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Problems with landlords

publication date: Dec 18, 2018
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

What can you do about problems with landlords?


We read a lot about rogue landlords in the press but, on the whole, the vast majority are law-abiding and any problems you encounter as a tenant should be easily resolved.

The information here largely relates to England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own regulations. For more information, visit:

How to avoid problems with your landlord

As with any issue, prevention is better than cure and by doing your research before you rent a property you can improve your chances of a happy rental situation.

Check you are renting from a professional

Trade bodies and landlord associations keep their members up to date with the latest legislation and have recognised codes of practice. There are two main ways of renting a property privately:

  • Renting via a letting agent
    Always rent through an agent who is a member of a recognised trade body, such as ARLA Propertymark, RICS or UKALA. Ask if they have Client Money Protection, as this will be a legal requirement from April 2019.
  • Renting directly from a landlord
    Always look for an accredited landlord or one who is a member of a landlord association such as the RLA. Landlords may be accredited by the local authority or by a college/university.

Read our quick guide to renting a property

Read the tenancy agreement carefully

Make sure you read through the contract so you are fully aware of both your and your landlord’s/letting agent’s responsibilities, eg regarding paying utility bills, garden maintenance, etc. This can reduce the risk of a dispute later on, as all parties will have realistic expectations.

Ask how your deposit will be protected

Protecting the deposit in a government-approved scheme within 30 days of the start of the tenancy is a legal requirement for Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) so if your landlord cannot answer this question, alarm bells should ring. 

Ask if you will be given ‘prescribed information’

This is a set of documents which the landlord is legally obliged to provide at the start of the tenancy. As well as the deposit information, you should be given:

  • a copy of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), except when renting a room in an HMO. Ask about this rating before you sign the contract as, in most cases, a rental property must have a rating of E or higher before it can be let. The higher the rating (A is the best), the easier it will be to keep the property warm.
  • gas safety certificate, if there is gas in the property, with updated versions within 28 days of each annual check.
  • a copy of the government’s How to Rent guide. This can be a PDF via email if you agree.

Check the property is safe

When you view the property, look for items such as smoke alarms (a legal requirement) and carbon monoxide detectors (highly recommended and a legal requirement where there is solid fuel). Look for any hazards or damp patches, too, as it is illegal to let a property which is unsafe.

Does the property need a licence?

If you are renting a room in a house share (House in Multiple Occupation, or HMO) it may need a licence, so check this out. Some areas, such as Nottingham, many parts of London, Oxford, Gateshead and Blackpool to name a few, require all rental properties to have a licence.

Will an inventory be carried out?

This makes a record of the contents and condition of the entire property and must be signed by you and your landlord/letting agent. Take your own photos, too, especially of any scratches or marks which are present at the start of the tenancy. 

Who should you contact with any problems with your rental property?

Find out who you should call if there is a problem, eg the landlord or letting agent, and when you can call. Is there an out-of-hours emergency number for issues such as flooding?

Check a rogue landlord database

The national database of rogue landlords is not yet available to the public but if you are renting in Greater London, you can check their database here.

How to avoid a rogue landlord

What to do if you have problems with your landlord

These are some of the problems you could face, and how to deal with them. If you are renting via a letting agent, you should approach them rather than the landlord.

Rental deposit has not been protected

If your tenancy is an AST your landlord is legally obliged to protect your deposit (see above).

Read our tenancy deposit checklist here

If you discover your deposit has not been protected and you want to stay in the property:

  • Write to your landlord asking them to protect your deposit in a government-approved scheme. Keep copies of all correspondence.
  • If they refuse to comply, write to them again, explaining that you plan to take them to court. This may be enough to force them to act.
  • If your tenancy deposit is not protected, the landlord may not be able to evict you, so seek advice from Shelter or Citizens Advice.

If your deposit has not been protected and you are due to leave the property:

  • Write to your landlord, explaining their legal obligations. You may be able to negotiate the return of your deposit to avoid having to take them to court. There are also no win, no fee services available, such as

For more information on taking your landlord to court for non-protection of the deposit, and for links to template letters you can use, see What if I can’t get my rental deposit back?

Landlord won’t fix repairs

Renting through an agent

If the property is managed by a letting agent, you should report any repairs to them, unless you are told otherwise via the tenancy agreement.  Make sure you do so in writing; they have to respond within 14 days or you can report them to the council.

Make sure you know who is responsible for the repairs

Check your tenancy agreement as it may be your responsibility to fix certain minor problems, including damage you caused accidentally. The landlord is usually responsible for major repairs.

Report repairs as soon as you notice them

Early notice of problems can prevent them from escalating. Having said that, it’s important to use common sense – a full-blown leak should be reported immediately, day or night, but a dripping tap can wait until the next working day.

Make repair requests in writing

Email is fine, but keep a copy, including the date you first reported the issue. Landlords in England are legally obliged to respond to repair requests within 14 days, so knowing when you first reported the problem is essential.

Be realistic about expectations of repairs

The timeframe for carrying out repairs is defined merely as ‘reasonable’, which is where disputes often arise. You may think it’s reasonable for a boiler repair to be carried out the next day but if your landlord/agent cannot get a plumber immediately, this will not be feasible.  However, if the weather is cold and you or another household member is vulnerable (eg elderly or very young), it is reasonable to ask your landlord to provide portable heaters while you wait.

Gather evidence of repair issues

If the problem persists, gather evidence, eg photos of the damage, or receipts if you have had work done yourself or replaced any items.

Keep paying the rent, regardless of any dispute

Important: You cannot withhold rent if your landlord refuses to carry out repairs. Keep paying the rent as normal or the landlord may try to evict you.

Follow complaints procedures

It is important to follow the correct procedures for escalating a complaint, whether to a landlord or to a letting agent. You may also report the problem to your local council housing officer.  

Landlord enters the property without permission

Renting a whole property

If you rent a whole house or flat, the landlord cannot enter your property without permission or without giving you at least 24 hours’ notice, preferably in writing, and they must visit at a time to suit you. The only exception to this is in an emergency situation, such as fire or flood, in which case they can enter at any time, even without permission.  

Renting a room in a house share

When you rent a room, the landlord may enter the communal areas of the property at any time, although good ones will give notice.

Don’t refuse access to your landlord

Assuming they have followed the correct procedures, you should not refuse access to your landlord for periodic checks and visits. If you do:

  • you waive the right to complain about lack of maintenance, repairs or any personal injury arising from these
  • you may be charged for additional repairs which have escalated due to the landlord not being able to gain access
  • you will be in breach of your tenancy agreement if you continue to refuse access and your landlord may begin eviction proceedings.

If the landlord enters your property without permission

As long as it is not an emergency and you are renting the whole property, this can be classed as harassment under the 1988 Housing Act.

If this happens, write to your landlord and/or letting agent, asking them to stop. Keep a copy of all correspondence. If they persist, contact Citizens Advice on 0345 404 0506 or Shelter on 0808 800 4444. If you feel threatened, go to the police.

You have the right to change the locks, although check your tenancy agreement as it may be stipulated that they hold a set of keys. You should still grant access for pre-arranged visits.

Rent increases

Your rent cannot be increased without your agreement

Check your tenancy agreement as it may contain the procedure for rent increases. By law, any rent increases must be fair and in line with local market rates.

If you are on a fixed term tenancy (eg six months, a year, two years), your rent can only be increased if you agree, or when the fixed term ends.

If you are on a periodic tenancy, which runs on a month-by-month basis after the initial fixed term is over, your landlord can only increase the rent once a year. Any additional increases must be with your agreement.

It is easier and cheaper for your landlord for you to stay in the property, as reletting costs time and money, so you can use this as a negotiating tool when it comes to proposed rent increases.

If you need legal advice

If you feel you would benefit from legal advice, and do not qualify for Legal Aid, you can contact an organisation such as Advice4Renters.

If you are having a problem with your landlord or letting agent, please get in touch with us and we will do our best to help.

All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner OBE, author of Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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