What are your rights as a tenant in 2021

Although the UK is, in general, very much on the move back to “business as usual”, many aspects of life are still in flux. One of them is the issue of your rights as a tenant. Here is a quick guide to what you need to know as of October 2021. Where changes are expected, these have been highlighted.

 

Stamp Duty

Stamp Duty is the buyer’s responsibility. When it comes to residential lettings, however, the landlord’s costs are usually passed on to the tenant. Landlords are prohibited from making ad-hoc charges to tenants (except in specific circumstances). They can increase the rent but only when the terms of the lease allow them to do so.

This means that tenants who are asked to pay ad-hoc fees can refuse. Tenants who are asked to pay extra rent should check the terms of their lease. If your current lease is still in force and does not allow for a rent increase, you can refuse. You should, however, be prepared for rent increases when your current lease expires.

Find out more about Stamp Duty on residential property.

 

Eviction notices

As the law currently stands, landlords can evict tenants for any reason provided that they follow due process. The government has committed to changing this by eliminating “Section 21/No-faults” evictions. At present, however, there is no clear guidance on when this will happen.

There is, however, a potential safeguard if you are a renter in arrears. You can apply for the government’s “debt-respite” scheme often known as the “Breathing Space” scheme. This comes in two main forms, these are standard crisis and mental-health crisis. 

The exact details of the schemes vary but they both “stop the clock” on pre-existing debts for 60 days. This means that any existing enforcement action has to be stopped during the respite period. Tenants must, however, keep their rent up-to-date. If they run up further arrears, the landlord can apply to have the respite period ended.

 

Pets

Landlords are no longer able simply to place a blanket ban on tenants keeping pets. They can, however, ban tenants from keeping pets if they have a good reason for doing so. 

This is, of course, open to interpretation. In principle, however, tenants wanting to keep a pet should be prepared to show how they can do so without either damaging the property or disturbing the neighbours. 

In particular, think ahead about any possible objections. For example, if you want to keep a dog in a flat, show how you will exercise it. Basically, do whatever you can to take away a landlord’s options for saying no. Also, be prepared to pay extra in your deposit and/or rent.

 

Deposits

Landlords must now participate in a Client Money Protection scheme. This covers any money they hold on behalf of tenants. Strictly speaking, this includes any rent paid in advance. For most tenants, however, the real issue is likely to be their deposit.

There are also plans to create a “deposit-passport” system. This will allow tenants to move their deposit from one landlord to another when they move instead of having to pay one deposit while waiting for another to be returned. While this sounds good in theory, there are a lot of questions about how it will work in practice.

In particular, both landlords and tenants will need to know the process for previous landlords making any claims for damages and for those claims to be disputed. Tenants will also need to know where this leaves them with regards to “topping up” their deposit in their new home. Hopefully, all these questions will be answered before the scheme is finally implemented. Again, it’s unclear when this will be.

 

Mark Burns

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