Housing Advice

Housing Advice

This section of the website provides useful information regarding your rights as a tenant and other information covering housing advice issues.

We have put together a list of the most frequently asked questions and provided the answers.

If you need help or advice the Council operates a free housing advice service. We advise tenants to contact the Council as soon as possible for advice and an appointment.

Remember the sooner you contact us the more time we have to try and resolve the problem.

You can contact the housing advice section for an appointment by telephoning 01253 658658 or call into Fylde Direct One Stop Shop on Clifton Drive North St Annes and a member of staff can make an appointment for you.

What is a tenancy agreement?

  • It is an agreement that should clearly set out tenant and landlord responsibilities
  •  It must be clearly written and free of unnecessary jargon
  • Check the type of tenancy, usually they are short term assured tenancies running for 6-12 months
  • Once signed, the tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract. The tenant is responsible for the remaining rent if they leave the property before the end of the agreement, unless the contract permits otherwise.
  • Always ensure you are given a copy of the tenancy agreement.

Most Landlords let on an assured shorthold tenancy and it is the usual form of letting if:

  • You are a private tenant and your landlord is a private landlord
  • The property is let as a separate accommodation and is your main home
  • An assured shorthold tenancy has a minimum initial fixed term of six months.

What is the basic information that should be contained within the tenancy agreement?
Make sure this minimum information is contained within your agreement before you sign:
 The landlords name
 The tenants name
 Address of the property to be let
 Duration of the tenancy
 Amount of rent payable
 Date rent is payable
 How rent is to be paid
 The rent review arrangements
 Who is liable to pay gas, electric, water and council tax bills
 Amount of deposit payable
 How and when the deposit is to be paid

What is a tenancy deposit scheme?
From 6th April 2007 when you pay a deposit your landlord or agent must protect it using a government authorised tenancy deposit scheme.

The three tenancy deposit schemes are
Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd – www.mydeposits.co.uk
The tenancy deposit scheme – www.tds.gb.com
The deposit protection service – www.despositprotection.com

At the beginning of a new tenancy agreement, pay your deposit to your landlord or agent as usual. Within 14 days, the landlord or agent is required to give you details about how your deposit is protected including
 The contact details of the scheme
 The contact details for your landlord or agent
 How to apply for the release of the deposit
 Information explaining the purpose of the deposit
 What to do if there is a dispute about the deposit
If you don’t get this information ask your landlord or agent the simple question – ‘how is my deposit protected?’

You have a responsibility to return the property in the same condition that it was let to you, allowing for fair wear and tear.

If your landlord or agent has not protected your deposit you can apply to your local county court. The court can order the landlord or agent either to repay the deposit to you or protect it in a scheme. If your landlord or agent has not protected your deposit, they will be ordered to repay three times the amount of the deposit to you.

Moving out – at the end of the tenancy check whether you are leaving the property and its contents in the condition it was let to you. Check that you have paid your rent and any other expenses. Then agree with your landlord or agent how much of the deposit should be returned to you.

Within 10 days – you should have received the agreed amount of the deposit.

When moving out if your landlord or agent can’t agree how much of your deposit should be returned, there will be a free service offered by the scheme protecting your deposit to help resolve your dispute.

Your landlord cannot give notice that he is repossessing the property at the end of the tenancy until he has protected the deposit and told you how it is protected.

As a tenant what am I responsible for?
 Make sure you follow all anti-social behaviour laws and do not create a nuisance
 Bills for gas, electricity, telephone etc, if this as been agreed with the landlord
 In most cases paying the council tax, water and sewerage charges
 Paying rent as agreed
 Taking proper care of the property
 Allowing the landlord reasonable time to carry out repairs
 Providing access to the property for the landlord if a reasonable period of notice has been given
 Given the required notice, specified in the tenancy agreement, to end your tenancy.

What is the Landlord responsible for?
 Repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, heating, utility supplies, basins, sinks, baths and toilets.
 The safety of gas and electrical appliances
 The fire safety of furniture and furnishings provided under the tenancy
 A landlord must provide a property tenancy agreement, detailing how and when the rent is to be paid. Rent levels can be increased in allowed for in the tenancy agreement.
 If rent is to be paid weekly, a rent book must be provided

When can I be asked to leave?
The landlord can ask you to leave at any time after 6 months provided any fix term you agreed has ended. He must give you 2 months notice in writing that he wants you to leave, unless the landlord has reason to seek possession earlier. The grounds for possession before the end of the fixed term are set out in law, e.g. rent arrears, nuisance, or damage to property or contents.

The landlord cannot force you to leave, but may apply to a court for a possession order. If you do not leave by the date set by the order, the landlord may apply to the Court for a warrant for eviction. The Court will then appoint bailiffs to evict you.

My landlord has told me verbally today that I have to leave is this right?
No. If the landlord wants you to leave they must give you at least 2 months notice in writing.
The landlord can ask you to leave at any time after 6 months provided any fix term you agreed has ended. He must give you 2 months notice in writing that he wants you to leave, unless the landlord has reason to seek possession earlier. The grounds for possession before the end of the fixed term are set out in law, e.g. rent arrears, nuisance, or damage to property or contents.

The landlord cannot force you to leave, but may apply to a court for a possession order. If you do not leave by the date set by the order, the landlord may apply to the Court for a warrant for eviction. The Court will then appoint bailiffs to evict you.

I have been served a notice to leave what do I need to do?
The Housing Advice officer here at the Council can check to see if the notice is valid and has been served correctly.
You can make an appointment by ringing 01253 658658.
You will need to bring to your appointment a copy of the notice and a copy of your tenancy agreement.
We need to see you as soon as you get the notice so we can advise on your housing options.

What is illegal eviction?
This is where the Landlord has either changed the locks, or has physically thrown the tenant out. This is illegal as the landlord must follow the correct legal procedures. In most cases the tenant will have the right not to be evicted from their accommodation until the landlord has first obtained a formal possession order from the County Court.

In general, tenants will be first served with a written notices from the landlord informing them that the tenancy is to be brought to an end. In most cases this notice period is 2 months. Unless you leave the accommodation voluntarily, the landlord will then apply to the County Court for a possession order.

If your landlord is threatening to evict or you cannot gain entry to your property contact the Housing Advice Officer at Fylde Borough Council for immediate help and assistance.

My tenancy has run out do I have to leave?
If you have a 6 month or a 12 month tenancy you can continue to stay on even at the end of the period. If the landlord wants you to leave, they must give you at least 2 months notice in writing. They could give you this right at the start of the tenancy. After that, you are still entitled to stay until they obtain an order from the court.

I am in rent arrears and the landlord has asked me to leave, what next?
Even if you are working or have savings of up to £16,000 you may be entitled to help with your rent by claiming Local Housing Allowance. You can claim this from Fylde Borough Council ring 01253 658658 to request a form.

You might also be able to claim a discretionary housing payment to assist with the arrears. You can request an application form at the Fylde Borough Council One Stop Shop Office.

You should try and pay your rent plus a regular amount towards the rent arrears as soon as possible. Don’t panic and don’t ignore the situation. The sooner you talk to someone the sooner the situation can be sorted out.

For debt advice you can contact Fylde Citizens Advice Bureau at Kirkham on 01722 682588. You can also make an appointment with the Housing Advice Officer who can help you decide what amount of money you can pay towards your rent arrears and perhaps try to negotiate a payment plan with the landlord.

If you are more than 2 months in arrears the Landlord is entitled to serve you with a notice seeking possession in writing giving you at least 2 weeks notice. Following this period the Landlord has to apply to court for a court order before you need to leave. You should seek advice as the landlord may be entitled to an order for possession and you may incur additional costs.

What is Local housing Allowance?
The Local Housing Allowance scheme will run alongside the current Housing Benefit Scheme. Existing claimants will continue on the current scheme until they change address (even if this is to different accommodation within the same building) or they have a break in their claim of one week or more before claiming again.
Existing claimants may wish to find out whether they would be better off or worse off under the LHA scheme when considering any potential change to their address. Any person who has not claimed housing benefit before will, if they claim on or after 7th April 2008, be paid under the LHA scheme.
Local Housing Allowance will not apply to you if:
• Your landlord is a registered social landlord, for example a housing association registered with the Housing Corporation
• You live in supported accommodation, provided by a social landlord, charity or voluntary organisation
• You live in a caravan/mobile home, houseboat or hostel
• You live in accommodation where a substantial part of your rent is attributable to board and attendance
• Your rent has been registered as a fair rent, or
• Your tenancy began before 15th January 1989.

The link Local Housing Allowance to the right of this page will take you to the relevant pages on the Council website.

My Landlord wants to increase the rent can he/she do this?
First check what it says in your tenancy agreement, as this is what you have legally agreed to. If there is nothing written then you don’t have to agree to an increase unless the Landlord follows a set procedure. The Landlord can only put up the rent at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy if they use a special form and give you 4 weeks notice of the increase. Don’t sign a new tenancy yet, as you will lose your right to query the increase.

Before the 4 weeks runs out, you can apply to the Rent Assessment Committee in Manchester to decide whether the proposed increase is reasonable. Use the rent assessment committee link to the right of this page to take you to the website.

I think I am being harassed by my Landlord what can I do?
Harassment is a criminal offence. The law says that harassment means ayhting done by your landlord or someone acting on their behalf to force you to give up where you live. Harassment can also be something which interferes with your peace and comfort which you are entitled to whilst living in the property.

Harassment takes many forms. Some typical examples include:
 Unannounced visits
 Phone calls at unsociable hours
 Disconnection or services i.e. gas/electricity/water
 Threats of eviction due to rent arrears caused by delays in processing housing benefit claims
 The landlord fails to fulfil their repairing obligations to the property
 Landlord going into rooms without permission when the tenant is out of the property

Harassment is notoriously difficult to prove, tenants who are experiencing problems should always:
 Keep a diary of events, photographs etc detailing all events that take place.
 Keep notes, names, addresses, telephone numbers and reference numbers of all incidents that have been reported to the various agencies.
 Keep copies of all correspondence to and from the landlord or their agent
 Keep notes of all telephone conversations/meetings with the landlord or their agent
 Take descriptions of all people that visit the property
 Try and have someone with you when you deal with or see the landlord, for both support and as a witness.
 If you believe that the landlord or their agent may injure you or damage your property, contact the local police station and explain the problem.

Keeping a detailed diary of events is important as it will assist your case should you decide to take legal action against your landlord or their agent at a later date.

The Council can prosecute landlords who harass or illegally evict their tenants. Landlords can be fined up to £5,000 and/or imprisoned for 6 months. In addition tenants may also be able to claim compensation.

Tenants who are faced with harassment or whose landlord is illegally forcing them to move out, can contact Housing Services on 01253 658658.

My flat/house needs repairs but the Landlord has refused to do them.
The law requires a landlord to carry out repairs to the building, including keeping the property free from dampness.

How much notice should my landlord give me if he wishes to inspect the property to carry out repairs?
You should be given at least 24 hours notice that your landlord or agent intent to inspect the property or to carry out works. If it is genuine emergency e.g. burst pipe, your landlord or agent may enter without notice.

How much time should I give my Landlord to carry out repairs?
It would not be reasonable to expect your landlord to carry out repairs immediately or even within 48 hours depending on the severity of the hazard created by the disrepair. You must allow a reasonable time period, and cooperate with regard to access to enable estimates to be obtained.

For example if your boiler is not working and you are without hot water and/or heating a period of 1-2 weeks should be adequate to enable your landlord to provide you with start and completion date, if not complete the repairs.

Electrical safety – how do I know the Landlord is complying with the regulations?
As a minimum electrical wiring, switches, sockets and all supplied electrical equipment must be safe and in good working order. From the 1st January 2005 the design, installation, inspection and testing of electrical installations will be controlled under the Building Regulations. All work must be carried out by persons who are competent to do the work.

Your landlord will know how old the property’s electrical wiring is and his/her approved electricians report will recommend how often the electrics should be re-inspected. If electrical equipment is supplied, then it must be safe.

Gas safety – how do I know the Landlord is complying with the regulations?
Under the Gas Safety (installation and use) Regulations 1994, every landlord must ensure that gas appliances and flues they provide for their tenant to use are maintained in a safe condition.

The regulations require the landlord to carry out an annual gas safety check on installations, appliances, and flues within the rented accommodation. Landlords must keep written records of all safety checks and must make copies available to tenants. Landlords must ensure all of the equipment that they supply with the property is safe to use, but most importantly they must provide enough information for the safe use of all gas appliances, especially boilers.

If the tenants own a gas appliance they are responsible for its maintenance. The landlord is responsible for the maintenance of its installation pipe work.

If an agent manages the property, the landlord must be clear as to who is responsible for the maintenance of gas appliances. The agreement must be put in writing.

If the law is broken the Health and Safety Executive are responsible for taking further enforcement action.