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As with many things in life, being a landlord comes with a good amount of responsibilities, but as an owner renting out your property, you are also entitled to certain rights, enshrined in conventions, contracts and laws.
Balancing the rights and responsibilities of property owners with the reciprocal rights and responsibilities of tenants is a delicate but important task to ensure that property rights are not infringed while residents can continue to enjoy quiet enjoyment of their home.
Most details of the various rights enjoyed by each party are laid out in the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) and in this guide, we boil down the most important rights that you can enjoy as a landlord, as well as some advice for dealing with difficult situations.
Seeking payment and increasing rent
Seeking payment of rent
As part of a tenancy agreement, landlords have the right to expect that rent be paid in full and on time each week, month or year (as set out in the agreement). In the event that your tenant falls behind with rent payments, there are several options available to you as a landlord:
- Contact the tenant(s) and politely and courteously remind them of the rent that is overdue
- If a tenant is unable to pay the arrears in full immediately, begin a dialogue with them to try and arrange a way to pay down the arrears over time
- As a last resort, begin eviction proceedings as detailed in Section 8 of the Housing Act (detailed below)
In the ever growing private rental market, many tenants have valid concerns about unfair rental hikes and ever increasing rent bills that may force them out of their home. The question of how much a landlord can increase rent by is one of importance to both property owners and residents alike.
Generally speaking, decisions about increasing the rent due for a private property sits with the landlord. You, as the owner, can decide how much you wish to charge tenants to rent your property. However, there are some important rules, regulations and conventions that limit the amount by which you can increase rent over time:
- Rent can only be increased during a fixed term tenancy with permission of the tenant
- During a periodic tenancy, rent can usually only be increased once a year
- Tenants must be given at least one month’s notice of a rent increase
- Rent increases must be deemed fair and realistic which usually mean they are in line with average comparable local rents
After one set of tenants have moved out and the property is listed as ‘to let’, the landlord has the right to choose what price to ask in rent, but it is recommended that the asking rental price should sit roughly in line with other, comparable local rental prices.
Access and right to repair or provide services
Inspecting the property
As a landlord, it is not unusual for you to want to know what state your property is in during a tenancy. After all, while it is the tenant’s home, it is your investment. As such, you have the right as a landlord to periodically inspect the condition of the property, allowing you to know when proactive repairs and general maintenance are needed.
What you don’t have the right to do is make excessive demands of your tenants about the way they live in your property. Serious neglect on their behalf may be a cause for concern and you have the right to request that tenants take good general care of the building, but remember that you don’t have the right to demand that the tenants simply be more tidy, for example.
Most landlords will inspect their properties at least once a year to assess the conditions of things like soft furnishings and decor and make decisions about what may need to be replaced or repaired.
If you do wish to enter your property while a tenant is in residence, then you need to give at least 24 hours notice, in writing, of your intention to enter and inspect the property. The consumer rights magazine Which? have created a useful template for writing a letter to your tenants, notifying them about a routine visit to the property.
If the fixtures and fittings of the property have been damaged by the tenant, or there has been damage to your landlords’ contents, then be sure to take photographic evidence of this to make a claim under your landlord insurance.
Repairs or services
As a landlord, you have the right to enter your property to conduct repairs and provide services such as cleaning or gardening, as long as you have given the tenants notice that you or a contractor will need access in advance. The amount of time in advance that you should notify your tenant is usually set out in your tenancy agreement, but 24-48 hours is standard.
If you’re able to offer your tenants more advanced notice, especially for larger repair jobs that may potentially involve loud noise or other intrusions, then it is considered good practice to give as much notice as you can.
In the event of an emergency, such as a flood, when the tenants are not in residence, you can reserve the right to enter the property without notice in order to protect the property from damage.
Mediating with difficult tenants
Something of a nightmare situation for landlords is when a disagreement occurs between yourself and a tenant over issues such as upkeep of the property, changes to the decor, pets or noise complaints. These issues may not be serious enough to consider eviction, but can cause friction between you and the tenants, as well as local neighbours.
Using the services of a solicitor to resolve these kinds of issues will be costly and time consuming. An alternative way to help resolve differences is through independent mediation services.
As a landlord, you have the right to know that your property is not being damaged and that your tenants are not causing an undue nuisance to local neighbours through their behaviour. Should tensions arise, you can seek the help of accredited and recognised mediators in England and Wales, or in Scotland. An independent mediator can act as a referee of sorts, helping both sides resolve their differences without resorting to court proceedings.
One of the main areas of concern for landlords when it comes to knowing their rights surrounds the thorny issue of repossession. Whether it is explicitly stated in a tenancy agreement or not, convention dictates that tenants in the UK have the right to what is known as ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the residence, without interference from the landlord. In most cases, this is observed, but what happens when a landlord wishes to regain possession of their property?
Landlords’ rights under Sections 8 and 21
Currently, sections 8 and 21 of the Housing Act (1988) provide the mechanisms by which you, as a landlord, can reclaim possession of your property from tenants.
Section 21 outlines the rights of a landlord to reclaim possession of their property after the end of a fixed term tenancy agreement (when it becomes a periodic tenancy). Currently the rules allow landlords to use section 21 to enact what are known as ‘no-fault evictions’. Tenants do not have to have broken their tenancy agreement for a landlord to use section 21 to give two months’ notice of reclaiming the property. In order to reclaim possession of a property under section 21, a landlord should:
- Name each tenant that appears on the agreement in full on the notice
- Provide copies of the notice to each tenant
- Write a covering letter to each tenant asking them to confirm in writing that they’ve received the notice
Section 21 is currently the quickest and easiest way for landlords to reclaim their home, but it does come with a downside. There is significant concern surrounding the potential for abuse of this clause by rogue landlords to evict tenants and hike rental prices unfairly. That is why the government made a manifesto pledge in 2019 to bring forward a Renters’ Reform Bill that would abolish Section 21 altogether and you can read about the impact that proposed move would have on landlords’ rights later on in this article.
Section 8 provides a landlord with a different set of rights when it comes to reclaiming possession of a property. Currently, under Section 8, a landlord can issue an eviction notice at any point in a tenancy period if:
- Damage has been caused to the property because of neglect by the tenant
- The mortgage lender is repossessing the property
- The tenant gave false information when signing the tenancy agreement
- The tenant has been convicted of using the property for illegal activities, including drug cultivation
- The tenant has caused a persistent nuisance to neighbours, including excessive noise over a long period
The process is not as simple as notifying the tenant that you are evicting them. While you, as the landlord, have the right to evict a tenant for the reasons stated above, you should make every effort to inform the tenant before serving them notice that you intend to do so if the situation does not improve. We recommend sending reminder letters to the tenants once a week for at least a month before serving your Section 8 notice.
With both Section 8 and 21 evictions, you must serve the notice legally, following all due processes, in order for the notice to be valid. This includes:
- Providing the full and proper address of the property and the full names of the tenants on the notice
- Providing details of the claims made against the tenant, such as a schedule of payments in the case of rent arrears
- Stating the grounds for eviction exactly as they appear in the Housing Act
Changes under the proposed Renters Reform Bill
As mentioned above, there are currently proposals to significantly reform the Housing Act through the introduction in parliament of a Renters’ Reform Bill. Though this proposed legislation has yet to materialise because of delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the changes are likely to include the abolition of section 21 of the Housing Act, and major amendments to section 8, amongst other proposals. This may have a major effect on how the rights of landlords are protected in the UK.
With section 21 abolished, ‘no-fault’ evictions would be a thing of the past in order to help protect renters’ rights to long-term tenancies and peaceful enjoyment of their home. Simultaneously, section 8 would be strengthened in order to allow landlords to reclaim their homes in order to move in themselves or sell the property.
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