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Landlord Issues

Sometimes students will experience difficulties with their landlord (or agent) and the way that they are managing the property. This can range from relatively small issues or disagreements to much more serious issues. A lot of issues can be dealt with through negotiation and effective communication. It is a good idea to keep records of any contact with a landlord, back up verbal agreements with an email confirming what was said. Remain calm and be polite, (even if the landlord isn't) when dealing with your landlord. Give landlords time to repond to requests and get advice if you are not sure of what your rights are. If you believe that a landlord or agent is behaving unfairly or in an unprofessional way, speak to one of our advisers.  The Student Advice Centre has lots of experience and knowledge of local landlords and agents. Whilst most landlords are responsible and fair, we know that some do not comply with Housing law or manage their properties properly.

If you have a private landlord, in nearly all cases the landlord cannot make you leave without first getting a court order. Before the landlord can go to court he has to serve the correct notice and wait for the notice to expire.

Notice

If you have an assured contract, the correct notice is a notice under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. This type of notice is known as a notice seeking possession or NSP. The length of the notice will be either two weeks or two months, depending on the grounds for possession.

If you have an assured shorthold contract, the correct notice can be either an NSP or a notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, depending on the circumstances.

Grounds for possession

The grounds for possession are set out in the Housing Act 1988 (as amended). There are two different types of grounds - mandatory grounds and discretionary grounds.

If your landlord goes to court on a mandatory ground and wins, the court must grant a possession order. If the case against you is based on a discretionary ground, the court will only grant a possession order if it is reasonable to do so.

There are three separate grounds for possession connected to rent. Mandatory Ground 8 can be used if you pay monthly and you owe at least two months’ rent. Discretionary Ground 10 can be used if you owe some rent but less than two months. Discretionary Ground 11 can be used if you have a history of paying rent late. Other grounds for possession cover things like damage and general breaches of contract such as subletting without consent when consent is required. Landlords can seek possession on more than one ground at the same time and can use a combination of mandatory and discretionary grounds.

Top Tip

In our experience, Sheffield landlords who let to students very rarely take legal action to make anyone leave and will normally only do so if there are significant rent arrears or there has been another serious breach of contract.

Section 21

Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is a special way to end assured shorthold contracts. All a landlord has to do is serve a valid notice and obtain a court order. There is no requirement to prove a ground for possession. There are different rules for fixed term and periodic contracts.

If your contract is fixed term (ie it lasts for a fixed period of time such as 12 months), a Section 21 notice must be in writing and must be at least two months. It can be served during the fixed term but the landlord will normally not be able to make you leave until after the fixed term has come to an end.

If your contract is periodic (also known as a rolling contract), the rules are more complicated. The notice must be in writing and must be at least two months but could be longer (eg three months if you pay your rent quarterly). It must expire on the correct date (the day before the next rent payment is due) and state that possession is required under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. In addition, although the notice can be served at any time, the landlord will not be able to make you leave until six months after the beginning of the contract.

Section 21 cannot be used:

  • If the landlord has not complied with the rules on tenancy deposit protection (if applicable)
  • If the landlord has not applied for a House in Multiple Occupation licence (if applicable).

Top Tip

Always get advice if your landlord serves notice on you. Even notices which look very official are sometimes invalid.

Resident landlords

If you live in the same building as your landlord and you share living accommodation with the landlord, or a member of the landlord's family, you will be an excluded occupier. An excluded occupier can be evicted without a court order. If you live in the same building as your landlord but you do not share living accommodation with the landlord, or a member of the landlord's family, you will have basic protection. Occupiers with basic protection cannot be evicted without a court order. A building converted into flats counts as the same building. Purpose-built blocks of flats do not. Living accommodation means any room but excludes stairs and hallways.

Examples

Student A buys a house. Student B rents a room in the house. Student A and Student B share the living room, kitchen and bathroom. Student B is an excluded occupier.

Student B moves into a large house which has been divided into flats. The landlord lives in a flat in the ground floor. Student B lives in a flat on the first floor. Although the landlord is a resident landlord, there is no shared accommodation so Student B has basic protection.

Student B rents a room in a house which is owned by Student A's parents. Student A lives in the house but he is not the landlord. Student B is an assured shorthold tenant.

There is nothing to stop a landlord selling a house with tenants living in it. When this happens, the person who buys the house takes over as landlord and has to stick to the existing contract. This means that apart from paying your rent to a different person, everything else (such as the amount of rent and the length of the contract) stays the same.

If you have a resident landlord the rules about what happens when the landlord sells the house are more complex. If you find yourself in this situation contact the Student Advice Centre for more information.

My landlord has mortgage problems

If your landlord has a mortgage on your house and s/he falls behind with the payments, the mortgage lender could take legal action to repossess the property. If this happens and the mortgage lender is granted possession, most tenants have no right to stay. This is because most contracts between a landlord and a tenant are not binding on the landlord’s mortgage lender.

How do I know if my contract is binding?

Your contract might be binding if:

  • It started before your landlord took out the mortgage
  • Your landlord had a special type of mortgage called a buy-to-let
  • The mortgage lender gave your landlord permission to give you a contract
  • The mortgage lender has recognised your contract, for example, by asking you to pay rent to them.

If your contract is binding the mortgage lender will become your landlord and can only make you leave by following the normal eviction rules. See more information here.

What can I do if my contract is not binding?

If your contract is not binding you could:

  • Ask the mortgage lender to take over as landlord. Some mortgage lenders are willing to do this, especially if you are an assured shorthold tenant with no intention of staying in the property long-term
  • Ask the court to give you more time to find somewhere else to live. The court can postpone the eviction date by up to two months but before you can apply for this you have to ask the mortgage lender first and have your request refused
  • Claim compensation from your landlord.

If you find yourself in this position and need further help or advice please contact the Student Advice Centre.

The circumstances in which a landlord can enter your home are normally set out in the contract.

Most assured and assured shorthold contracts say the landlord can come in to carry out inspections and repairs. This type of visit normally requires 24 hours notice and should take place at a reasonable time. Notice is not required in an emergency situation such as a suspected gas leak.

If you do not have a written contract, or your contract fails to mention this type of visit, or fails to mention, for example, the requirement to give 24 hours notice, don’t worry - your landlord still has to abide by the rules.

Written contracts often mention other circumstances in which a landlord can enter your house. For example, most contracts say the landlord (or his agent) can show the house to prospective tenants. This type of visit is often restricted to the last few weeks or months of the contract so you can say no if the landlord wants to enter the house for this reason at other times.

Allowing the landlord access to carry out inspections and repairs is the only type of landlord visit implied into oral (verbal) contracts.

Resident landlords

If you have a resident landlord your contract might say that your landlord can enter your room without giving any notice. In some circumstances, for example where the landlord provides your meals and cleans your room, this can be lawful. In other circumstances, for example where you and the landlord live completely separate lives, it may not be lawful. Unfortunately, because living with a resident landlord normally means you can be evicted more easily, it can sometimes be difficult to balance your right to privacy and your need to stay in your home. Contact the Student Advice Centre if you would like to talk to an adviser about this.