Learner Landlord - Basics

Landlord Law

 

What is Landlord Law?

The law for landlords covers almost every aspect of being a private landlord, from the necessity of gas safety checks and smoke alarms to the legal procedures that must be followed in order to evict a tenant.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common aspects.

Why do you need a tenancy agreement?

Legally you don’t have to issue a tenancy agreement when you let a property but it makes a lot of sense to put one in place. Not only does a tenancy agreement protect your interests, it also protects those of your tenants. Your tenancy agreement will cover all of the terms and conditions of the tenancy so both you and your tenant know exactly what is expected from the other.

Breaking the terms and conditions of a tenancy agreement is the reason that landlords can use to cite in eviction court cases. Obviously if you fail to put a tenancy agreement in place you can’t use it to prove your tenant has done wrong, and you will find it virtually impossible to legally evict them. The sections of the landlord law that cover tenant evictions are useless without a valid tenancy agreement so make sure you put one in place before the tenant actually moves into the property.

Tenancy deposit schemes

Any form of tenancy deposit taken from a tenant has to, by law, be registered with a government certified tenancy deposit scheme. According to the current landlord law you have 14 days to register a deposit however this is due to be increased to 30 days sometime in 2012. The improved landlord law governing the registration of deposits will also make it mandatory for you to fully inform your tenant about the deposit scheme used, and how they go about reclaiming the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

Landlord law relating to the eviction of tenants

Evicting a tenant is never pleasant but in some circumstances, it has to be done. There are very strict guidelines to follow when it comes to evicting a tenant, and getting any aspect of it wrong can mean you have to repeat the entire eviction process. It is illegal to evict a tenant without a court-granted possession order and a court case will be required to complete an eviction if your tenant will not leave the property voluntarily.

Grounds for possession

There are 17 grounds for possession that can be cited when evicting a tenant. The first nine are classed as discretionary grounds for possession and include, among others, rent arrears of up to 8 weeks, persistent rent arrears, breach of the tenancy agreement conditions, on-going neighbour complaints and giving false information to secure the tenancy.

If any of the discretionary grounds for possession are cited on the eviction notice and the case goes to the county court it is up to the presiding judge whether possession is granted to the landlord. It isn’t a certainty that the eviction will be upheld so you, as the landlord, need to present as strong a case as you possibly can.

The additional eight grounds for possession are termed mandatory grounds, and providing you have served your tenant with all necessary eviction notices in the court-approved format (and the courts are very strict about the format) then possession will always be granted. The most commonly cited mandatory ground for possession is rent arrears of more than 8 weeks, but as mentioned above seven more do exist.

The eviction process

Before turning to the landlord law with regards to eviction it is often worth talking directly with your tenants. It may be possible to remedy any problems they have with rental payments or tenancy agreement terms and conditions without resorting to eviction. If the problems continue though, you’ll need to start the process by serving your tenant with a formal notice of eviction.

It is vital that, should you get to this stage, you serve the correct eviction notice as serving the wrong one will put you right back at square one if the case goes to the courts. A Section 8 notice is required if you are ending the tenancy before the official end of the tenancy agreement while a Section 21 notice (also known as a Notice to Quit) is needed if you intend for your tenant to leave the property when the terms of the tenancy agreement come to an end e.g. at the end of 6 months in the case of most shorthold tenancy agreements.

Normally an eviction notice is enough to remedy the problem and most tenants find a way to pay their rent/rent arrears or they quit the property. If they don’t however you will need to wait for the required period of notice (normally 2 months) and then proceed to the county court where you will either be granted a possession order or you won’t. The more proof you can provide to show the tenant has breached the terms of their tenancy agreement the more likely you are to get the order.

If you follow the landlord law procedures to the letter you should be granted possession of your property and the court bailiffs will perform the unpleasant job of evicting your tenants.