WRONG. Not many tenants know that it is actually a criminal offence for your landlord to evict you without a court order, and a court order is not the same thing as giving notice. Legally, you can stay in your home right up until court officials come to your house, which could be up to 6 months AFTER the end of your notice period.
If your landlord tries to make you move out sooner by using intimidation or threats, this is a criminal offence and you should tell the police (but be prepared for ignorance; some police mistakenly believe it is a civil, rather than criminal, matter!).
You are legally allowed to change the locks to protect yourself from harassment, as long as you keep the original lock and put it back on when you leave. You should also tell the Tenancy Relations Officer at your council (they have different titles at different councils: in Hackney they are called Housing Options and their job is to protect you from bad landlords. Their phone number is 020 8356 2929).
“I haven’t got a written contract, so I’ve got no rights.”
WRONG. As long as you have proof that you’ve paid rent regularly (for example, from your bank statement) you have all the rights you can expect from an assured shorthold tenancy (AST – the most common kind of tenancy).
“It’s my landlord’s house, so they can do whatever they like.”
WRONG. It’s your landlord’s PROPERTY, but while you’re paying rent it is your HOME. You do not have to let the landlord into your home if you don’t want to, and you do not have to give them a key. The only time you have to let them in is when they need to do repairs, but they must arrange a time with you first, with at least 24 hours notice. They cannot just tell you they are coming; they have to ask, because it is your home. If they come in without your permission, it is trespassing.
Many people, both landlords and tenants, think that owning something means you can do whatever you want with it. But a home is so important to a person’s health and wellbeing that rules are there to stop landlords doing whatever they want. If you own a car, you cannot drive it in any way you want: you have to follow rules about how to drive it so that you don’t harm others. The same principle applies to homes. We at Digs think the rules need to be made stronger.
“My landlord said he’s putting the rent up next month, so I’ve got to pay it.”
WRONG. Landlords cannot legally put the rent up just by telling you, or by writing you a letter. Rent can only be increased by formal application, with proper notice, or if there is a clause in your contract about fixed rent increases, or if you sign a new contract at a higher rent. If you think the rent is too high, you can apply to the Rent Assessment Committee (RAC), who will decide whether the proposed rent is in line with the market rate based on the levels recorded by the Valuation Office Agency (see http://www.voa.gov.uk – Hackney is ‘Inner East London’). Unfortunately, we have not had rent control in the UK since 1988, so rents are determined by the market, not by quality or by average salaries. You should be aware though that because the RAC only decides whether the rent is in line with the market and market rents are so high, the RAC may give you a higher rent than you already have!
“I live in shared house, so I can’t do anything about a bad landlord.”
Most shared houses have joint tenancy agreements. If one person doesn’t pay their share of the rent, everyone else is liable, and some landlords use this to their advantage. For example, if one tenant complains, they try to punish all the tenants by threatening eviction or rent increases in the hope that the other tenants will then turn on the complaining tenant. Some of our members report landlords playing joint tenants off against each other, for example tricking them into thinking that all the others have agreed to something they haven’t. But if you all stick together and support each other, joint tenancies can actually be more powerful. A group is always more powerful than a single voice.
“I can’t complain about my landlord because if I do, they will evict me.”
Sadly, it’s true that ‘retaliatory evictions’ are common in areas of high demand like London. But in some other countries, tenants are protected against them – either by longer minimum tenancies, as in Europe, or by specific legal protection against retaliation, as in some US cities. So it doesn’t have to be this way. If more people stood up to their landlords, and sought the help that their local council is there to give, landlords would be less likely to retaliate when people make valid complaints.
Have a question that hasn’t been answered?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live in Hackney we can often come out and speak to you about your problem.