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Landlord and Tenant Disputes

Helping Landlords To Deal With Problem Tenants

Most landlord and tenant disputes occur because of rent arrears. Other tenancy breaches include unauthorised sub-letting, anti-social/nuisance behaviour or damage to the property. Tenants in breach may be ‘retaliating’ over perceived failures by the landlord.

Disputes and litigation solicitors at Coles Miller act mainly for residential landlords needing to evict problem tenants, recover rent arrears and comply with regulations. But we expect to receive more enquiries from tenants as the law changes.

We also act for both commercial property landlords and tenants.

Evicting A Tenant From Residential Property

We help landlords to exercise their eviction rights. Landlords have two ways to evict a tenant under the Housing Act 1988:

  • Section 8 Notice To Quit (also known as a Section 8 Possession Notice). This is a fault notice – the tenant must have done something wrong and breached the tenancy agreement
  • Section 21 Notice Requiring Possession – a no fault eviction notice. The tenant need not have done anything wrong. You may be serving notice to quit simply because you want to move back into the property.

The government has announced plans to ban Section 21 notices to give tenants greater security. But the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) says the Section 8 process needs to be reformed first because it can take longer and cost more.

Both sections have their advantages and disadvantages. How to evict a tenant – compare Section 8 and Section 21 notices here.

Landlords’ Legal Responsibilities And Obligations – What You Must Provide By Law

Protecting Your Tenants’ Deposits

You must safeguard your tenants’ deposits in a government-backed Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) until they move out.

The rules apply to tenancies that started after April 6 2007. You must pay the deposit into a TDS within 30 days of having received the money.

Tenants are entitled to their deposits back if they:

  • abide by the terms of the tenancy agreement
  • have not damaged your property
  • paid the rent and bills in full.

You must provide the tenants with a detailed list of information that confirms how much they have paid as a deposit, how it is protected, how to get the deposit back at the end of the tenancy and what to do if there is a dispute.

Your tenants could take you to the county court if you fail to comply with the law. The court can:

  • order you to pay the tenants up to three times the original deposit
  • rule that the tenants can stay longer at your property – even if the tenancy has ended.

Lodgers are exempt from TDS protection. So are students in halls of accommodation.

Your TDS will offer a dispute resolution service. We can help advise you on the best way to proceed.

Ensuring The Property Is Safe And Fit To Live In 

On March 20 2019 the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force in England.

It is aimed at tackling the minority of rogue landlords whose rented properties are not safe, healthy, warm and dry.

The 2018 Act applies to tenancies of seven years or less. Tenants who signed their contracts before March 20 2019 will have to wait until March 20 2020 before they can use the new legislation.

Exceptions to these rules include:

  • problems caused by tenants’ illegal or irresponsible behaviour
  • ‘Acts of God’ such as storms and floods
  • tenants’ possessions
  • furniture belonging to previous tenants
  • if the landlord can’t get permission from others – such as planning permission from the council.

Fitting And Testing Smoke Alarms

By law you must have at least one smoke alarm on every storey of the rented property, according to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. These came into force on October 1 2015.

You must also have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in every room that has an appliance which burns solid fuel (ie open fire, wood-burning stove).

You must ensure that all the alarms are working correctly at the start of each new tenancy. You could be fined up to £5,000 if you break the law.

Testing And Maintaining The Plumbing, Gas And Electrics

As a landlord you are responsible for repairs to plumbing, heating, hot water, gas appliances and electrical wiring. You must issue tenants with a Gas Safety Certificate. 

You cannot force the tenants to repair anything that is your responsibility. If they try to repair something and damage it, you as the landlord are still legally responsible to fix the damage!

If you are the landlord of a block of flats you are also responsible for the communal areas such as hallways, corridors and stairwells.

Provide the Tenant With An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

You must serve the tenant with an EPC if the property is an individual house or self-contained flat with its own kitchen and bathroom.

You don’t need to provide an EPC if:

  • there is a shared kitchen, toilet or bathroom
  • the property is a hostel or hall of residence.

If you are letting a house or flat to a group of people (ie students), you should provide one EPC for the whole property.

If only part of the building offers self-contained accommodation, you must provide one EPC for each self-contained unit. No EPC is needed for the rest of the building.

Immigration Right To Rent Check

Landlords must check the identity and immigration status of any prospective tenants at the start of the tenancy.

The government applied the rules to the whole of England on February 1 2016 after launching them as a pilot in the West Midlands in December 2014.

You must carry out regular follow-up checks if a tenant has a limited right to remain in the UK (before their visa expires or 12 months after your initial check – whichever is sooner).

Brexit update: EU, EE and Swiss citizens have right to rent status until January 1 2021. New rules may follow, depending on what is agreed in coming months.

How The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Affects Landlords

Landlords are subject to the GDPR rules which came into effect on May 25 2018. Like a business, you are classified as a ‘data controller’.

That means you must have a privacy policy that explains to your tenants:

  • what personal information you are collecting and why
  • how and where you will store it
  • how you will use it
  • how long you will keep it.

The penalties for breaching GDPR can be extremely severe.

Landlord Licensing

You must get a Landlord Licence from the council if your property is in a selective licensing area. 

The rules (which came into force in the Housing Act 2004) are designed to help councils cope with issues such as anti-social behaviour.

Failure to comply can result in fines up to £30,000.

How The Deregulation Act 2015 Affects Landlords

The Deregulation Act is a very wide-ranging piece of legislation. The aim was to simplify existing legislation but this has not always happened.

Quite a few sections impact landlords. They include:

  • tenancy deposits – notably deposits taken before April 6 2007 and tenancies that became periodic (ie non-fixed, open-ended) before April 6 2007
  • new rules relating to Section 21 eviction notices – they cannot be served if the landlord is in breach of any legislation relating to:
    - the condition of the dwelling (or communal areas)
    - the health and safety of the tenants/occupiers
    - the Energy Performance Certificate and Gas Safety Certificate
  • when a Section 21 can be served – you can serve it but it will not be effective in the first four months of a tenancy
  • changes to the section 21 form – making it easier to complete
  • measures to prevent retaliatory evictions if a tenant has complained about the condition of the property.
  • The Deregulation Act has created many legal pitfalls that can prove challenging even for experienced landlords. It is all too easy for a landlord to unwittingly breach rules they thought they knew.

Landlords’ Rights

You have the right to:

  • be paid rent on time
  • increase the rent
  • end a tenancy without reason (until the government bans Section 21 notices)
  • know who is moving in – you can refuse consent (this does not cover guests)
  • reasonable access to inspect and repair the property – but you must give the tenants 24 hours’ notice; you can’t turn up unannounced or simply let yourself in.

Resident Landlords – Letting Rooms In Your Home

If your property is split into purpose-built flats then you will be subject to the normal rules, including those listed above.

But if you are simply letting out a room then the rules are different. For more information, see this government guide.

Commercial Property Landlord And Tenant Solicitors

Our litigation solicitors help commercial property landlords and tenants to resolve disputes quickly and cost effectively so they can concentrate on running a business and making a profit.

These solicitors liaise closely with our growing team of commercial property lawyers. Cases include disputes relating to lease renewals, dilapidations and forfeiture.

Our litigators’ pragmatic approach enables most cases to be resolved at the negotiation or notice stage – saving you time and money. Going to court should always be a last resort.

Much of our commercial landlord and tenant litigation work is in Bournemouth, Poole, Dorset and the New Forest but we also assist clients throughout the UK.

Get Expert Legal Advice

Our disputes and litigation solicitors have extensive experience in dealing with a wide range of landlord and tenant matters.

Meet the team

Neil Andrews

Partner, Head of Commercial Department and Business Property Law

Eric Holt

Debt Recovery Manager

Patrick Herklots

Associate Solicitor

Charlie Edge

Trainee Solicitor

Eleanor Lewns

Solicitors Apprentice

Angela Bollam

Personal Assistant

Hazel Burry

Legal Secretary

Nikki Green

Legal Administrator

Tracey Ford

Legal Assistant

James Caine

Planning Consultant