It is surprisingly common for a Landlord and Tenant relationship to break down. It can take one unresolved issue to turn a relationship sour which can lead to a spiral of stressful problems. There are many ways tenants can protect themselves and avoid disputes getting out of hand;
- Make sure you sign, read and retain a copy of the tenancy agreement. It sounds pretty obvious but we get a number of people enquiring about their legal rights when they haven’t actually signed a tenancy agreement. Don’t be too trusting and ensure that everything is documented from the outset even if you know the Landlord. Many tenancy agreements are poorly written. If you are unsure about the wording of a clause in an agreement, check it with a solicitor. If something doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t.
- Keep a record of relevant communication between you and your Landlord and/or managing agent. So many people will come to us and say, ‘But I spoke with my Landlord 2 months ago and said this….’ Proving what you have communicated in a telephone call can be difficult. Either keep a diary of your phone calls or follow them up with an email so that you can retain a paper trail if a dispute arises.
- Take photographs. A common dispute will arise at the end of a tenancy when a Landlord will charge a Tenant for damage or misuse of the property. Save yourself an exhausting argument by taking photographs of the property yourself when you move in so there can be no dispute over whether that lock on the door was already broken.
- Never withhold your rent. Many people will tell us they have decided to withhold their rent as ‘pay back’ for a failure by their Landlord to fulfil an obligation. By with holding rent, you are breaching the tenancy agreement. In our experience, Judges do not like tenants who decide off their own accord to breach their tenancy agreement. If you feel as though your landlord has breached an obligation, such as failing to repair the property, speak to a solicitor to see if you can obtain compensation instead.
- A tenancy agreement is a legal contract so don’t be afraid to ask for legal advice. Most Solicitors would be willing to listen to your problem so you have nothing to lose by seeking help. We acknowledge that legal aid is very limited for tenants and so we offer a wide range of funding options, such as no win no fee, so there aren’t any costly legal bills.