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Dealing with rent problems - if you rent privately

If you rent your house or flat, someone else owns it but it is your home, and you have the right to be fairly treated by your landlord. This film looks at some common questions and concerns that private tennants have.

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What if I can't afford the deposit?

What if I can't afford the deposit?

Before you move in, you'll probably have to pay a deposit on a house or flat,

usually the same as one month's rent.

Sometimes it is difficult to afford, but if you can't afford it, you may be able to use a deposit scheme.

There are two basic types of deposit scheme:

- Some provide a guarantee that your landlord will be paid any money you owe when you leave the flat.

If the scheme has to pay the landlord for damage you've caused,

then you will have to pay the money back to the scheme.

- Some are loan schemes run by councils, housing associations or charities.

To find out about deposit schemes in your area, ask your local council, or contact Shelter.

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Can my landlord throw me out?

Can my landlord throw me out?

A landlord usually can't evict you (throw you out of your home) without warning.

If they want you to leave, they must follow a set procedure,

which includes giving you written notice telling you when you must go (the notice period).

Even if you do not leave by this time, the landlord must usually go through a procedure

called 'possession proceedings' before they can evict you.

The exact procedure your landlord must follow, including how much notice that they must give you

depends on the type of tenancy you have. It also depends on why the landlord wants you to leave.

For example, the procedure is different if they want you to leave because you haven't paid your rent

rather than if they want to move back into the house or flat themselves.

In most cases, your landlord needs an order from the court before they can evict you.

If they evict you without following the right legal procedure, they could be breaking the law.

If your landlord threatens to make you leave, or if you receive a notice to leave,

get advice straight away.

The sooner you seek advice, the easier it will be to help you.

The best places to start are either Shelter or Gurkha Free Legal Advice.

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What if I have difficulty paying my rent?

What if I have difficulty paying my rent?

If you're having difficulty paying your rent, don't just ignore the problem because the debt will get bigger.

If you stop paying rent, you could be evicted.

Try and talk to your landlord and ask them to accept a smaller amount until you can pay everything you owe.

Your landlord may not be happy with accepting less rent, but if they refuse they may find it harder to evict you.

If you're on a low income, you could claim Housing Benefit, which helps with your rent.

To find out whether you might be able to receive this, and how to apply,

contact your local housing advice centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you already receive Housing Benefit, an advice centre will be able to check

that you are getting the right amount. You'll find the number and address

of your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau in the phone book.

You can find out about other advice centres near you from Shelter.

If you owe money to lots of people, get advice about how to deal with your debts.

The National Debtline, Consumer Credit Counselling Service and Gurkha Free Legal Advice

can all help you work out how to get your debts under control.

Their phone numbers are at the end of this programme.

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When can my landlord come in to my home?

When can my landlord come into my home?

In most cases, landlords can't just come into your home when they want -

they should let you know they want to visit, and arrange a time that is suitable for you.

Your tenancy agreement may say how much notice they should give you.

If your landlord comes into your home without your permission, tell them to stop.

If they don't stop, it could be considered harassment, which is against the law.

If this happens to you, speak to Shelter or your local Citizens Advice Bureau about what steps you can take.

For example, depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have, you might be able to change the locks.

If you share some of the building with your landlord,

you have different rights than if you have the flat or house to yourself.

If you're having problems with your landlord, get advice from Shelter or your local Ctizens Advice Bureau.

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My home is damp and my things have been damaged. What can I do?

My home is damp and my things have been damaged - what can I do?

Your landlord is normally responsible for repairing problems with your home

(unless you caused them)

You should tell your landlord about things that need fixing as soon as possible -

it's a good idea to write them a letter and keep a copy so you have proof that you have asked them.

Damp can be a difficult problem, because it may be due to a problem with the building

that can't easily be fixed, or maybe there's not enough ventilation.

If the damp can be fixed, you might be able to get the landlord to pay to

replace or repair your damaged things, but this will depend on the circumstances.

If your landlord won't fix the problem, you could take several possible steps.

These include getting a court order or getting the repairs done yourself

and taking the cost out of your rent. But the best action to take depends

on the circumstances, and also the type of tenancy agreement you have.

Don't take any of these steps before getting advice, because you might make the situation worse.

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What if my landlord won't give my deposit back?

What if my landlord won't give my deposit back?

If you have taken out or renewed your tenancy on or after 6 April 2007,

getting your deposit back should be fairly easy.

Under a new law, landlords must place deposits with an

independent government authorized tenancy deposit scheme.

If your landlord wants to keep your deposit, contact the scheme.

It will consider your and your landlord's arguments, and decide whether or how much you should get back.

The new law applies to deposits taken since 6 April 2007 for the most common type

of private tenancy (known as an 'assured shorthold tenancy').

Your landlord must give you the name and contact details of the scheme they have placed your deposit with.

If you paid your deposit before this date, the situation may be more difficult.

If your landlord won't give your deposit back, first try to talk with them.

Write to them asking how much they are keeping and exactly what it is for.

If they reply, check whether what they are saying is correct and fair.

If talking doesn't help, you can take court action using the small claims procedure

(if the amount is less than 5,000 pounds).

To do this won't cost you much, and you don't need a solicitor.

You may not even have to go to court: sometimes the threat of court action is enough to make the landlord pay up.

For guidance on how to use the small claims procedure, see the website

of the Courts Service or speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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How can I leave a shared house or flat?

How can I leave a shared house or flat?

This depends on your tenancy agreement.

If the agreement is only in the names of the other people in the house,

there's nothing to stop you leaving (though of course you should give them notice).

However, if your name is on the tenancy agreement with your housemates' names,

you and your housemates will all still be legally responsible for the rent

for as long as the tenancy agreement lasts.

So you should give the landlord notice to end the tenancy.

But you should let your housemates talk about a new tenancy agreement with the landlord first.

Otherwise, giving notice will normally end the tenancy agreement for everyone

(unless it's a 'fixed-term' agreement).

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My neighbours are so noisy I can't sleep. What can I do?

'My neighbours are so noisy I can't sleep - what can I do?'

If noisy neighbours keep disturbing you, and talking to them about the problem has not worked,

you should contact the environmental health officer at your local council.

They can serve an 'abatement' notice to make the neighbours stop the noise.

In some cases, if they don't stop, the council can take away equipment (such as a stereo system).

If this doesn't work, you could go to the county court to get an injunction to stop the noise.

For more about dealing with problems with neighbours, you can download

the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflet 'Neighbourhood and Community Disputes'

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Where can I get help and advice?

Where can I get help and advice?

Gurkha Free Legal Advice

For more about your rights as tenant, Gurkha Free Legal Advice has an online leaflet,

Renting and Letting: your legal rights, with more information about what your landlord

must do for you, what they shouldn't do, and what you can do

if you have problems with them. You can download a copy from the website.

Gurkha Free Legal Advice also has Housing, Debt and Benefits advisors who can give you advice over the phone.

Shelter

Shelter, the housing charity, can help with most kinds of housing problem. It offers advice and help through:

- a free helpline, open every day from 8am to midnight;

- the Shelter website, which has information and advice on your rights, plus guidance on how to solve housing problems;

- a network of local Housing Aid Centres.

If you need help dealing with money problems

there are several organisations that can give you free, confidential and independent advice:

- National Debtline

- Consumer Credit Counselling Service:

- Gurkha Free Legal Advice:

- Citizens Advice: (CAB) your nearest citizens advice bureau is listed in the phone book, or you can check the Citizens Advice website

Her Majesty's Courts Service

The website of Her Majesty's Courts Service has useful information,

including leaflets you can download, on how to use the small claims court,

which you may need to consider if your landlord won't give back your deposit.

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