Disputes with your landlord

INVENTORIES

When you move into a new house you should ask for a written inventory. This should list all the items in the property, noting their physical condition, and be as comprehensive as possible. When you're happy with this, both you and the landlord should sign the inventory and include a note on it of how much deposit has been paid. Copies should be retained by both landlord and tenant.

Once an inventory has been agreed and dated by all parties it can be used as a record in case a dispute arises at the end of the tenancy. it's also a good idea for tenants to make a photographic record of the property (with a date stamp if possible).

if a landlord decides to keep a deposit unfairly, the tenants can take the case to the small claims court (or sheriff's court in Scotland). However, it is not a good idea to withould rent due to the landlord.

TENANT vs. LANDLORD HARASSMENT

Harassment is a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Technically speaking, the term harrassment relates to acts by a landlord or their agent that are likely to intefere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupiers or which involve with the withdrawal or withholding of services reasonably required for occupation.

There are numerous forms that harassment can take and although a prosecution is possible for any one act, it is more likely that a case would be built on the basis of a number of acts that can be said to be part of an overall campaign of harassment.

As well as landlords and their agents, tenants might be subjected to harassment from so-called third parties. These include co-tenant(s), neighbours, local youths, and anyone who is targeting students for crime. Students are advised to get in touch with their local Tenancy Relations officer (based at the local authority), through their SU.

GROUNDS FOR POSSESSION

Landlords can repossess their property by citing what are known as grounds for possession. These apply to both assured and assured shorthold tenancies. However, while at the end of a fixed term agreement on an assured tenancy a landlord has to supply any one of the grounds in order to gain repossession, for an assured shorthold no grounds need to be given.

There are a total of seventeen grounds and they are divided into mandatory (on which the court must order possession) and discretionary (on which it may order it). For more details see your SU Welfare Officer.

ILLEGAL EVICTION

This occurs when a landlord evicts, or attempts to evict a residential occupier from all or part of their home without following the required legal procedure. In extreme cases this can involve landlords changing the locks or throwing a tenant's property out into the street. However, more commonly it occurs when the landlord deviates less dramatically from the correct procedures.

What a landlord has to do to ensure they are not acting illegally depends on the status of the occupier. Most students living in shared houses should be given notice to quit, an automatic ground for posession and a court order. Unprotected occupiers, which includes students living in halls of residence, should be given notice, and a court order will be needed. Students who live with a residential landlord and share the facilities are excluded occupiers and only need to be given notice to quit.

Illegal eviction is a criminal offence and is covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This gives local authorities the power (but not duty) to investigate such incidents so, as with cases of harassment, students should contact the Tenancy Relations Officer (based at the local authority), through their Student Union.