The RLA’s Landlord Advice Team deals with questions from members day after day. Here is a selection of recent – and typical – queries.
Q: I have been trying to arrange with my tenant a suitable time and date to do an inspection of my property but the tenant has not responded to my phone calls or texts. Can I just go along and let myself in?
A: No. You need to give your tenant written advance notice of at least 24 hours of your visit. Tell the tenant that in the absence of any reply you will let yourself in with your keys. It’s always advisable to take someone else along with you, together with a digital camera to photograph any damage.
If however your tenant says it is inconvenient or does not wish to allow access, then don’t go near the property.
Q: My student tenants have left a pile of rubbish bags. I am not sure what’s in them, but can I dispose of them?
A: A landlord has a responsibility to manage their property effectively. This, of course, is done in a variety of ways, but in this instance a landlord should take all practical steps to ensure tenants dispose of their refuse in a responsible manner. If these bags of rubbish are indeed rubbish, they may pose a risk to public health. We are thinking here of mice, rats or insects, not to mention the nuisance to neighbours from the smell of rotting rubbish. It’s well worth checking they are indeed rubbish as you should not dispose of anything which your tenants are likely to want back.
Remember, the local council has powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to address these ongoing issues and can instruct a landlord to remove such waste within a specified timescale.
Q: I need to serve a Section 21 Notice to Quit on my tenant but am unsure which one to use.
A: Here’s an easy way to remember which Notice to use. The Section 21(1)B Notice is served Before the end of the fixed term. The Section 21(4)A Notice is served After the fixed term. If in doubt about the crucial date for asking a tenant to leave, do ring the RLA Advice Team for clarification.
Q: I am thinking of letting out a room in my own home. Which kind of agreement should I use ?
A: Provided this is your own main UK residence, you can offer a Lodger Agreement (or Excluded Tenancy Agreement). With this agreement there is no legal requirement to protect any deposit as there is with a standard tenancy agreement.
Can I still accept rent?
Q: I have served my tenant a S.21 notice. He has not moved out and clearly wants to sit tight until eviction. The tenant is still paying his rent, but should I return this to him? I have been told that if I accept it, I could be seen to be implicitly agreeing to the tenant’s continued possession of the property. I should mention this is a straightforward AST agreement.
A: Different rules apply to different types of tenancy agreement, but in the case of ASTs it is straightforward, thanks to the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. This amends the Housing Act 1988 so that it now says (Section 5 1A): “Where an order of the court for possession of the dwelling house is obtained, the tenancy ends when the order is executed.”
In your case, the order has not been executed, and therefore the tenancy is ongoing and the tenant has an obligation to pay the rent – despite the S.21 notice.
The tenancy agreement in such circumstances continues until the tenant is evicted under a court order or the landlord and tenant agree a surrender. You can continue to accept the rent until such time.
Apart from anything else, if you refuse to accept the rent now, your chances of being able to recover it after the tenant finally moves out would be very much less.
To sum up: a S.21 notice will not be invalidated because the tenant has continued to pay rent and you have continued to receive it. The S.21 notice has confirmed that as landlord you want the property back; it has not ended the tenancy.