Coronavirus update - Support & Advice for private tenants

In order to protect the health of tenants, landlords, council and letting agent staff we have made some changes to the service we provide.

The Private Sector Housing Team are carrying out more routine inspections. However, where we can, we will try to continue to resolve issues without the need to visit. We will ask to see photos and video evidence of any defects.

Where a property inspection is required we request your assistance and cooperation, to ensure that everyone remains safe. You may be asked to wait outside your property whilst the inspection is completed. You are encouraged  to open all of the windows of your property before the officers arrive and respect social distancing. The officers may be wearing masks during the inspection.

 If you need advice please contact us on 01926 456359 or email privatesectorhousing@warwickdc.gov.uk

Preventing homelessness

If you are feeling overwhelmed and at risk of eviction please contact the Housing Advice Team for assistance. You can call us 01926 456129 or email hadvicesupport@warwickdc.gov.uk

If you are worried about being unable to pay you rent, advice is available from specialist providers such as:

  • Shelter – 0808 800 4444 (8am to 8pm weekdays, 9am to 5pm on weekends)
  • Citizens Advice Bureau - 0300 330 1183 (10am to 3pm weekdays)
  • The Money Advice Service – 0800 138 7777 (8am to 6pm weekdays)

Financial support for tenants in private sector housing

Universal Credit

CAB have a Help to Claim service which can support you in the early stages of your Universal Credit claim, from the application through to your first payment. It’s free, independent, confidential and impartial.

They have online advice about claiming Universal Credit or you can contact an adviser through their free national Help to Claim phone service, 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday on 0800 144 8 444

Alternatively you can make your application directly online.

If you qualify for universal credit you can request an advance payment to give you access to funds straight away.

Council Tax Reduction

If you have savings of less than £16,000 and you pay council tax you may be entitled to a reduction, by applying to Warwick District Council.

The application will be assessed by taking into account your income and capital. The amount of reduction that you may receive will depend on your circumstances and how much council tax you pay. For further information and advice visit our website for the online entitlement calculator and application form

Discretionary Housing Payment

The amount awarded for the housing element of Universal Credit may not always cover the full rent, that you need to pay. If you are struggling to pay the rent and in need of temporary help, Discretionary Housing Payment could be available to cover the shortfall between your benefits and rent.

If you are in receipt of Universal Credit you would need to make an application for Discretionary Housing Payment to Warwick District Council. Each application is considered on its own individual circumstances, and in particular the effect the shortfall in the housing element of universal credit would have on the household.  For further information and the application form, visit our benefits section.

Private tenants

If you are renting or thinking of renting a privately owned property the Private Sector Housing team can advise you on:

Looking for privately rented accommodation

You can search for privately rented property in a variety of ways:

  • Visiting lettings agents
  • Searching websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla
  • Looking for single rooms in shared houses on Spareroom.com
  • In the local paper
  • On social media groups

The guide How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England will explain what you can expect and some considerations when signing up for a property.

Tenant fees banned

Landlords and agents are banned from charging the following fees; application fee, inventory fee, guarantor fee, credit check fee, referencing fee and fees for services such as gardening and cleaning. These fees have been made illegal in any form. Landlords are prohibited from taking higher initial rents to cover these charges.

The deposit a landlord or agent can ask for is capped at 5 weeks rent. If a landlord initially takes a holding deposit, this is capped at 1 weeks rent.

Landlords and Agents are allowed to take a charge where a tenant has defaulted on the tenancy agreement e.g. late payment of rent or for replacement keys. These costs however must be reasonable and evidenced with receipts. Landlords/Agents may also make a charge of £50 to amend the tenancy agreement if requested by the tenant.

Renting a safe property

The guide ‘How to rent a safe home’ explains some of the responsibilities your landlord has in maintaining the property and some of the hazards to watch out for. If you have reported disrepair to your landlord and they have not taken any action, contact the Private Sector Housing Team for further advice. If we have Health and Safety concerns, we may be able to visit the property to complete an inspection.

We never advise tenants to withhold rent due to repairs.

If your property has a gas supply and you believe the landlord has not completed the yearly gas safety check, you can report this to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) online. The HSE are the enforcement authority for gas safety.

Tenancy Agreement

This usually specifies who the tenants and landlord/s are, the term of the letting and sets out the rules for both parties. It is not currently a legal requirement to have a tenancy agreement, however it is strongly recommended.

It is a legal contract, read it carefully before signing it.

If you do not have a tenancy agreement, don’t worry, this does not mean that you aren’t a tenant or have tenants’ rights providing you have been paying rent and have exclusive occupation of the property. If the fixed term of your tenancy has ended, you are still a tenant and the rules in the agreement still apply.

Deposits

If you are a tenant with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (this does not include licensees or lodgers), your deposit must be protected by the landlord/agent within 30 days of them receiving the money. If they do not, then a tenant can take legal action to claim up to 3x value of the deposit as compensation via the courts. If a landlord does not protect the deposit, a landlord cannot use section 21 to evict you. At the end of the tenancy if the landlord and tenant are in dispute about any deductions, the tenant should contact the deposit scheme holding the monies to raise a dispute. For more information on deposits, see the shelter website.

Access by the landlord and contractors

We are frequently contacted by landlords and tenants who are having disagreements regarding access. Your landlord should give you 24 hours written notice that they intend to visit, if it is not convenient you can reschedule this with the landlord. The landlord or their contractors should not visit unannounced and are not allowed to enter the property without the tenants permission.

It is good practice for Landlords to visit and inspect the property to check the property condition. It is recommended that where possible, tenants should make themselves available and not unreasonably prevent access.

Eviction

Landlords must follow a specific legal process in order to gain possession of their properties. If your landlord has indicated they will be seeking to evict you, or you have been served an eviction notice and you do not have alternative accommodation you should contact the Housing Advice Team, 01926 456129, housing.advice@warwickdc.gov.uk as soon as possible for advice.

If a landlord does not follow this process or excludes you from the property unlawfully, contact Private Sector Housing on 01926 456359.

Your requirements as a tenant

There is a full guide to private renting available to help tenants understand their rights and responsibilities. It is important to build a good working relationship with your landlord as during your tenancy problems may arise such as repair issues and accidental damage. Your landlord will need access to the property periodically to conduct inspections.

Tenants’ rights in privately rented accommodation

For more comprehensive information on tenants’ rights, see the Shelter website or contact the Private Sector Housing Team if you have a specific query.

Landlords requirements

The landlord should:

  • Allow you quiet enjoyment of your property;
  • Not act in a manner that could be seen as harassment;
  • Protect your deposit within 30 days of paying it and issue you with details of the deposit scheme they use;
  • Be able to show you an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), a valid gas safety certificate, periodic inspection report for the electrics and proof of PAT testing for any electrical items in the property;
  • Maintain the standard of the property and attend to repairs;
  • Follow the correct legal procedure if they want you to leave their property.

Your landlord should give you at least 24 hours written notice if they intend to visit and this should be at a mutually acceptable time.

Financial difficulties

If you are experiencing financial difficulties and are unsure if you can afford your rent you should initially discuss the matter with your landlord and urgently seek advice  from an agency such as Citizens Advice Bureau for budgeting help and a benefit entitlement check.

It is important to seek help before rent arrears occur as this can result in your eviction. If you are evicted from a property it can be very difficult to privately rent in the future. Many housing associations also now look at previous rent arrears before considering tenants.

Contact Us

If you have any concerns regarding your tenancy or issues with your landlord or agent, please contact the Private Sector Housing Team for assistance.

Telephone 01926 456359 or e mail privatesectorhousing@warwickdc.gov.uk