Tenants who rent from private landlords have notoriously few legal protections in the UK compared to other countries.
We asked the the charity Citizen's Advice what landlords were allowed to get away with and where the law could be stronger.
As it turns out, landlords don't have to:
Have their homes regularly inspected to make sure they're safe
While your home has to meet certain safety standards, there is no pro-active inspection regime to make sure that landlords actually comply with the rules they are supposed to, Citizen’s Advice says.
A recent study by the charity found that 740,000 privately rented home across England contained serious risks to health including severe damp, rat infestations, and risks of explosion.
Partly as a result of the lax inspection regime, privately rented homes tend to be less safe than council or housing associations ones: 16 per cent have one of the most serious ‘category 1’ safety hazards, compared to only 6 per cent of socially rented homes.
Give tenants their money back if their house is unsafe
When most people buy a faulty product they expect to be able to get their money back. This principle is enshrined in consumer law in Britain.
But rented houses are exempt from these rules: if your landlord rents you an unsafe house they have no obligation to give you any refund at all, no matter how long they take to fix the problem or no matter how much of a misery it makes your life.
According to 2013 research by the home repairs firm Homeserve, a quarter of a million tenants nationwide are taking matters into their own hands and withholding rent from landlords who fail to fix problems in good time.
With the rules written in landlords’ favour, however, these tenants are running the risk of eviction by not paying their rent.
Give their tenants long-term security
It’s perfectly legal for landlords to give tenants a contract as short as six-month long, no matter how long they’ve lived in their home.
The insecurity these lax laws bring can make it difficult to raise a family.
The National Landlord Association’s own tenant index found that over a third of tenants were not at ease with the impact of renting on their family life.
Keep tenants in the loop about whether their home will be repossessed
It’s legal for landlords to withhold their mortgage provider details from tenants. In practice, Citizen’s Advice says, this makes it difficult for the people who actually live in the house to get adequate notice about whether their home is about to be repossessed by the bank.
When this happens it generally results in people who live in the house being thrown out.
Give low-income families a fair chanceIt’s completely legal for landlords to discriminate against tenants who rely on housing benefit or other local authority support to rent, Citizens Advice says.
The people affected by this normally have jobs – the vast majority of housing benefit claimants are actually in work.
But with a shortage of council housing in many areas many low income working families are forced into the private sector. When they’re there, it’s perfectly legal for them to be treated differently to tenants without support.
Have any idea what they’re doing
Landlords don’t need to have “any training on the law around letting or be aware of what their landlord obligations are”, according to Citizen’s Advice.
This means that anyone who happens to own an extra house for any reason can start renting it out, and they can (and sometimes do) make a complete mess of it. Good luck!