#8 (2015) Tenants Rights – Do You Have Any?
You’ve moved into your new houseshare. The initial meeting went really well. You seemed to get on. The house looked great! It’s a live in landlady so you think you’ll be in a better situation.
You hand over your deposit and first month’s rent, sign something she downloaded off the internet that resembles a tenancy agreement and hopefully sit back and relax. But now that you are here what are your rights and what if things go wrong?
There’s a lot of fuss made about landlords being screwed over by unruly tenants but what if you’re a decent tenant duped by a landlord who just wants your money.
There isn’t any rule for landlords to be registered. A private landlord who has a couple of lodgers in their home may not be declaring it as earnings and will probably want you to live how they live. It may be you don’t get any say on the use of heating, you may not be able to have visitors or they might charge you per night anyone stays. You may have someone who likes to snoop around your room when you’re not there. And having a lock on your door won’t stop that.
Very very few of my landlords have ever asked me for references, credit checks or a DRB. As a tenant you can’t necessarily ask those things of your landlord or ask if they have done checks on other people you may be living with. As a tenant have you even considered vetting your small private landlord before you move in? Your safety is important. You are going to be sharing your personal space with these people. You need to know you can trust them.
I’ve discovered all sorts of things about people I’ve lived with. Unspent criminal records for fraud, tenants who have attacked other tenants in previous houses, people who don’t give any thought to stealing your food if they’re running low. I’ve even seen other people stealing food off my plate when my back was turned in the kitchen. If I wouldn’t do it to you. Don’t do it to me.
Whilst I consider Google my best friend when it comes to finding out about people, often you won’t know enough about them to check until you move.in. Your decision to take up residence is largely based on a single visit to a house, a quick look around, and a chat with the person that shows you. Rarely will you meet other tenants and you certainly won’t have much time to go away and think about it. There’s always someone else looking for a room. Largely I find the initial meeting deceptive. I go on what I can see but leave the rest to chance, because you have no idea how things will be once you’re in there. Things might work smoothly for months before problems start to surface.
Here’s a few tips I’ve learned over time from my wide experience of being a tenant.
– Find out as much as you can about your landlord before you move in. Most people these days have either Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. You can get an idea what they do for a living and the sort of things they post online before you get to the door. It can be a good giveaway as to their personality.
– Go with your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
– Don’t settle for second best. If you don’t like the set up or the look of the place, or you find the rules unfair don’t feel like you should take it. If you do, you might find yourself looking for a new place almost as soon as you move in.
The ‘Rent A Room’ scheme is different to living in a house share. In a share you live with other people all in the same situation. You have tenancy rights as per the agreement. In the Rent A Room scheme your landlord is live in and can dictate to you how you do certain things. They can ask you to leave the property for a certain amount of time if they have guests or are away on holiday. You will always be a guest in their house and may never feel like you can call it home.
On the upside, if you get a good live in landlord you could end up in a cleaner, nicer household because they may have standards they want to keep up. Do be aware though not all landlords have personal standards! Hopefully you are also less likely to get rogue tenants if the landlord has to put up with them. If there are problems with a tenant, they will be there to witness problems and deal with issues and you won’t have to get involved.
I’ve only ever had one full time live in landlady and it was definitely a better set up. Living in houseshares with other tenants only opens you up to problems. Many landlords who are not live in won’t care so long as the rent is paid on time and you don’t trash the property. If the boiler breaks down, it’ll take longer to fix. With a live in landlady if something goes wrong, they are also losing out.
The downside of living with your landlord is being on best behaviour, but that will largely depend on the person you live with so make sure you have something in common and can get along on a certain level.