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Disputes and Litigation

Landlord and Tenant Disputes

If you are a tenant and your landlord has failed to meet their responsibilities, you may be entitled to claim compensation. Our solicitors for tenants are here to advise you about your rights and what action you can take.

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What are your legal rights as a tenant?

As a tenant, you have several rights under the law, including the right to:

  • Live in a safe, well-maintained home
  • Have your deposit protected in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDS). Your landlord must put your deposit in a TDP within 30 days of receipt. They must also return your deposit at the end of your tenancy if you have met the terms of your tenancy agreement
  • Live in a home with a minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E
  • Have a written agreement in place for your tenancy if it is for three or more years
  • Know the name of your landlord
  • Challenge any charges you believe are excessive
  • Live in your home undisturbed
  • Be protected from unfair eviction
  • Not to have to pay specific fees. These fees include checking references and making an inventory and administration charges. Rules about fees are set out in the Tenant Fees Act 2019

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Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act obliges landlords to keep their properties well-maintained and safe.

Under the Act, landlords must:

  • Keep the exterior of their property in good repair, including drains, gutters, pipes, walls and roof.
  • Keep installations for gas, electricity and water in good repair and in proper working order. This includes baths, toilets, sinks, basins, water tanks, electrical wiring, heating and more.

As a tenant, it is your responsibility to notify your landlord if you notice any problems. Your landlord must then arrange for the work to be carried out within ‘a reasonable length of time’. If they fail to do so, you can recover compensation from them.

Another relevant legislation, which came into force in 2019, is called the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. The Act does not give landlords any new obligations over and above those stated in the Landlord and Tenant Act. However, it does give tenants more power to take action when a property is unfit for human habitation.

Since the Homes Act came into force, a tenant can take court action against a landlord on the grounds of breach of contract. A court order may be taken against a landlord to rectify an issue and to pay compensation to their tenant.

What does compensation cover?

You can claim compensation for:

  • Damage to your belongings caused by substandard living conditions or repair work being carried out
  • Financial losses. For example, if your electricity bill has been higher because you have had to use fan heaters due to a broken boiler
  • General inconvenience. You can claim for disruption to your daily life caused by issues in the property, such as rooms being out of action
  • Health problems. If the issues with your home have caused you mental or physical suffering, you may be able to claim damages

It is advisable to keep receipts for any money you have paid and to keep a diary of events. The amount of compensation you can claim will depend upon the extent to which your life and finances have been impacted.

Can you sue your landlord for harassment?

The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 protects tenants by prohibiting landlords from:

  • Entering a property without permission and without giving proper notice.
  • Behaving abusively towards a tenant.
  • Engaging in any actions that interfere with the peace of the tenant.
  • Stopping the supply of essential services such as gas and electricity.

The Act also protects tenants from illegal eviction. Your landlord cannot evict you without following the correct procedures. Under the Housing Act 1988, a landlord must either issue a Section 8 or a Section 21 notice to remove you from a property before your tenancy ends.

If you have been evicted unlawfully, our solicitors at Davisons can apply for an injunction against your landlord, so you can re-enter your property. We can also help you to make a claim against your landlord if you are suffering from harassment.

Landlord disputes with your tenants

If you are a landlord and face a disagreement with your tenant, our solicitors for landlord and tenant disputes are here to advise you about your obligations and what action you can take.

Common disputes include:

Our solicitors have successfully helped many landlords to recover rent arrears.

If the tenant has already left your property, we begin by instructing a trace agent to find them. Once the tenant has been found, we send them a formal letter informing them that court action will be brought against them unless they pay what they owe by a specified deadline. Court action can result in a County Court Judgement (CCJ) being brought against them, which affects their credit score. In most cases, arrears are paid at this point.

Our tenant dispute solicitors can begin a county court claim against the tenant when rent is not paid to secure a CCJ. If the tenant submits a defence, we can advise you of the best course of action to take.

Private landlords are not legally responsible for the anti-social behaviour of their tenants. However, where landlords fail to take action, this can have consequences with neighbours and local authority housing inspectors.

Anti-social behaviour includes excessive noise, rubbish piling up, abusive behaviour, allowing children to cause a nuisance and more.

If your tenant is behaving poorly, gather as much evidence as possible to support your case. This could be photographic evidence, witness statements, diary records of incidents, and any correspondence that has been sent to the tenant regarding their behaviour.

Specific clauses can be included in tenancy agreements to help prevent anti-social behaviour. You can then refer to these clauses if you need to take legal action, as the tenant will have breached (broken) the agreement.

A tenant can be evicted from a property if they breach any part of the tenancy. Breaches include:

  • Anti-social behaviour and/or criminal activity
  • Damage to the property
  • Failing to keep the property in a good state of repair
  • Keeping pets
  • Subletting the property to another person
  • Lack of cleanliness (letting rubbish pile up, not cleaning the property)
  • Rent arrears

If you are unsure whether a breach of tenancy has occurred, our landlord solicitors can advise you.

Most private landlords let their properties as an assured shorthold tenancy. This type of tenancy lasts for a fixed period or a shorter period that can be rolled over until either you or the tenant want the tenancy to end.

Under an assured shorthold tenancy, there are two ways to evict a tenant from a property under the Housing Act 1988: you can issue a Section 8 notice or a Section 21 notice.

You can issue a Section 8 notice to claim for rent arrears, damage to your property and/or anti-social behaviour. You and the tenant will need to attend a court hearing where the outcome is decided by a Judge. Usually, tenants are given 14 days’ notice to leave the property.

A Section 21 notice is a faster process in total, but it can only be used if you do not want to claim rent arrears. The Judge will decide the outcome based on paperwork, so there is no need to attend court. Under a Section 21 notice, tenants are given at least 2 months’ notice to vacate.

You can start proceedings if the tenant fails to leave your property once their notice period is up. This involves applying to court for a possession order, and then a County Court Bailiff will be instructed to evict the tenant.

Should you need to evict a tenant, it is essential to follow proper procedures. Failure to do so can lead to imprisonment or a fine under the Prevention from Eviction Act 1977. At Davisons, our landlord solicitors can support you through the process to make sure paperwork is compliant with legislation. Even small mistakes can prevent a court order from being granted.

Squatters are people who stay in a property without permission. They are also called trespassers.

To remove squatters from your property, you need to obtain a possession order from the court. This can take about six weeks. However, you can apply for an interim possession order (IPO) in the meantime to speed up the process. Once squatters have received an IPO, they have 24 hours to vacate your property otherwise, they can face imprisonment.

You may have heard of ‘squatters’ rights’. When someone has occupied somebody else’s property for at least 10 years, they can apply to become the registered owner.

If the property owner does not respond to the application within 65 days, then the Land Registry will register the squatter as the legal owner. If you receive notice of an adverse possession claim, it is vital to obtain expert legal advice immediately.

A well drafted lease in which both parties clearly understand their legal obligations is the best way to prevent disputes from arising. Unfortunately, disputes do occur from time to time despite everybody’s best efforts. This can include service charge disputes, rent arrears, how the property is managed and a range of other matters.

If you are involved in a dispute with your tenant, our landlord solicitors can support you to resolve matters between yourselves through mediation in the first instance. This is the fastest and most cost-effective way of settling the issue.

If an agreement is not reached, we will help you settle your dispute through a First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). The tribunal will listen to you and your tenant before deciding the final outcome. The party who loses the tribunal may be liable to pay for the other party’s legal costs.

When a dispute occurs, it is critical to seek expert legal advice early on. Failing to act quickly can prejudice your case, particularly if the tenant is in disrepair. Our solicitors will examine your lease carefully to advise you on the best way forward.

Dilapidations are the costs of returning a property to the condition it was in before it was rented to the tenant.

It is important that both you and your tenant get legal advice so you fully understand your maintenance and repair obligations. If your tenant does not fulfil their obligations, you can make a dilapidations claim.

As part of the claim, you can charge the tenant for lost rent whilst the repairs are carried out and all professional fees incurred (such as the surveyor’s fee).

Our solicitors can advise you about a dilapidations claim, helping to bring matters to a swift and satisfactory resolution.

Davisons solicitors for landlord disputes

We will support you to manage your property by advising you on every aspect of a dispute, from Breach of tenancy to eviction.

Have any questions or need any help?

Our team of specialist lawyers are experts in their field. Be confident in their advice and decisions to help get the right outcome for you. Contact us today to see how we can help