November’s Q&A with Andrew and Christina #AskTheLandlord

In our second edition of the #AskTheLandlord campaign, we speak to Andrew & Christina, two landlords from Watford, who have kindly answered the questions sent into ideal flatmate by our users this month.

Andrew & Christina manage their own properties in Watford and they specialise in providing all-inclusive rent for young professional house-sharers who are new to the area and want to meet and socialise with like-minded people.

“There are so many terrible quality house shares in the area that we are very proud we have improved what’s on offer for young people – who are usually starting their first job after college or university.” A & C

One of A & C’s properties!

Here are the questions our community has asked Andrew and Christina:

1. Hi there, I’m on Universal Credit and Housing Benefit and haven’t had any problems in the past with paying the landlord rent direct to them. Can anyone tell me why some landlord proprietors require admin and deposits with guarantors? They have never received any unjust actions from people who don’t have any spare money – it seems all they want is money upfront all the time, and its a disgrace for people on benefit who are wasting valuable time…

I agree it sometimes can be a lot of money needed upfront to move into a rented room or house. Most Landlords may have restrictions in place imposed by their mortgage or insurance company which cover who they can rent to and what referencing process is required. There shouldn’t be unexpected demands made from landlords to tenants though. I believe in transparency and always make sure that in my advert or during a viewing, I clearly explain what is required in terms of rent in advance and deposit in order to move into one of my rooms. If a room advert doesn’t make this clear, be sure to ask the landlord what payments (and when) are required to move in. Any deposit paid by a tenant remains their money throughout the tenancy, it is simply registered in one of the Government Deposit Schemes.

2. What happens if we want to leave the flat after a few months because of a family emergency or needing to move to a different city? Do we lose our deposit?

Always read your tenancy agreement as it should include any information you need regarding ending your tenancy. It is important to know whether you are still in the fixed tenancy period or alternatively whether you can terminate the agreement early with for example, one months’ notice. When rent is paid monthly it is usual to have a fixed term contract of 6 months which after the fixed term, continues on a rolling monthly contract whereby you only have to give one calendar months’ notice to end it. If the you are in the fixed period, then speak to your landlord and explain your situation, they may be willing to negotiate an early termination. Whatever is agreed make sure you request it in writing.

3. When we move in, do we have to pay for an inventory check or will this be provided by the landlord?

The landlord should arrange this and provide you with a copy of the inventory for you to check and ensure it is accurate. It is common for the costs of this to be passed to the tenant as part of the check-in fees. However, with the tenant fee ban being implemented from April next year, landlords and agents will be prevented from charging upfront fees at the start and end of tenancies, details will be confirmed nearer the time.

4. Where does our deposit go?

Your landlord has a legal obligation to register your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP). This applies for anyone who has rented somewhere on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007. In England and Wales your deposit can be registered with these organisations:

  • Deposit Protection Service
  • My Deposits
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Your Landlord must also give you information regarding the scheme they use on a document called Prescribed Information and provide the terms and conditions for the scheme. At the end of your tenancy, any deductions a Landlord intends to make must be submitted on to the system and if you do not agree they will assessed by the scheme on an independent basis. The landlord can only make deductions from your deposit if the deposit scheme agree.

5. How long do we have to pay our monthly rent? Does this have to be paid on a set day each month because I am on a zero-hours contract which means I sometimes get paid on different days of the month?

You will need to check your tenancy agreement and should raise this with your landlord at the start of your tenancy and possibly request to pay your rent on an alternative frequency, if monthly payments are going to prove difficult. Alternatively you could put money aside each payment date to make sure you have enough to cover the rent when it’s due.
If you have already signed a tenancy agreement that requires monthly rent payments then speak to your landlord and explain your situation, as long as you are paying your rent in advance then your landlord is unlikely to take action against you.

6. Does the landlord ever come to check the property and do they have the right to enter the property once tenants move in?

As a tenant on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy you are entitled to exclusive occupation and ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the room or property you rent. However there are certain legal obligations that the landlord needs to comply with during your tenancy and to do these they will need access to the room and property. If you are renting a room in a house with shared communal areas, then to gain access to your room the landlord should give you at least 24 hours notice, unless there is a need to action an emergency repair in the case of fire or flood. The frequency of landlord access to specific parts of the property should be set out in your tenancy agreement.

7. How many properties do most landlords own?

A recent survey concluded that two thirds of landlords are ‘part-time’ and have other regular full-time jobs. This survey has changed the common perception that most landlords are full time professionals, running their lettings business as a sole source of income. The same survey found that only 5% of landlords are professional landlords, owning 5 or more properties as a sole source of income. Nearly 40% are ‘accidental’ landlords, either inheriting properties or renting them out due to a change in circumstances. Recent government tax changes have put further financial pressures on small or accidental landlords to sell up and leave the letting market, a move that some say will lead to a shortage of rental properties just when they are needed the most, with higher property prices meaning more people need to rent for longer.

Got a question that you haven’t quite been able to ask your own landlord? Head to our Ask The Landlord page and ask away!