Thursday, April 1, 2010

Renting A Property - Some Common Mistakes

Residential leases can be complex and many tenants enter into a lease without really understanding it. This article sets out some of the common misconceptions about leases and what the real position usually is.

1. The duty to keep the property in good repair is the landlord's sole responsibility.

This is not entirely accurate. A tenant has an implied covenant to act in a "tenant-like manner". Broadly, this means to report disrepair promptly; to take reasonable actions to make sure that neither the tenant or any guests they may have damage either the property or its fixtures and fittings; to do the minor day to day things any home-occupier would normally do e.g. replace light bulbs, fit a new battery in a smoke or CO2 detector, tighten an odd screw which has come loose on a door handle etc.; to make sure that the property is warm and aired to help stop condensation or pipes freezing; to leave the property secure when absent from it; to keep the garden and other areas reasonably tidy and free from rubbish. A landlord will be responsible for repairs only if the repair has been reported. It is therefore important to report repairs in writing and keep a copy.

Landlords are required by law to repair the structure and exterior of the property, including drains, gutters and external pipes; to keep the gas, electricity and water installations in working order; and, for the installations for the provision of space and water heating.

If you find that any the above is in a state of disrepair you can complain to either your local environmental heath department or the tenancy relations office at your local authority.

2. I have breached a term of my tenancy agreement and the Landlord is threatening to evict me from his property - I have no choice but to leave.

If a landlord or agent evicts a tenant without following the correct procedures, it is is a criminal offence; normally this means that you cannot be evicted without the landlord obtaining a Possession Order from the County Court. If your landlord puts pressure on you to leave your home for example by any of the following he or she could be committing a criminal offence. Examples include:

- Visiting at unsocial hours

- Changing the locks

- No verbal or physical threats

- Disconnecting gas, water or electricity supplies

- Interfering with your possessions

- Interfering in some way with your quiet enjoyment of the property

If you do suffer any form of harassment it is important you keep a written note of any occurrences, and if you have witnesses ask them to do the same.

3. My landlord has stated that there will be car parking at the premises.

Not necessarily. The lease will need to be checked to establish whether or not there is an allocated parking space or spaces or whether there is only a right to park on a "first come first served basis" in a communal car park.

However long and boring it seems, reading your lease carefully is vital to ensure that any tenant entering into a lease understands what they are signing. To avoid unnecessary risk, if you don't understand exactly what your agreement involves, make sure you don't sign it before you get an experienced landlord and tenant solicitor to explain it to you.

Tim Bishop

Bonallack and Bishop are Landlord and Tenant Solicitors with particular specialist experience in advising on Lease Extension cases. Tim Bishop is senior partner at the firm, responsible for all major strategic decisions. He has grown the firm by 1000% in the last 12 years and sees himself as a businessman who owns a law firm.


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