I often get landlords say to me ‘my tenants are really devious, they are up to all the tricks’ as if this means that their tenant is always going to win every argument and (in the context in which much of my advice is carried out) be impossible to evict.
However, that’s a bit of a defeatist attitude! My response to this is usually ‘well I’m devious too’. But there is no reason why YOU shouldn’t be devious as well.
The law is the law and is the same whether you are a landlord or a tenant.
It is in some respects angled towards tenants – for example, if a tenant stays on after agreeing to vacate after a short three-month tenancy – there is nothing the landlord can do about this as he cannot start section 21 proceedings until the tenancy is at least six months old.
However, ultimately (in most cases) the landlord CAN evict a tenant – even if the tenant has done nothing wrong and been a model tenant. Many tenants find this morally wrong.
So how can a landlord defeat the devious tenant?
The answer has to be by being 100% compliant with their legal obligations.
- If a landlord fails to serve a gas safety certificate on a tenant before the tenants move into a new tenancy, he may lose the right to use section 21 – ever
- If a landlord fails to protect the tenancy deposit, not only can he not serve a valid section 21 notice – the tenant can claim a penalty through the courts of up to 3x the deposit sum
- If a landlord of a licensable HMO property fails to get a license, his tenants can apply to the First Tier Tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order – and the Tribunal can order him to refund up to 12 months rent!
‘But’, landlords will say to me, when I explain that their section 21 notice is invalid as they have not served the tenancy deposit prescribed information in time, ‘I didn’t know I had to!” As if that were a valid reason for them to break the law.
Ignorance of the law has never been a valid defence and particularly so for residential landlords.
Landlords are expected to inform themselves about all the various rules and regulations BEFORE they start renting to tenants. Or use a decent letting agent.
So how can a landlord learn about landlords legal obligations?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Attend our annual Landlord Law Conference. A great way to get up to date with the law in one day
- Read a book – David Lawrenson’s Successful Property Letting is probably the best
- Join my Landlord Law Service – which has legal information, forms and guides to help you
- Join a Landlords Association – the RLA and the NLA are both good choices
- Sign up to get Landlord Law Blog posts by email – its free
- Do some training – for example, we have a number of online training courses and face to face workshops.
But make sure you do something. Remember that a ‘devious tenant’ is just someone who knows more about the law than their landlord!