LEGAL EAGLE: Being a responsible landlord

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It is estimated that there are 1.75 million landlords in the UK. However, I am always surprised at how many landlords are completely unaware of their legal responsibilities. Landlord and tenant law can be complicated, but mistakes can be very costly for landlords and its worthwhile being clear on your responsibilities.

Firstly, as a landlord, are you aware that you need to protect your tenant’s deposit?

The law requires all landlords who let properties under an assured shorthold tenancy to pay the tenant’s deposit in to a Government backed protection scheme.

The purpose of this is for the scheme to step in and resolve any future disputes about how much of the deposit should be returned to the tenant.

Many new landlords aren’t aware of this, and the consequences for not complying can be serious.

Failure to comply means that your tenant can bring a compensation claim against you, and you can be ordered to return the deposit and pay compensation up to the value of three times the deposit.

In addition, any section 21 notice that you give your tenant is likely to be invalid if the deposit is not protected.

Another common mistake is incorrectly assuming you have the right to change the locks to your property.

It’s concerning when landlords give notice to tenants to move out, and then assume that they have the rights to force the tenant out once that notice has expired.

In fact, once you have given the tenant their notice and this has expired, if the tenant has still not moved out there are two more steps you must follow in order to be acting within the law.

You must apply to the court for a possession order, and follow this up by obtaining a warrant of eviction from the court.

If you evict your tenant before these steps have been taken, you may find yourself subject to an unlawful eviction injunction and compensation claim, and you may be ordered to pay the tenant’s legal costs.

Finally, when giving your tenant notice to move out, make sure you weigh up your options carefully. Usually, a landlord will give notice under either Section 8 or Section 21 of the Housing Act.

Both of these options have advantages and disadvantages, and the ‘best option’ is very much dependant on the circumstances.

Whichever notice you decide to serve, you should make sure the notice is in the correct format.

There are certain details and information which must be included within the notice, and the notice must be on a specified form.

If you give notice in the incorrect format, and then apply for a possession order based on that notice, your claim may be struck out and you will have to start the process again which will cost you time and money.

l Natalie Kidd is a solicitor in David Gray Solicitors’ Housing Team. You can contact Natalie on 0191 243 8147 for an appointment or Chat Live via the website.