Landlord toolkit

Friday 17-04-2020 - 13:32
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Landlord Toolkit

Lobby your landlord.

We know that many of you have had to move out of your private rented accommodation, leaving rooms across Oxford empty, or are struggling to pay rent because of job-losses. These pages provide you with information about your rights as a tenant, and some tips for negotiating early release of your tenancy or rent reductions.

Daisy, your VP Wellbeing has written to the major letting agents in Oxford asking them to support you during this crisis. You can read this letter here. If you are negotiating with your landlord, you might want to start by sending them a copy of this letter.

We have also put together some extended FAQs and a template letter you can download, amend, and send to your landlord. You can download the template letter here.

Sean, the Independent Chair and Trustee has also put together this very helpful guide on being a tenant.

Immediate support

Brookes University has invested £1.2m in financial aid to support students during the pandemic. You can access this financial aid if you are struggling to make your rent payments, and they are fast-tracking applications related to coronavirus.

Brookes Union Advice Service is still open; make a phone appointment with an Adviser and they will be able to talk you through your housing contract and what options might be available to you.

How To Lobby Your Landlord

The government is encouraging tenants and landlords to negotiate and find mutually agreeable solutions. The best place to start is by asking your landlord nicely if you can end your contract early without penalty for you or any other housemates, even if some of you are staying.

Like all lobbying, this works better if you and your housemates are working together to get an outcome which works for you all. Things get a bit complicated if your contract covers everyone in the house, not just you as an individual (joint tenancy). If the contract is for the whole house, and only you have left, you will need to speak to your housemates to either all agree or try and lobby your landlord to let you out of the contract only. Whatever you do, make sure that the landlord doesn’t transfer all of the costs to the other housemates.

If that doesn't work, here are some hints and tips:

  1. Check your contract

    Hopefully, you all have a copy of your contract saved. If you don’t, you should email your letting agent or landlord for a copy immediately! Most likely, you are part-way through a 12 or 24 month contract, it is very difficult to get out of a contract which has already started, however there are some instances where tenants are able to end a contract early. Ask an Adviser to help you with your contract, or look for the following terms:

    • Break Clause: if you have a break clause in your contract, and you are within the timings outlined in it (normally half way) then you can simply ask your landlord to break the contract early.
    • Force Majeure: Some tenancy agreements have a “Force Majeure” clause. 'Force Majeure' means an event or sequence of events - beyond a party's reasonable control - preventing or delaying it from performing its obligations under the Agreement. If you have this in your contract, it's worth attempting to use this as a reason to end the contract, particularly if you can’t access the property or if the landlord has failed to make repairs or other upkeep.
  2. Check Where your Deposit is Being Held

    Your landlord is required by law to register your deposit in a Government approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme, and must provide you with information about which company it has been registered with. Check whether your deposit has been kept in one of these schemes and if it hasn’t, remind your landlord that you can take legal action, which may result in financial penalties. If your landlord has not notified you in writing that they protected your deposit within 30 days of you paying it, you may be able to take legal action.

  3. Ask for a Payment Plan

    If you genuinely can’t pay your rent but you are staying in Oxford, ask your Landlord to negotiate a payment plan with you. This could either be a reduction in rent costs (50% or so) or a longer payment plan over a longer period (i.e. you would still owe after you have moved out). Remind your landlord that the Government has issued guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. The government is offering landlords a 3 month mortgage holiday on buy-to-rent mortgages and therefore unless they are renting purely for profit, they should be able to offer you reduced rent for a period.

  4. Rent Strike - but be aware of the consequences!

    • If you stop paying your rent, the landlord may take action to get the rent from you, or from your guarantor if you have one. They may take some of this money from your deposit. If the amount you owe them exceeds your deposit, they may write to you to formally request the money. You might be charged interest on the amount owing which should not exceed 3% above the bank of England base Rate. If you still don’t pay, they may start a court claim against you.
    • If your landlord starts court action against you for unpaid rent, this is not a criminal trial or a criminal offence, and you won’t get a criminal record. You will be asked to attend court, and if you don't attend the hearing will go ahead in your absence. If the judge decides you should have paid the money, you will be asked to pay it as part of the judgement. You may also be asked to pay the landlord's court costs.
    • If you still don’t pay the money after the court has decided you should, you may receive a further judgement that can negatively affect your credit rating in the UK. This may make it difficult for you to borrow money or pass reference checks for rented accommodation in the UK in the future.
    • Between 26 March 2020 and 26 September 2020, your landlord must give you three months’ notice before issuing you with an eviction notice.
    • Government has made it clear that your landlord should be working with you to come up with a realistic payment plan where the tenant has told them that they are struggling to pay rent. If your landlord has refused, its likely that the court will not look favourably on that.

Let us know!

We’re collecting and distributing information about how different landlords have responded to this situation. Let us know your experience and we will publish the results.

Tell us about your experience here.

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