What Landlords Can’t Do (But Often Do Anyways)

Criminal

Needless to say, every landlord should be aware of their rights, which includes the things they can do and can’t do. However, the bullshit reality is that thousands of operational landlords are acting in accordance to their own scraggly little rule book, which is usually very different to the only rule book that should matter matters- the law.

The aim of this blog post is to cover some of the things landlords can’t do, or to put more accurately, things landlord aren’t permitted to do by law (but often do anyways). Many of the breaches, despite how seemingly ‘obvious’ and heavily documented, are still, sadly, ignored.

While the law isn’t always being broken intentionally (which isn’t a defence by any means, but it’s still better than any malicious alternative), there is an undeniable truth about cockroach landlords crossing the line even though they know better, and that’s because many of them rely on the ignorance of tenants to escape consequences. Unfortunately, it’s a gamble most landlords win.

It’s like, when we go to a crocked mechanic; due to our utter ignorance, we’re all at the mercy of the crap they say: “Yeah, you need to replace the engine because it’s about to blow up. The thingy-ma-jig is causing the pistons to jam, and it’s flooding out the engine. You’re lucky to be alive!”

“Errr…huh? I only came in to change my window wiper. So how much is a new engine going to cost me?”

Many landlords operate on the very same scathing level (and this is coming from a landlord!). But what many of those blaggers don’t realise is that providing bad service and disregarding the law is bad business. Not only because crossing the line makes them a potential target for persecution (all it takes is one tenant with a bit of sense and will), but also because it increases the chances of creating a hostile relationship between landlord and tenant (which is never good!).

While this blog post will be useful for tenants researching their rights on a particular matter, I’m hoping it will gain greater attention from landlords, because even if I stop one landlord in his/her tracks of crossing over to the darkside, I’ll consider this a victory. JUST ONE MEASLY LANDLORD!

The following of “cant do’s” is in no shape or form an exhaustive list, but it does cover many of the breaches I hear being committed on a daily freaking basis!

What Landlords can’t do (but often do anyways)

Enter property without permission

Oh, yeah. This is a whooper alright. Perhaps the most misunderstood/neglected “can’t do” out of the filthy lot.

To be put simply, a tenant has a statutory right to “live in quiet enjoyment“, that means:

  • A landlord/agent cannot turn up at the property announced unless there is an emergency e.g. fire.
  • A landlord/agent cannot ‘force entry’ into the property (i.e. enter without permission)
  • A landlord/agent should give at least 24 hours written notice if they wish to enter the property, but even then, the tenant has the right to refuse if it’s not convenient.
  • Even if it there is a clause in the tenancy agreement that permits access, the tenant’s statutory right to live in quiet enjoyment will supersede that clause.

BOOM!

One of the most common scenarios is when landlords/letting agents let themselves into a property announced to conduct viewings. Yeah, that’s not allowed.

Excessively contact tenant (when the tenant is in arrears)

I put “when the tenant is in arrears” in brackets because that’s one of the most common reasons for why landlords transition into “stalker” mode. But it’s not exclusive to that rule; it could quite easily apply if a landlord excessively contacts a tenant to inform them of a rent reduction. I mean, there’s a better chance of monkeys launching out of my ass, but you get my point.

Without realising, many landlords make a bad situation worse by giving their tenant a potential counter-claim for harassment by over-doing the ‘chasing’. It’s amazing how quickly a tenant can turn the situation around. I’d even go as far as to say it’s unfair, but it is what it is.

I get it, when a tenant is in arrears, it’s tempting to call/text the tenant continually (until the situation is resolved), especially when the tenant is not being responsive. But there is a genuine argument for harassment when a landlord starts calling/texting all day, every day, and especially when threats are made.

Act professionally when communicating, and don’t act with emotions.

Change the door locks

Nope, the landlord cannot change the locks, even if the tenant is in breach of contract i.e. in rent arrears.

The only time a landlord can change the locks is when a tenancy agreement is legally terminated, or if granted by a Judge.

Discriminate

According to GOV.uk, it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:

  • age
  • being or becoming a transsexual person
  • being married or in a civil partnership
  • being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • disability
  • race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

They are called ‘protected characteristics’, and tenants cannot be discriminated against for the above reasons. However, on a sidenote, that does not mean landlords can’t ‘lawfully discriminate’. For example, it’s perfectly reasonable for landlords to discriminate against a prospective tenant if they can’t afford the rent, or has horrendous credit history. In fact, according to this article on Landlord Law, “you can ‘discriminate’ against anyone, for whatever you like, so long as it is not in respect of one of the ‘protected characteristics’.”

Does a prospective tenant smell like a rotten cabbage during a viewing? Sure, go ahead, discriminate the crap out of them.

Refuse to make essential repairs

I frequently hear frightening stories of how tenants have gone several months without hot water and/or heat! Unless the landlord has an incredibly believable story to defend why that’s the case, that shit won’t fly!

The law, that is, section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, covers the legal obligation a landlord has to carry out basic repairs. Generally, it means that the landlord is responsible for keeping the following in repair and proper working order:

  • a) the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes)
  • b) the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
  • c) the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.

Oh, and no, even the tenant is in arrears, or even if the tenant smells like he hasn’t used the shower/hot water a day in his life, the landlord is still obligated to make the essential repairs. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying.

More deet’s right over here.

Not secure the tenancy deposit

Securing a tenant’s deposit is probably the most discussed ‘to-do’- it’s literally the first thing you learn at ‘landlord school for dummies’! So I’m always baffled when landlords claim they don’t need to secure the deposit!

The tenancy deposit legislation applies to every landlord in England and Wales that has taken a deposit from a tenant under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement!

Sidenote, it’s a relatively easy (and lucrative) win for tenants if they wish to go up against landlords that fail to comply with the deposit legislation!

Increase rent willy-nilly

This seems like a mega no-brainer, but apparently it’s not.

To highlight the need-to-knows:

  • A landlord cannot increase rent during the fixed-term of a tenancy
  • Tenant’s are entitled to a minimum of 1 month rent increase notice
  • The landlord cannot pluck a number from thin air and increase the rent by that mount. The increase must be deemed “fair” The best way to ensure a fair rate is by keeping it in line with similar properties in the same area.

Here you go, more details on increasing rent.

Write bogus clauses in the tenancy agreement

Oh boy, have I read some bullshit tenancy agreement clauses in my time. Unfortunately, I’m numb to the shear audacity and stupidity these days.

Basically, just because a tenancy agreement contract has been signed by both parties, it doesn’t automatically make every clause legal or enforceable by law.

  • All written tenancy agreement contracts must be “Fair” and “Clear” (i.e. in plain English) and not intended to mislead the tenant in any way. That means, clauses based around excessive penalties may be deemed ‘unfair’and therefore reasonably challenged and denied.
  • No clause can supersede/overwrite a tenant’s or landlord’s statutory right. For example, it is a tenant’s statutory right to ‘live in quiet enjoyment’, no clause in a tenancy agreement can revoke that right.

Kick tenants out during the fixed-term and/or without proper notice

Perhaps another no-brainer that reality seems to keep on defying!

There’s a proper way for a landlord to repossess a property, and giving a tenant 2 days notice in the middle of a fixed-term is not one of them! Sorry!

There are potentially many caveats to the following rules, it all depends on the specific scenarios, but generally speaking:

  • A landlord cannot kick-out a tenant during a fixed term unless there is a break-clause (but proper notice must still be given via a Section 21 letter), or there are grounds for eviction, and in which case, the proper eviction procedure must be followed.
  • Perhaps the most misunderstood protocol: despite what is written in the contract in regards to the ‘end-date’, the tenancy agreement will NOT automatically terminate. The landlord must still give the tenant a minimum of 2 months notice via a Section 21 notice if he/she wishes to repossess the property on the end-date specified in the contract.
  • The the tenancy has rolled over to a periodic tenancy, a minimum notice period equal to the frequency of rent payments is required. For example, if rent is paid every month, a minimum of one month’s notice should be given.

In any case, a tenancy agreement must always be legally terminated!

So, there we have it! That’s my list of what “landlord can’t do” (but often do anyways).

If you have any suggestions to add to the ghastly pile, please feel free to share…

15 Comments- Join The Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Chris 21st October, 2018 @ 17:34

My landlord property manager and maintenance guy all three showed up at my home without giving notice and while manager was talking to my wife the owner and maintenance guy walked in my property and did a walk thru.we are in the process of going to court because I refused to pay rent last month because of all the issues they won't fix.last week the property manager showed up to my home and did a walk thru with my 15 year old daughter and we were not notified that anyone was coming.please help

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Guest Avatar
Sherel Martin 18th November, 2018 @ 04:38

My landlord said I have to leave the screen doors I replaced and the air conditioners I installed. Said they are considered permanent fixtures. Do I have to? Oh. I let someone stay with me that wasn't on the lease. Said I lost my security deposit.

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Guest Avatar
Sherel Martin 18th November, 2018 @ 04:41

Do I have to leave the screen doors I replaced and the air conditioners? Landlord said they are permanent fixtures. I let a friend stay for over a month without asking the landlord. She's keeping the security deposit as rent for my friend not being on the lease and kicked her off her property as tresspassing.

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Alvino hernandez 5th December, 2018 @ 23:27

My landlord evicted me me yesterday but I've been telling him about the black mold and everything bad in the house he came into my house yelling me at top of his lungs calling me names in front of my 2 3 4 year old babies which the 3 and 4 year old are autistic and he knows that then slammed my door with all his might which I thought he broke the window and my daughter who is 3 and autistic was horrified and crying so bad took me almost half hour to calm her one of those cries were u can't catch ur breath I was upset but never once got loud with him but he didn't care or apologize he came days later and I tried to explain wat he did was wrong he said I don't wanna hear nothing

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Bernadette fountain 18th December, 2018 @ 13:29

If I live with my roomate N its a verbal agreement that I pay half the bills water am electric an I a have my own bathroom an axess to the washer an dryer is my roomate allowed to tell me I'm not using the washer dryer stove an he won't let me see the bills to see what my half I owe is am also denies to accept a money order... He leaves nasty notes on diner table an is all ways threaten me an telling me to get out his house what are my rights? Cause I need clean clothes an he won't let me UAE the washer or dryer an iv lived her since July, 2018/

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Ms cee 3rd January, 2019 @ 01:10

The landlord refused to let me get water service because I won't sleep with him. Had no water for couple of weeks and water company said he refuse me water I that home.( Wow) can I see the water company and landlord.

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Sheri R. 7th May, 2019 @ 19:37

I live in apartment building that you have to be 55+ to move into, now 2years later my landlord, who lives seprately in a house, is moving their daughter, who is around 30, and her husband into one of the apartments under the guise of being the managers, is this legal? I live in Idaho.

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Nikki Hinton 21st August, 2019 @ 19:31

Cornwall Housing Ltd is my landlord. They are the most corrupt social housing landlord in the UK if not Europe! When l exposed how they falsified documents during a formal complaint they tried to silence me via a degraded single point of contact. This escalated into an incidious County blacklisting.

In partnership with police and the Council, they have targeted and discredited me, tried to illegally evict me and turned harassment in on me from bulling tenants living in this isolated property. I have asked a senior police official for an investigation by the CID but as they work in partnership with my corrupt landlord my efforts have been blocked. This abuse of power mirrors what goes on in the political arena and on the global stage. They deploy the same tactics which embody discrimination,deceit and vested interests to protect reputations, depending on the level of exposure that the victim of their abuse poses. I am continuing to seek justice for no tenant should ever be subjected to this criminal activity that those in power try to suppress.

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Kaira contiyali 11th November, 2019 @ 14:47

Can a landlord tell you who and who not can come visit you if you as tenant living in their yard and the landlord in the main house?

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Susan Crossman 25th February, 2020 @ 01:25

I am a landlord, planned to sell the apartment, gave tenant a one year notice. I am reconsidering selling and possibly may continue to rent, I was told I could not do that, is that true?

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TeeTee 17th June, 2020 @ 03:02

Please help/advice. I have been having problems with my landlord letting herself inside the property WITHOUT any kind of 24 hour notice. The first time she was in the house and I was upstairs my kids came to me and said moma somebody is in the house, without letting them see me panic, I immediately got scared. I asked them what do you mean someone is in the house? I walked with the kids to show me who was in the house and I found the landlord coming out of the downstairs bathroom, saying o hey , I was in the area at a meeting and I had to use the bathroom. I looked at her like are you serious right now? I then tell her would you please not just let yourself inside? She then says ok and leaves like she's in a hurry saying bye but without even saying ok my apologies or anything. Then she did it again I was in the back of the house cleaning and I heard the doorbell but by the time I could get to the door she AGAIN let herself in and this time brought 3 people to look at a refrigerator no notice to she was coming in or anything. I then tell her again , ok I ask you once to stop letting yourself in, not only that you brought people and we're in the middle of a pandemic , you brought people into the home NO MASK my kids are in here and you are seriously not caring that I'm ASKING you to STOP just letting yourself in, like really. Again just last week she did it again after asking me could she come to let someone look at her washer and dryer that was in the garage. I told her set up a time with me after I get home from work and it would be fine. What did she do? The next day I had just came home from work I was in the restroom and I heard some tugging at the door. I immediately start getting nervous like who is it at the door I'm upstairs wondering where my kids are in the house. I immediately look for my phone and my kids in the house. I find my kids in the house, call 911 tell them someone is at my door tugging at it. Finally I hear a guy I couldn't see him but heard him talking, holy Molly the landlord sent a guy into the house he was walking around saying your landlord told me to come open the garage. I finally tell the 911 operator it's a guy I have no idea whom he is and he's walking around my house I'm peeping downstairs at him. Finally after I notice he said the landlord told him to come in I advised the 911 operator and the police comes out. I spoke with the police and he said she's the owner she can come in when she wants. I immediately felt like I had been violate and the police was not there to protect and serve. Here I was afraid because I hear noises, then I see a guy walking around I had no idea who he was AND to top it off the police say she can come in whenever. I was like ,ok Mr police sir does that mean the lease agreement we have I can break it and not pay my rent whenever I want to. I was so freaking scared every day after. I had to get someone to come stay over with me because I didn't know when she was going to just pop up and what other man was going to come inside. What if I was walking around in my birthday suit, lol? No like seriously how is this right? What can I do? I told her I'm not paying rent and I'm moving out of here because I don't feel safe, you've violated the lease several times. She threatened to give me a notice to vacate. Please help me with what steps I should take. I've been searching everywhere online, to find out this is trespassing even though it's her property. What should I do? Thanks in advance.

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Guest Avatar
Richard 26th June, 2020 @ 20:20

Are managers allowed to enforce a rule such as, no bikes or plants under the stairway,when they themself have a bike or plant under the stairway ???

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Guest Avatar
Ari hunte 27th June, 2020 @ 19:20

My landlords are my parents and are coming in without written consent and are threatening to change locks while I’m working they threaten to kick me out when I don’t even have a lease they say that they are in the right I’m 25 and the depression gets worse by the day I’ve told and showed them the laws but they won’t think it’s true I’m doing a ton of research as a tenant they also took the chain off my door when I was working so I wouldn’t have my privacy I don’t get enough to pay for a lawyer as my parents take my money to pay all my bills I’m sick and tired of all the bs but with everything going on I don’t earn enough to move

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 27th June, 2020 @ 19:41

@Ari
Not sure if you're asking a question specifically, or just venting your frustrations (which I can sympathise with).

In any case, the details of your situation are unclear. What country are you in, and do your parents live in the same property as you?

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Guest Avatar
Ari hunte 21st August, 2020 @ 06:13

So I live in Charlotte and they don’t live with me they live 10 minutes away I’ve been living here for about 5 to 10 years I think my dad is usually the one who stops by unannounced claiming the emergency is my health and well being the only thing that makes me depressed is that they kicked me out at 18 to be put in a place I didn’t really know now that I’m living here I want to say when I’m at work I am scared that they will stop by without me knowing as for the chain on my door I’ve asked them numerous times to put it back since I wouldn’t let them come in unannounced now they are making me pay for a new chain and I can’t stand it I wanna move but everywhere else is really expensive I shouldn’t have to be scared when I leave my unit

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