UK Tenancy Laws: experiences?

I’m a tenant (private landlord) and it’s really hard finding anything on the internet about the actual use of provisions in the tenancy law.

For example, it is apparently legally required for my landlord to provide me with a rent book, which he hasn’t done. So… what do I do about that? Is there someone I’m meant to report it to?

I got a form 4B in the post, that’s a notice of rent increase. So I got a form to appeal it to the Rent Assessment Committee and sent that off about a week ago. So, when do I hear from them? Until I do hear from them, assuming I haven’t heard from them by the end of the notice period, do I continue to pay the current rate or what? I can’t find any information about that.

The fire alarm in the building is run off the electricity supply from one of the other flats. So when they run out of electricity the alarm, after a couple of days, becomes non-functional, after shrieking for a day or two. Seems to me like that shouldn’t be legal. I considered contacting an Environment Health Officer from the council, but their website seems to be specifically designed to impart no information and to make sure you can’t find any contact details.

Anyway, I’m off to the Citizens’ Advice next week, but I’d be glad to hear from anyone who has actually done any of these things previously.

Are you renting directly or via an agency? With local government, the rule is to do everything in writing, so don’t ring your local council; write to them. And if you can’t find to whom to write, write to the most senior officer logically appropriate. If you’re really not sure, just address it to the Chief Executive.

'Dear Sir (or Madam as appropriate)

I write to you as Chief Executive because I have been unable to ascertain from your website to whom I should actually write. I hope I can impose upon you to forward this letter to the appropriate officer…’

I have previously contested a rent in rent increase and iirc it took about four weeks to get a decision, but that included having someone come round to actually see the property. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took longer sometimes.

Rent books may be technically necessary but they’re not something you actually need if you have a tenancy agreement and records of payments made.

The fire alarm absolutely should not be run off a tenant’s electricity if it’s communal - nothing communal should be run off an individual tenant’s meter due to the problems you mention. I’d suggest that you contact your local fire brigade and ask them to do a safety assessment, because what you’re describing completely defeats the point of having an alarm. They can force the landlord to make changes far more effectively than anyone else can. I had to get them in once before to assess hazards caused by a previous landlord and the changes were made within a couple of weeks after years of back and forth with the landlord.

Like Quartz says, email everything. Follow up by phone to ensure they can’t claim they didn’t notice the email or it went to spam then email again to say that you have followed this up by phone, spoken to whoever and this is what they said. A good person to copy in is your local MP.

Good luck with getting anything done! It’s definitely not easy.

Many questions about the alarm: What does “run out of electricity” mean? Are those tenants regularly not paying their bill to the point where their electricity is shut off? How do you know this?

Why does the alarm shriek for days? Does no one call the fire department when this happens? How do you know that it’s non-functional when it stops ringing?

Try the Landlordzone forums, they tend to be pretty clued up on this.

If they’re on a pre-payment meter their electricity will be cut off, sort of (hard to explain - it’s not like the actual wires have been cut but the tenant can’t access any power) when they run out of money. My upstairs neighbour has a prepayment meter and I know this because it’s in a communal area. Prepayment meters are relatively common in rented flats because it means the landlord is never going to be left on the hook for a huge bill.

Too late to edit - I suspect it’s a smoke alarm rather than a fire alarm - they do shriek if they have no power going to them. When they eventually stop its either because they’ve got power again (which you can usually see by a light on the device) or because they’ve given up and are sulking :smiley: I’m not sure the fire brigade would appreciate being called out for that!

My burglar alarm shrieked when its battery died. The smoke alarm beeped when the battery was low.

Directly. Actually I think the landlord is technically a building company, as the owner thereof does places up and sometimes then rents them out.

In writing, will do.

It would be nice to get an acknowledgement, at least. Given that the notice period for a rent increase is one month, I still don’t know if I’m to continue with the current rent until I hear from them or if I’m to pay the increased amoutn until a verdict is reached, either.

Also, when did a book of stamps go up to £3.90? It’s ridiculous.

It’s rolled over to a periodic tenancy now, but I’ve still got the old Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement and a big envelope full of receipts. Linking back to the previously mentioned fact that the landlord is a builder, he insists on cash-in-hand rent payments, and sends someone round with a receipt book to collect it, so lots of little slips of paper.

The alarm is one of those with a control panel in the common hallway and smoke detectors built into the ceiling of each room in the building, so very much communal. The panel and the rest of the system all run off the one flat’s electricity, though, along with a battery of some sort so it doesn’t completely stop working during a power cut for a day or so.

I’ll look up contact details for the local Fire Btigade station and see what they can do.

I can’t e-mail anything, in that my landlord, the Rent Assessment Committee and the local council Environmental Health Office seem to possess a combined total of zero e-mail accounts.

It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s interesting and it’s always good to learn things.

The electricity meters are fed from a key. You go to the shop, pay money onto the key, then insert the key into the meter and that keeps the meter working until you have used up that much electricity. When it reaches £0.00, the electricity is cut off automatically until you put more on.

The tenants going on holiday, or moving out and leaving the property empty, means the meter will run out and cut off the electricity to their flat. I know when their electricity has been cut off because the hall light will no longer work, as that is also on their electricity, and the fire alarm control panel starts beeping and has a flashing light which says “power fault” next to it.

The alarm shrieks quietly. That is to say, it’s not going off, it’s just making a whining noise which can’t be heard from the street but can be heard from my flat, and this goes along with the control panel ceasing to function so I can’t turn it off.

So the meter runs out, the alarm panel starts beeping. I stop it beeping with the controls. A couple of days later, the battery in the panel runs out and the panel stops doing anything, except it whines at the precise volume to keep me awake for 24-48 hours. Then it dies completely.

I assume key/card meters and this type of fire alarm aren’t common in other countries.

If you’re picturing a standard residential smoke alarm of the sort people put up in their houses, which beep so you can replace the 9v battery, it’s not one of those, no. It’s the type that’s wired all through the house so that when I burn my toast all three flats in the building get a ridiculously loud siren going off. And mains powered, with a separate control panel down near the front door of the building.

You need to be clear on this - it’s an important distinction. Are you renting from Joe Bloggs or XYZ Ltd?

I’m an accidental landlord. I use an agent. My general response to issues raised by my tenant to the agency and forwarded to me is to tell the agency to take care of it. I’m aware that not all landlords are as obliging.

What is a rent book?

The Landlord is, according to the tenancy agreement, “Mr + Mrs K Lastname”. Where Lastname is their actual last name. The adress for correspondence, and the employer of the man they send to collect the rent for them, is a building company.

According to the internet it is a thing a landlord is required by law to provide to anyone who pays rent on a weekly basis. Before I lived here I paid rent monthly, and my current landlord isn’t the sort to do things the law requires, so I’ve never actually seen one or heard tell of one beyond what I’ve gleaned from the internet.

So they are employing the building company as an agency. And it’s their building company, isn’t it? That is, are they are directors of said company? Do you know what the level of agency is? Is it just collecting rents or what? You really need to be crystal clear on the legal relationships and the separations of responsibilities between you, the company, and the landlords. Note that you need to consider the landlord as a company director and the landlord as a person separately.

Receipts or not, this bit sounds dodgy as hell to me. You can make an anonymous report to HMRC here.
If he’s wired up the flats to essentially steal electricity from one of them to run the fire alarm and lights in the common area then he sound like a cowboy builder as well.

This is an example of one. It’s simply a written record of what rent is due, what is payed, and when. Not nearly so common these days, when most people pay monthly through their bank accounts.

The Tenancy Agreement doesn’t mention an agent, and I dealt with him personally at the start of the tenancy, also it looks like the address is for both him an the company, probably it’s based out of his home property. It’s in a little village half a dozen miles away only accessible by main road, or I’d go and check.

The Tenancy Agreement gives the landlord as “Mr + Mrs K G (Surname)”. The 4B (Notice of Rent Increase) gives the Landlord as “K(Surname Initial) Builders Ltd”. Same address, just different name.

So, in short, I don’t know if my landlord is a company or an individual using a company as an agent, or an individual misusing a company he runs to do his personal errands. Not sure what to do about that. It could be that he’s intentionally obfuscating the matter, or alternatively he might just not know what he’s doing.

Now I’m writing it down, it does seem a bit dodgy to demand cash and explicitly refuse a standing order, and I see that HMRC regard dealing in cash as suspicious. And yeah, he’s probably a cowboy builder, and a very bad landlord. No rent book, no tenancy deposit guarantee scheme, no repairs, basically no fire alarm, but enthusiastic about taking more rent money.

So I’ve got to contact the fire brigade, write to the Environmental Health about three things, write to him again about some other repairs, &c… Pain in the arse. Good job I bought those stamps.

I phoned the Rent Assessment Committee to confirm they had my form, they said I should hear from them in the fullness of time. Very impressive phone system, it didn’t even ring, they just answered straight away.

I’m sure the trainee who answered your phone so quickly will be equally quickly disciplined. :smiley: