs can help you to budget as you will have an idea of how much you can afford to spend on rent, when you have an idea of how much your utilities will be
  • EPCs will also show the carbon dioxide emissions that a property is responsible for, so if you are concerned about the environmental impact you have the EPC comprises information that can help you reduce your carbon footprint
  • EPCs will contain information on how to make a property more energy efficient; this in theory, means that your landlord or letting agent should have made these changes to make the property more appealing to tenants

Typical savings

With the average energy bills being 1440 in Wales a clearer indication of the money you will save if your rental home if ‘A rated’ compared with one that is ‘G rated’, take a look at these figures based on the yearly costs of using a boiler:

Boiler rating

Detached home

Semi-detached home

Flat

Bungalow

Terrace

A rated boiler

£1142

£842

£587

£731

£756

G rated boiler

£1773

£1288

£875

£1109

£1150

Other savings include

  • Switching light bulbs to energy efficient versions could save £35 per year.
  • Insulating the loft of a property with mineral wool to a depth of 270mm will save you, on average £185 compared with a property with no insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation can create savings of up to £140 per year
  • Wall insulation can save anything from £400 – £500 per year. If the property has internal and external insulation this figure can be doubled
  • Double glazing can save you up to £170 per year

Recap before signing a tenancy agreement do the following:

  • Check for an EPC
  • Check to see when the last gas safety check was carried out (if the property has been empty for some time you may want to ask them to have a check undertaken even though it was in date
  • Check the tenancy agreement and seek advice concerning what you are liable for and your obligations
  • Check to see if there are furnishings and check to see if they comply with safety
  • Check for hazards that may cause trips and falls

Gas Safety

Introduction

A rental property that features any sort of gas appliances can only be let if the landlord has been issued with an official and up-to-date record of a gas safety check.

The Law

Landlords must provide tenants with a valid gas safety check/certificate before they move in or within 28 days of them moving in. For more information see the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1998/2451/contents/made

What the law means

If a landlord or letting agent has rented you a property without having the gas appliances checked and certified as safe then they are in serious breach of the 1998 Gas Safety Act. If you have not been given a copy of the safety check then ask whether the gas appliances have actually been checked and remind your landlord or letting agent that you need to have a copy.

If the landlord admits they haven’t done a check then you would be advised to seek further advice about what to do next. It may well be better to find alternative accommodation as it is important to have a landlord who prioritises your safety.

For tenants who are on a very short term (less than 28 days) tenancy, a copy of the gas safety record must be displayed in a prominent position within the property. Again if this is not displayed, then you need to check where it is, ask to see it and ask if the gas appliances have indeed been checked at all.

What information does a gas safety check record contain?

The Gas Safety check is an important document as it gives you information such as:

  • The full name, signature and registration number of the gas engineer who performed the safety check
  • The address of the property being checked
  • The date of the check
  • The location and description of all gas appliances and flue
  • The contact details of the landlord of the property
  • Confirmation that all relevant gas safety checks have been carried out
  • Any defects or faults with appliances or flue are identified and what repairs have been or need to be done to get it back into full working order

A gas safety record is a standardised document. Welsh Tenants suggests you take a look at one to make sure the one you have received is the same.

What does the engineer do to check gas safety?

  • The engineer will check the chimney/flue to ensure that fumes are being taken outside, in most cases they will do this using smoke pellets
  • Checks will be made to ensure there is enough fresh air supplied which will make gas burn correctly
  • Appliances will be checked to ensure they are burning gas safely
  • All gas safety devices will be checked
  • If an appliance is not working it will be shut off

At the end of the check your landlord will be given a gas safety check record. If you are already resident and the check is the annual mandatory check then you will be given the record. In most cases tenants should receive a copy of the original. All original gas safety check records must be kept by the tenant and/or landlord for a minimum of two years.

A gas safety check is a legal requirement. Without it, the property cannot be let. The penalty for renting a property without a gas safety check includes a substantial fine and/or imprisonment.

Where to go for help and advice:

The Gas Safe Register website provides you with everything you need to know about safety checks, who should perform them and what can happen if your landlord will not comply. If you are having problems getting hold of a copy of the gas safety record or your landlord will not have a check carried out then Welsh Tenants recommends you speak to the Health and Safety Executive (visit their website http://www.hse.gov.uk/welsh/ for more details of this). To inform the HSE that your landlord has not had this check performed you can fill in the form available on the website.

In summary

  • All tenants who move into a new property must be given a gas safety check record by the landlord/letting agent within 28 days
  • Failure to do this is a breach of the Gas Safety Regulations Act 1998 and the landlord/agent is therefore breaking the law
  • A gas safety check record must contain certain information
  • Only registered gas engineers can carry out these checks
  • If you do not have a copy of the safety check you can request one from your landlord
  • If your landlord will not show you a safety record or has not had one done you need to speak to the Health and Safety Executive
  • Your landlord will be made to produce a gas safety record and if he or she does not they can face a large fine and/or be imprisoned

Home Electric Safety

Introduction

All properties will have an electrical system and appliances. It is the responsibility of a landlord to make sure that they are safe and fit for use. In this article Welsh Tenants looks at the law relating to electrical safety, the responsibilities of a landlord and what you should do if you are concerned about the safety of electrical appliances or the system in your home.

The Law

The Housing Act 2004 makes it the landlord’s responsibility to:

  • keep in good repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),
  • keep in good repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and

The law also states that when a tenant moves into a property it must be:

  • Safe when the tenancy begins, and
  • Maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy.

You can visit the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to read the full version of this. The Housing Act 2004 also looks at electrical safety and has guidelines on this issue.

What the law means

It is the responsibility of a landlord to ensure that all appliances that use electricity are safe. In addition all electrical systems must be safe and in working order and must be before a tenancy starts. Electrical safety must also be maintained during the length of the tenancy.

Any interference with the electrical supply of the property could be a breach of tenancy. You should always seek permission to add sockets or introduce new lighting. A certificate has to be obtained for any electrical devices installed.

Landlord responsibilities

The landlord may be responsible for any appliances that they supply within the property such as cookers, Washing machines, microwaves, but may not be for kettles or hoovers etc.

The electrical system including the fuse box and wiring in the property, all plug sockets and light fittings are also the responsibility of the landlord. All of these must be in full working order and be maintained to a good standard.

Whilst there is no law specifying that a landlord must have an annual electrical safety check carried out it is recommended to improve safety. Any checks on electrical systems or appliances must be performed by a certified electrician in order to protect a landlord against any liability from faulty equipment. A certificate of installation has to be issued to you upon completion of any installations.

Tenant responsibilities

Tenants are responsible for all other electrical appliances that they bring into the property. Welsh Tenants recommends, for your own safety, that you do not use any appliances that are not working properly or that are damaged in any way. Tenants must also report any problems with the electrical system or appliances owned by the landlord to the landlord or agent as soon as is practicable. It is advisable to do this in writing and maintain a log.

Where to go for help and advice

If you have a problem with your electrical system or the appliances provided by your landlord or letting agents you must speak to them immediately. They should then arrange for the appropriate work to be carried out to make the property safe once again within a reasonable timescale.

Landlords who do not follow the law relating to electrical safety are in contravention of The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 and The Consumer Protection Act 1987 and can face:

  • Up to £5000 in fines
  • Six months in prison
  • Court action from a tenant who may sue for civil damages
  • Manslaughter charges if a tenant dies as a result of poorly maintained / unsafe electrical appliances or system
  • Failure to evidence good maintenance could also invalidate insurance and or mortgage covenants

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are responsible for enforcing the law relating to electrical safety and if you want to speak to someone about your landlord not adhering to their responsibilities the HSE can help.

Electrical Wiring Safety

Introduction

Your landlord or letting agent should be legally responsible for every part of the electrical system in your home. They must make sure that all plugs and switches, wiring and fuse box are in full working order and completely safe at all times.

The Law

The law was simplified in 1994 with the introduction of The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations. https://www.gov.uk/electrical-equipment-manufacturers-and-their-responsibilities

This change made all landlords entirely responsible for the repair and maintenance of a tenant’s electricity supply. In addition, landlords and letting agents are also required to check the safety of the supply together with the electrical appliances that came with the property at regular intervals.

An amendment to Building Regulations in 2005 made it a requirement for landlords to employ only fully qualified electricians for any major work, such as installing an electric shower.

What the law actually means

Your landlord has to make sure your electrical supply and appliances work at all times and are safe to use. Tenants should know that an annual check is not legally necessary. In between tenancies, almost all landlords run a check on the electricity supply and the appliances which come with the property.

What to look for

When you inspect the property Welsh Tenants recommends that you check to see to see the electrical set-up in the property and again when you move in. Be aware of the faults and defects that may arise while you are occupying the property and keep an eye out for the following:

  • Frayed and exposed wires
  • Unsteady currents from sockets which will cause flickering in electrical devices
  • Power cuts in your property which do not affect your neighbours – check for an old fuse box and ask for it to be replaced with one which has modern trip switches

Where to go for help and advice

If you are at all concerned about the safety of the electrical wiring in your home and your landlord or letting agent refuses to take it seriously, you can contact Shelter’s advice directory here or ring 0808 800 4444. They will find you an advisor in your area who can tell you how serious the problem is and how best to proceed.

The online service of the Citizens Advice can also advise you how to move things forward; you can contact them here. If you are in any doubt about who is responsible for any repair Shelter provides a free guide to repairs which you can view here.

Fire Safety

Currently, there is no required ‘fire safety’ certificate for landlords or inspections for fire safety. There are however significant dangers through the following;

  • Furnishings
  • Smoke alarms
  • Working fireplaces
  • Carbon monoxide poising
  • Cooking and the tenants use of appliances
  • Lack of awareness of fire safety

The law regarding furnishings

Furniture and furnishings in your home should meet certain fire resistance requirements. There should also be at least one smoke alarm in modern homes. The levels of fire resistance for domesticated, upholstered furniture were set in 1988 and any furniture in your home which does not meet these standards is illegal, including second-hand furniture. The only exceptions are pre-1950 furniture, which is likely to be antique and/or recognised as being very old.

Manufacturers are aware of these standards and usually attach a label stating whether or not the furniture meets the requirements. You can find out more about the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 here. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1988/1324/contents/made

Smoke Alarms

Homes built after 1992 should be equipped with a smoke alarm on every level and these should be mains wired so there is no danger of batteries running out unnoticed.

When landlords are successfully prosecuted for not meeting Fire Safety requirements they can face fines, court action or even charges, especially in the event of a fire. Not meeting fire safety requirements may also invalidate their insurance.

Working fire places and flues

If you have a useable fireplace you must ensure that the chimney has been swept. Where the fire is not working you may want assurances that it is not lined to next door that may be working and that it is not a shared flue. Otherwise this may cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

What the law means

  • It is the legal obligation of the landlord to ensure that your home is as safe as possible in the event of a fire. They should have checked that all furniture meets the required standard before letting the property.

Advice

  • Landlords are not required to fit mains-operated smoke alarms in old properties but many landlords do provide battery-operated smoke alarms, especially in the kitchen, for their peace of mind as well as yours. Insurance companies greatly encourage this.
  • Once a tenant has moved into a property, it is their responsibility to ensure that the fire alarms are working and it is recommended that tenants do this on a weekly basis and have an exit plan in the event of fire. All furnishings and furniture brought into the property by you are entirely your responsibility; a landlord will not interfere with your choice of ‘moveables.’
  • You should ask questions if there is a working or non working fire place and fit a carbon monoxide detector. There are around 50 deaths annually through carbon monoxide poisoning and as the symptoms are similar to flue.
  • You should never cook following excessive alchol and you should always clean appliances pans to ensure they are free of fat that could ignite.

What to look for?

Inventory – It is good practice to have an inventory of all the furniture and fittings, some landlord’s provide this for you and check with you before signing the tenancy agreement.

Batteries – many landlords change the batteries in smoke alarms when new tenants move in. Welsh Tenants recommends that you ask during the checking in process when they were last changed. Regularly check battery operated alarms and test mains-operated smoke alarms. This is as important for the safety of you and your family as it is for the landlord’s property

Old furniture – materials and furniture stuffing which may have been fashionable before 1988 might be easily combustible. Furniture without a safety assurance on the label should be brought to the attention of your landlord or letting agent. They will want to be on the right side of the law

Where to go for help and advice

If you suspect anything is a fire risk you must let your landlord or letting agent know immediately. Don’t compromise on safety. The landlord does not want to be liable in the event of a fire so it is in their interest to replace the furniture and fix the fire alarm(s).

The fire service in Wales undertakes a free home fire safety check just contact your local fire station or ring the helpline number. http://www.firebrake.org/en/beaware/home-fire-safety-check.php

Heating and Hot Water

Introduction

The home you rent needs a source of heat and hot water. Your landlord will almost always provide these and be responsible for them. The most common exception would be if you rent a home which does not have central heating or any alternative form of heating except for electric heaters which your landlord did not supply. In that circumstance, you are responsible for your own heaters since you are responsible for anything you bring into the property. However, even in such an old-fashioned tenancy, your landlord is still responsible for your hot water supply.

The Law

The law is clear-cut and simple when it comes to heating and hot water in rented homes. Under the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) your landlord is responsible for the repair and maintenance of “central heating, gas fires, fireplaces, flues, ventilation and chimneys.” For any of these things to be your responsibility it would have to be stated in a special clause in your tenancy agreement or your tenancy would have to be started on or before 24 October 1961.

What the law means

It is the legal obligation of the landlord to ensure the property they let has heating and hot water. Unless you have been maltreating the heating and/or water supply system then it is the duty of your landlord or letting agent to ensure they both work at all times.

What to look for

  • Faulty heating, including leaky and inefficient radiators
  • Blocked chimneys, broken grates, unsealed stoves
  • Water that does not heat up properly or does not heat up at all
  • Clauses in your agreement that states that heating and hot water are your responsibility

This last one is possibly illegal. If you think you have such a clause in your agreement Welsh Tenants advise you to get information about unfair tenancies from the Office of Fair Trading or the Shelter advice service (0808 800 4444).

Where to go for help and advice

If you are in any doubt about your landlord’s responsibility with regard to repairing your heating and hot water supply (or any other repair) Welsh Tenants recommends that you check out Shelter’s online advice booklet about landlord repairs, which is free to download.

Sanitary Issues

Introduction

Your landlord has a duty to make sure the sanitary equipment which is necessary in every house works properly. Welsh Tenants recommends checking the toilet, sinks, bath or shower are all in good working order when you first inspect a property and again as soon as you move in. If there is a leak, crack or blockage make sure this is fixed before you move in or alert the landlord straight away. Keeping a photographic record that is date stamped is also useful. The home you rent must also be hygienic.

The Law

The Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) states that your landlord must:

“Keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water… and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences).”

The only time your landlord or letting agent is not responsible for the bath, sink, shower and so on is when you have not behaved in “a tenant-like manner,” meaning you have broken things by applying undue force or through poor care.

What the law actually means

From the toilet seat to the stability of the sink, all sanitary equipment has to be kept up to scratch by your landlord. Rusty old pipes, leaky taps, problems with water-heating and so on are all issues which your landlord is legally obliged to sort out.

What to look for

It is advisable to run taps and check they can be turned off easily. If not, a washer might be worn out. They are cheap but a plumber will charge to fit them – so tell your landlord.

It is vital that you photograph and record cracks in sinks or basins. Leaks in sinks, bath or toilet will cause damp or make the hard bathroom floor slippery and dangerous.

You should also check for water heating problems – check that the water heater heats the water effectively and not excessively as it could mean the thermostat is broken costing you money. Boiler repairs are very often pricey but they are your landlord’s responsibility. You should check the service record of the boiler and any Gas Safe details inside the boiler (on the sticker).

It is most likely that your landlord should pay for the repair even if the sink, bath, toilet etc. was working perfectly when you moved in. If you have worn something out through time with perfectly responsible usage, it is your landlord or letting agent’s duty to fix or replace it.

Where to go for help and advice

If you are unsure as to whether you or your landlords/letting agents are responsible for a repair, give us a ring. If your landlord is not responding to your request for necessary repairs, follow the advice on the Welsh Tenants “Getting your landlord or letting agent to attend to repairs” (needs hyperlink).

Access to Your Home

Introduction

No one has a right access your home without a court order. Even police do not have a right to enter your home without your consent. Bailiffs can access your home only if you leave a door or window open or by invitation.

It is perfectly reasonable to expect that there will be times when your landlord wants or needs to visit the property. However, these visits to your home cannot be made whenever the landlord feels like it. Strictly speaking, your landlord should give you 24 hours’ notice if they want to visit.

If your landlord arrives at your door unannounced, you are under no obligation to let him/her in. However, if it is convenient Welsh Tenants recommends that you grant access whilst telling your landlord that in the future you would prefer some notice. If it is not convenient just remember to be polite, as you would be to any business associate or work colleague, and ask that the landlord makes a more convenient appointment.

Most landlord visits are short and friendly, with both parties keen to get them over with.

The Law

In accordance with the Housing Act 1988, your landlord or letting agent must notify you in writing at least 24 hours beforehand if they want to enter your home.

Your Standard Tenancy Agreement will state that the landlord should ask, in writing, to visit only at “reasonable times of the day.”

This allows you to make sure the time suits you because:

  • You may wish to be present during the visit
  • You may want time to tidy up
  • You may want to have a witness present if relations with your landlord are poor

When you have given notice that you are moving out, or have been given notice to move out, your landlord can show the property to prospective new tenants. This is the case during the last 28 days of standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements.

When you have been served a Notice to Terminate or Section 21 a landlord can gain access on the above basis. That is, so long as you are given 24 hours’ notice in writing, prospective tenants can be shown round your home. Ongoing disputes do not usually affect this basic right except in very rare cases of landlord harassment.

In an emergency, a landlord or a landlord’s representative might need immediate access to your home. At such times, they do not need to write to you. This is very rare and usually only happens when safety issues are at stake. For example:

  • There is a fire in the property
  • There is a smell of gas
  • There has been structural damage which urgently needs attention
  • There is the suspicion of a violent or criminal incident

What the law means

Assuming relations between you and your landlord are amicable, visits will normally be arranged without the landlord bothering to formally write to you. Usually it’s just a matter of a quick chat on the phone.

This is also normal with visits from tradesmen, including visits when the landlord will not be present.

Landlords and their representatives usually visit for straightforward reasons:

  • To inspect the condition and state of repair of the property
  • To carry out repairs or accompany workmen repairing the property or its contents
  • To conduct gas inspections
  • To show the property to prospective tenants because you are soon moving out
  • And sometimes to ensure the contractor does the job properly

Most visits are low-key and do not make for tension unless bad feeling already exists between you and your landlord. In practice they are often arranged by phone or email.

When you are soon to move out, landlords are usually careful to provide you with at least 24 hours’ notice before they visit with prospective tenants. This is partly politeness because they are bringing a stranger into the property, and partly because they know you are likely to make sure the property looks tidy and respectable.

What to watch out for

Standard tenancy agreements always state that tenants have a right to live in their homes “without unreasonable interruption from the landlord.” With most tenancies, landlord visits are never a problem because they are infrequent and polite.

Problems with landlord access arise when:

  • A landlord visits often and unnecessarily
  • A landlord regularly outstays their welcome
  • A landlord makes surprise visits
  • A landlord visits in order to make you feel uncomfortable

In each case, except the last, Welsh Tenants recommends that you talk to your landlord about this. Try not to be rude or hurtful. Just ‘give the hint.’ You should:

  • Explain that you are busy
  • Do not make it personal
  • Politely state that you are a private person
  • Ask for advance notice about future visits

If a landlord is visiting in order to make you feel uncomfortable then you do not have to let them in. It is very rare that landlords will do this. And it is illegal. If a landlord is persistent they can be charged with harassment under the Housing Act 1988. She or he can be fined and ordered by the court to keep away from your home.

Where to go for help and advice

If you feel your landlord is being intrusive, Welsh Tenants advises you to talk to the Citizens Advice and/or review the forums on this site to see if you are right. After you have tried talking to your landlord and of it has had no effect, or if your landlord is harassing you, then a gentle warning about your rights should stop the unnecessary visits.

Failing that – and only in very rare and very extreme cases – you might want to consider notifying the police.

 

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