The Tenancy Relations Service is provided by the Council for the benefit of private sector landlords, tenants and leaseholders who own or live in properties in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It aims to promote good relations between landlords and tenants and to encourage good practice in the rental sector.
What does the Tenancy Relations Service do? We advise landlords and tenants in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea about their tenancy rights and obligations. The service is for private tenants, not people who rent their homes from the Council or housing associations.
- We specialise in giving advice when a tenant is being told to leave their home.
- We intervene where it appears that a tenant might be made to leave unlawfully. This usually involves contacting the landlord and making sure that both landlord and tenant are aware of the law. Wherever possible, we always try to resolve the issue, however the Council has the authority to prosecute for any illegal evictions that we cannot prevent or any associated criminal offences.
- We provide advice on other areas of landlord and tenant law and civil procedures, such as claims for damages and injunctions.
- We advise tenants on their rights to obtain certain information from their landlord.
- We advise tenants on the protection of their deposits and although we cannot take action to recover money, we can advise tenants how to proceed through the courts.
- We can also give advice to leaseholders about their rights and the information they are entitled to.
We do not give advice or help regarding repairs. The Council’s Environmental Health Department can help tenants when a landlord will not carry out repairs and where there are hazards that cause unsafe or unhealthy conditions. You can find out more on our Disrepair web page.
Important points to know about tenancies Make sure you know the difference between a licence and a tenancy.
If you share accommodation with your landlord you are known as a “bare licensee” or lodger. These types of arrangements, whilst often affordable, mean that you have very few rights to protect yourself against eviction. They are not covered by the provisions of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and a landlord is not required to obtain a possession order to evict a lodger or “bare licensee”.
A licence can also be given to an occupant if they receive services from the landlord, such as cleaning. Under such arrangements the occupants would have basic protection under the Protection from Eviction Act (the rights to a possession order) but enforcing eviction can be easier for the landlord. Seek advice if you have been issued a licence and are unsure of your rights. Sometimes landlords issue licences whereby the occupant is really a tenant in law. These are known as “sham agreements”, again seek advice if you are unsure.
Unless accommodation is shared with the landlord, or the occupant receives services, the person renting is known as a tenant. A tenant has exclusive possession of part of the property. This could just be a bedroom, so you can live in a house share and still be a tenant, as long as the landlord lives elsewhere.
Most private tenants are assured shorthold tenants. Some people assume that when their contract ends they have to leave. Whilst they can leave, they are not legally obligated to do so. The tenancy simply rolls on as a “periodic tenancy” with the same rights as before. A landlord would have to serve notice and in some cases seek authority from the Courts to enforce possession.
The Tenancy Relations Service can also help protected and assured tenants, whose security is far greater. You can find more information on the different types of tenancy on Shelter’s website.
Tenancy agreements Make sure your tenancy agreement covers:
- the amount of any deposit you pay
- where the deposit is protected
- the amount of rent you pay
- how often you pay your rent
- how long the agreement lasts
- who pays for and organises any repairs or decoration
- an inventory or list of all the items, such as furniture, in the property
- your landlord’s name and address. If they are resident abroad it is a legal requirement that they provide an agency or solicitor’s address for service in England and Wales.
Illegal eviction and harassment A landlord can usually only make a tenant leave by getting an “Order for Possession” from the Court and in some cases a bailiff’s warrant or a writ.
Before a landlord can apply for an order for possession, they have to serve the right kind of notice to the tenant. In many cases this notice takes the form of a section 21 notice, which should be on a prescribed form and provide a minimum of two calendar months. Different types of notices can be used for other situations such a rent arrears and breach of contract.
It is a serious criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 to make a tenant leave unlawfully. Forcing a tenant to leave unlawfully can include:
- changing the locks
- removing a tenant’s possessions
- carrying out unnecessarily disruptive work to the premises
- threats and intimidation
- any behaviour intended to make the tenant feel uncomfortable or uneasy
- disconnection of services
Not all of the above problems will fall to the Tenancy Relations Service (TRS) to resolve. The Council’s Noise and Nuisance and Environmental Health (disrepair) departments have statutory powers to deal with some kinds of harassment.
It is not an offence for a landlord to:
- make reasonable requests for rent at reasonable intervals
- carry out repairs or inspect repairs in a way which takes into account the tenant’s rights
- threaten eviction by the legal process if a tenant is in breach of their tenancy conditions.
Harassment is covered by two different laws:
- The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (dealt with by the Police)
- The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (dealt with by the Council).
There can be some overlap, but examples of general harassment that may be a breach of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and be dealt with by the police include:
- unwanted phone calls, letters, emails or visits
- verbal abuse and threats
- smashing windows or using dogs to frighten tenants.
Letting agentsMany properties in London are let through agencies and agencies can vary in quality and service.
The National Association of Estate Agents has a list of registered letting agents and the National Approved Letting Scheme is an accreditation scheme for lettings and management agents.
Agencies should be clear and open about what they charge. Ask in advance about the fees you would be expected to pay. It is an offence for an agency to charge for registering with them or showing you a prospective list of available properties.
From 1 October 2014 all lettings agents now have to belong to one of the three government-approved letting agent redress schemes. The redress schemes provide a free, independent service for resolving disputes between agents and their customers. If you are unhappy with the way a letting agent has treated you, you should always complain to them first but if they are not dealing with your complaint satisfactorily you can use the relevant redress scheme to further your complaint.
Changes to legislation The Deregulation Act received Royal Assent on the 26 March 2015 and parts of the Act affecting tenants and landlords are starting to come into force.
Here is a brief summary of the housing legislation brought in by the Act.
There are changes in tenancy deposit regulations
The Deregulation Act states: If the deposit was received before 6 April 2007 and is held against a statutory periodic tenancy which also began before 6 April 2007 the Landlord is NOT required to protect the deposit under the Housing Act 2004, but from 26 March 2015, if the landlord wishes to gain possession of the property under section 21 Housing Act 1988, the deposit must be protected and prescribed information must be served before a valid section 21 notice may be issued. No financial penalty applies for late protection.
If the deposit was received before 6 April 2007 and is held against a statutory periodic tenancy which began after 6 April 2007 - unless the landlord has already done so, the landlord must protect the deposit in a tenancy deposit protection scheme. Landlords were given until 23 June 2015 to do this. Landlords need to issue prescribed information about the deposit protection to their tenants. If the deposit was received on or after 6 April 2007 and was correctly protected at the time, it does not need to be re-protected nor prescribed information served again on renewal (or at the start of the statutory periodic tenancy) as long as:
- the tenant(s), Landlord(s) and the premises remain the same
- and the deposit is held in the same scheme (individual schemes rules may vary within this).
Prescribed information can include details of a person representing the landlord. The Act confirms that where an agent has protected the deposit on behalf of the landlord, the agent’s contact details may be provided in place of the landlord’s.
From 1 October 2015 anti-retaliatory eviction laws have come into force which will dramatically affect how landlords can use section 21. Further changes to section 21 will see the introduction of a new prescribed form.
From 1 October 2015 the landlord must provide a new tenant with:
- a copy of the guide How to rent: The checklist for renting in England either via a link or as a printed copy
- a gas safety certificate, the landlord must provide one each year if there is a gas installation
- deposit paperwork
- the Energy Performance Certificate for the property
There is more information on the Government's website about the new section 21 guidelines and evictions.
The Government is proposing to widen the remit of HMO licensing.
Right to Rent checks will become mandatory from 1 February 2016. These mean that landlords will have to check that their tenants have a right to live in the UK and will ask to see documents to prove this.
How to contact the Tenancy Relations Service
Call Housingline on 020 7361 3008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The service can only help landlords, tenants and leaseholders in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.