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TENANTS' RIGHTS: HOW TO DEAL WITH A NIGHTMARE LANDLORD; Landlord not playing ball? Here's everything you need to know about your rights as a tenant...

AVING trouble with your landlord or letting agents but don't know your rights? You aren't alone.

HWith renting at an all-time high in Greater Manchester, and more investors swooping down on new developments, it's important to know your rights as a tenant.

Here are some of the most common problems -and how to solve them.

REPAIRS Boiler broken? It's your landlord's job to fix it... but what if they don't? Your landlord is responsible for most repairs in your home. This applies to private, council and housing association landlords.

Nick Denton, housing advisor from the Citizens Advice Bureau said: "A landlord's responsibilities include the structure and exterior of the building, sinks, baths, toilets, pipes and drains, heating and hot water, chimneys and ventilation, gas appliances and electrical wiring.

"A tenant is unlikely to be responsible for minor repairs, for example changing fuses and light bulbs. Equally a landlord is unlikely to be responsible for decorations or gardens and fencing."

DEALING WITH REPAIRS WHEN YOUR LANDLORD WON'T Kelly, 34, from Rochdale has been renting in the area for six years now. She has a private landlord who lives abroad.

When she noticed severe damp and black mould on the walls of her bathroom, she tried to contact him -as she was concerned about the health risks.

She said: "He told me to scrub it off and put the phone down.

"It wouldn't come off the walls, and the black mould was getting worse due to the fact we didn't have doubleglazed windows.

After weeks of trying to get our landlord to sort the problem, we had to pay for it ourselves as it was a waste of time trying to get a reasonable answer from him."

Nick Denton said: "If there is a problem with damp, your landlord could be responsible but not always, as it depends on what type of damp it is and what caused it. Regardless of this -they shouldn't ignore you.

"If you are unsure whether your landlord is responsible, check your tenancy agreement, as it could state that your landlord is responsible for repairs over and above the legal minimum."

Ged McPartlin, director of Ascend Properties, believes his firm put tenants first. He said: "Where a repair is liable we will fix it -and we try to make life easier for people.

"Each tenant gets a dedicated point of contact to deal with their queries and we even have an online portal where tenants can log in and request a repair from home."

Regardless of best practice, some tenants still struggle to get a response from their landlords.

LACK OF COMMUNICATION Kristen, 25, lives in Ancoats with his partner and has been repeatedly ignored by his letting agency.

"We had problems with our letting agency from the moment we moved into our apartment. On the day of the move, we stumbled upon numerous problems -from finding hundreds of toe nail clippings on the floor to broken furniture.

"We called and emailed the property management team several times, constantly being ignored. It made the experience of moving a complete nightmare."

Victoria Green from Citizens Advice deals with this issue frequently. She said: "If your landlord refuses to help, you may have the right to take it further.

"If they ignore your attempt to report an issue you should put your complaint in writing and keep a copy of the letter or email.

"If they still ignore your complaint then you may be able to take legal action to obtain an order forcing your landlord to complete repairs and in certain cases -to pay compensation.

"Legal Aid is available in certain cases. Otherwise you might be able to instruct a solicitor on a 'no win, no fee arrangement'.

"If you have household insurance you should check your policy to see whether it covers legal expenses."

MOVING OUT When you move into a rented property, you should by law sign a tenancy agreement.

This should say how much notice you need to give your landlord before you leave the property.

You can move out early without paying rent for the full tenancy if there is a break clause in your tenancy agreement or your landlord agrees to end the tenancy early.

You can also leave if your tenancy is up after giving your notice -whether it is fixed-term or not.

Ged McPartlin said: "Whether you can move out early or not really depends on the landlord.

"As a letting agency, we can always pose the question to them and if they agree, the tenant is then free to leave before the end of the tenancy.

"However, most landlords will not want to lose a tenant and thus their rental income.

"Standard practice is for the tenant to pay a re-letting fee, this covers the cost of remarketing the property, and the tenant will be contractually responsible for the rental payments up until a new tenant is found and signs their tenancy agreement."

ENDING A JOINT TENANCY You're a joint tenant if there's more than one tenant named in the tenancy agreement.

You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if all the joint tenants decide to use a break clause and give the required notice or get the landlord's agreement to surrender the tenancy.

Simon, 34, from Chorlton, was in a joint tenancy agreement with his long-term girlfriend. When they split up, his girlfriend wanted her name removed.

He said: "When we broke up she wanted her name removing from the tenancy agreement, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to start a new agreement on my own due to having bad credit."

Victoria Green said: "It's usually best to explain the situation to your landlord or housing association and ask them to update the tenancy agreement.

"If you don't, you're both still responsible for rent and the person who leaves can still give notice to end the tenancy.

"If you plan to apply for social housing, your application might also be rejected if you're still named on another tenancy agreement.

"You can apply for a 'transfer of tenancy' if your landlord refuses to change your contract -this is a court order that can change your ex-partner's tenancy to your name, or remove their name from a joint tenancy."

Rebecca Whitehead, director at Gascoigne Halman Estate Agents said: "Sometimes people's circumstances change.

"Agents and landlords should be understanding of this and as long as there is no cost implication to the landlord we should help facilitate an early surrender of the tenancy."

RENT INCREASE If your landlord or letting agency have told you your rent is about to increase -they may not be legally allowed to charge you more.

According to the local .gov website, for a rolling tenancy, your landlord can't normally increase the rent more than once a year without your agreement, and for a fixed-term tenancy they can only increase the rent if you agree.

If you don't agree, when the fixed term ends your landlord can use a 'Landlord's notice proposing a new rent' form to raise the price you pay.

They must give you a minimum of one month's notice -or six months if you have an annual tenancy agreement.

Some landlords, however, believe a good tenant is worth cutting their losses for.

Janine Robinson is a private landlord, renting out her old city centre apartment in the Spectrum Complex. She moved out when she started a family -but didn't want to sell up.

She said: "I believe if you find a good tenant they're worth gold.

"If they are no hassle, keep the flat in great condition and it covers the cost of my mortgage -I'm happy.

"However interest rates went up in December and I did have to put the rent up by an extra PS50. My tenant still gets a bargain but I also have peace of mind and no stress."

Janine added: "My tenant has made it a home -the golden rule is -when she moves out it goes back to how it was when she moved in, but she can do what she wants whilst living there."

WHAT IF YOUR LANDLORD WON'T RELEASE YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT? Normally, you'll be asked to pay a security deposit when you move into your new place. This is usually the equivalent of a month's rent, but can be more.

The deposit is returned at the end of the tenancy agreement -however many tenants have trouble getting the full amount back.

Sarah, 25, lived in Castlefield and used a local letting agent. On moving out of the apartment, she couldn't get the full deposit back.

"I had the apartment professionally cleaned and there was no damage whatsoever. I left a bin bag outside the front door as the bins were full -and because of this the agents refused to return my full deposit.

"They deducted PS100 for this and another PS150 because the apartment 'wasn't clean enough'."

"I was furious" she added, "It wasn't until I left a scathing review on Facebook that they emailed me saying they would give me the money back if I took the review down."

The Citizens Advice team said: "The action you take against your landlord will depend on whether your deposit is protected in a tenancy deposit scheme -most deposits should be.

"You can use your scheme's 'alternative dispute resolution' service to help you get your deposit back."

Rebecca Whitehead advises tenants to take photographs as evidence. She said: "When you move into a property you should be given an inventory and schedule of condition - and it's really important that you read it before you sign.

At the end of your tenancy, find your inventory and check you are leaving the property as you found it.

Any deduction the landlord wishes to make needs to be made clear to you in writing with a clear reason and a copy of any quotes.

If you do need help with a landlord, the Citizens Advice Bureau offers free advice and legal aid.

If your letting agent doesn't respond to your written complaint within eight weeks or they don't solve your problem, you can also complain to their independent complaints body.

Your letting agent has to be a member of either The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services or the Property Redress Scheme -and you can ask them for details.

Another potential solution to a tenancy wrangle is to take your landlord to small claims court -but this can be expensive and stressful -so you'll need to consider if it's worth your while.

CAPTION(S):

Kristen McGregor, 26, Ancoats

Spectrum Apartments

Janine's Manchester apartment

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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Date:May 22, 2018
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