“Remember, tenants should be aware that at any time, in the periodical phase of their tenancy, they can be evicted by landlords – tenants should bear this in mind when standing up for their rights.”
This telling phrase appears in the Private Renting section of Hackney Council’s website. To be fair, Hackney is not wrong – and is on tenants’ side by highlighting this proviso.
Fairness is uncommon in Private Landlord and Tenant law. If you are not a mortgagee – or in plainer terms, the customer of a bank or building society that owns your home – standing up for your rights puts that home in jeopardy. It could be said that mortgagees are also tenants; their landlords however leave them in peace, to repair and improve their homes in the hope that its rise in value will reduce the debt they owe the de-facto property owner. For mortgage agreements also hold the bearer to rules, with approvals required for certain types of improvement; it is unlikely that these permissions will be unreasonably withheld.
The problem with Private Landlords is that the law falls in their favour; simply, they can delay making repairs for all manner of reasons and if you complain, you get kicked out. This, despite certain repair delays leading to damage to the fabric of their asset.
My first rented home was owned by a Landlord who fulfilled every aspect of his obligations, appreciating a tenant who cared for his asset; at the end of his fixed rate mortgage, he offered to share the saving, and reduced my monthly rent by £100.
The second rental was not so edifying an experience, involving a Landlord who, in response to our complaints over a flooded basement refused compensation and asked what do you expect if you want to live in a nice old house?
Our last privately rented home (my third) suffered a number of issues, the most serious being a gutter leak directly above the front door; our Landlord took over eighteen months to fail to fix it. We warned him that the brickwork holding the hinges of the external security door was likely to suffer, causing one or both of the hinges to come away from the wall. This situation came to pass, compromising the security of his house – our home. Not only this, but the steady stream of water that cascaded over the door soaked us, our post and any visitors to the house when it rained. Meantime, the inevitable pool of water delivered a high risk of falling or slipping when approaching the house in pouring rain.
Managing Agents do not come out of this well, either. The agent appointed to that Tower Hamlets’ property failed to act on any repairs. When despite assurances to the contrary we discovered that the Landlord had not met his legal requirement to protect our deposit, the Agent wrongly advised him and us that the long-standing law to compensate the tenant for up to 3x the deposit in this particular failure, was no longer in force, advising us to leave and let live. That the Agent appointed himself legal counsel to the Landlord and offered us the same service, was not only rife with Conflict of Interest but given his lack of legal qualifications, somewhat misplaced.
This, our fourth rental home is one that we love; we want to stay here in Hackney for as long as possible but are now fearful that forcing the Landlord to repair a continuously flowing tap, a leaking loo that renders the shower room a slip hazard and other less lethal but annoying repairs, could lead to our eviction.
Landlords notwithstanding, our rented properties have been left in a fundamentally better condition than when we moved in, something already in evidence in our current Hackney home. Why? Because quite simply, we want to live somewhere lovely, and if it isn’t when we move in, we’ll make it so.
The deal with Private Rental is that whilst you do not “own” an asset that may gain in value, you do not have to account for sometimes costly maintenance bills. Yet whilst you are obliged to treat the property with respect and effectively pay to be on-site manager, the issues you raise won’t necessarily be attended to.
Appallingly, tenants cannot legally withhold rent in situations like this, or in any situation around the failure of their Landlord to fulfil his or her obligations – and there is no way of guaranteeing they will, without risking eviction.
If you want to live somewhere half decent, the substantial level of monthly London rents mean your home will invariably cost more than repayments on million-pound mortgage. If personal circumstances (such as ploughing every saved penny into your business) mean you do not have the deposit required to secure a mortgage, there is little choice but to opt for a private tenancy. Regardless of a ten-year track record paying that equivalent million-pound mortgage, you will never qualify for a mortgage-for-real.
With private housing rental on the rise, something has to change; high deposits, low salaries and a reduction in the cascading of wealth to the next generation mean that mortgage criteria exclude the vast majority of young people – and entrepreneurs of any age.
Private Landlords need to be held to account, Managing Agents need to be more closely regulated and Private Tenants need to be treated with a lot more respect.