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Tenancy agreement
Property

8 tips to rent a room without problem in London

By Justine FRETIGNE
01/05/2015

When you arrive in London and are looking for a flat or a room that is available as soon as possible, it can be hard not be had by some “rogue landlords”. The stories of trees growing inside houses or of cupboards rented as rooms are of course anecdotal, but some landlords will not hesitate to operate outside the law. "Rogue landlords" are obviously not a generality, but you should be aware that they do exist and be careful to avoid bad surprises. So what can you do?

I arrived in London in January, happy. Within a few days I found a room with a sunny balcony, only a 20-minute walk from my place of work and at a very reasonable price (I mean not ridiculously expensive, this is still London). Nice housemates, pleasant neighbourhood, close to underground and bus stations, I congratulated myself for this on the success of my house hunting. 

But 4 months in, my spirit is at its lowest, what seemed like the ideal home is now infested with mice and bedbugs and god knows what else. What I was told was going to be a lovely private balcony is in fact shared with my 6 housemates and I am starting to wonder if my landlord is still alive as he no longer takes our calls or answers any of our numerous text messages. One of my housemates has now taken to having her dinner standing up in the kitchen holding her plate just in case a mouse shows up on the worktop. We have also found out that some of our other house mates who have left the house have never recovered their unprotected deposit. 

When you arrive in London and are looking for a flat or a room that is available as soon as possible, it can be hard not be had by some “rogue landlords”. The stories of trees growing inside houses or of cupboards rented as rooms are of course anecdotal, but some landlords will not hesitate to operate outside the law. "Rogue landlords" are obviously not a generality, but you should be aware that they do exist and be careful to avoid nasty surprises.

So what can you do?

1. During the viewing, pay special attention to details

Mould

When you view accommodation, every single detail can be important. Pay specific attention to humidity stains, to the cleanliness of the mattress, to the state of the furniture, etc. Examine also the floor, as if it is in a bad condition, it will be more likely to be susceptible to infestation problems.

It might seem obvious, but you also need to insist on viewing the entire house/flat, not just your room and the common parts. If your bedroom is located on the first floor for instance, ask to have a look at the second floor, even though the person showing you around tells you "there is nothing to see" or "there are only bedrooms". You might discover later on that you might have to share the place with  a few unexpected extra housemates or that there is a leaky roof. 

If possible, also try to meet at least one of your future housemates before moving in: he or she will be able to tell you how he or she feels about the house and will also answer any questions you may have. You will then be able to compare his or her answers with answers given by the landlord and the estate agent gave you. 

Room sharing

Last but not least, ask for a detailed inventory/check-in report. Please note that this is generally paid for by the tenant, whereas the check-out is to be paid by the landlord. Also ask for written confirmation of what has been promised to you during the viewing: do not be fooled by "your room will be fully redecorated before you move in" or "we will organise for your mattress to be changed”. Have it in writing as part of your contract. 

2. Conduct an online check of the estate agency

It is strongly advised that you check the estate agency on the internet before agreeing anything. In just a few clicks, you will easily find forums on which internet users have commented on their experience with the agency. This will give you a pretty good idea of its reliability. You can also carry out a search about the landlord. 

When signing your contract, do not forget to note down the agency's and the landlord's contact details (phone number, address and e-mail address). 

Tenancy agreement

Please note that in most cases agencies only take care of finding a tenant for the landlord and  do not manage the property. Between your moving in and your moving out, you will have to liaise with the landlord directly in the event of problems. 

3. Pay via bank transfer whenever possible

The safest way to pay your deposit is via a bank transfer, because it allows you to keep a record of your payment. However, you might have to pay in cash as international bank transfers can take several days and some agencies want the money there and then to reserve the room for you. In this case, ask for a signed and dated receipt from the person to whom you give the money.

4. Check that your deposit has been protected

What rights do you have?

You can find all the information you need regarding the protection of your deposit on the government's website gov.uk.

By law, your landlord has to protect your deposit by using a registered tenancy deposit scheme in the month following your moving in. There are three schemes in England: the Deposit Protection ServiceMyDeposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. You can check whether your deposit has been protected directly on the schemes' websites (DPSMyDepositsTDS).

How can you force your landlord into protecting your deposit?

If you find that your deposit has not been protected, you can sue your landlord. You will find the relevant Court on the Court Tribunal Finder

The website gov.uk also lists all lawyers and advisers by geographical localisation and specialty. Some of them offer free sessions. 

5. Once you have moved in, get in touch with the City Council if you encounter problems and your landlord is not receptive

If a problem arises you can contact your borough's City Council, which can have professionals come to your property if your landlord does not respect his commitments to you. However, you need to be able to prove that your landlord was aware of the problem and did not act upon it. You therefore need to collect as many pieces of evidences as possible: e-mails, letters, photos, etc. Also note that City Councils are divided into departments, depending on their specialty. There are  environmental health, council tax and housing departments. 

6. Act fast if you notice the presence of pests

Rats, mice, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches,... Inform your landlord the minute you notice their presence as they can proliferate very quickly. Give priority to e-mails or letters rather than phone calls, as they can be used as evidence. 

Room in a mess

Pay specific attention to hygiene, as the landlord is responsible for the health and safety of the accommodation but the tenant is responsible for its cleanliness. In the kitchen, clean the surfaces, wash your dishes systematically and store your food into airtight boxes. With this in mind, keep your bedroom tidy, wash your sheets and clean the floor regularly. 

If for whatever reason, your landlord does not attempt to eradicate the pest infestation, contact the environmental health department from your local City Council. 

7. The end of your contract: Inform your landlord at least one month before your departure

It is important that you scrupulously respect your contract, in order not to be accused of anything. Send an advance notice at least a month before your moving out. In the same way, you should always pay your rent before the due date, in order to show your landlord that you respect your commitments and that you invite him to do the same. In case of a dispute, not having paid your rent on time could cause you more than mere embarrassment. 

8. Get your deposit quickly after you move out

Legally, the landlord has to give you your deposit back within two weeks of your departure assuming that there was no reason for him to claim money from deposit. Claim your deposit back as soon as the legal period is over. 

What are the steps to follow?

At first, try to solve the problem amicably: simply remind your landlord of his duties. If he does not respond, threaten him to start legal procedures. Then, you can contact the City Council for them to help you solve the dispute. 

Get legal advice

The Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to give you free legal advice. You can also contact and meet professional lawyers and advisers through The Law Society. In addition, the Shelter Association's website provides numerous pieces of advice in terms of housing and will be able to help you take stock of your situation, your rights and your duties. Finally, if you prefer to speak with francophone professionals, please note that French legal experts hold free sessions every Thursday from 7pm to 8pm, in Saint Mary's Church crypt. 

 

Do you want to share your own experience with us? Please comment on this article!

COMMENTS:

05/09/2015 - hvmog said :

Bonsoir,
J ai un petit soucis avec la personne où j'avais une chambre je lui ai versé une caution de 400 livres et elle m 'en a rendu 300 livres en me disant qu'elle me retenait 100 livres pour frais de garde de ces enfants car j'était partie avec mes parents visiter Londres
Merci de me dire ce que je peux faire

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