How to spot a dodgy landlord (and what to do about them)

Now, we know you know what to look out for aesthetically when you’re hunting for your new home.  Mouldy bathrooms, shabby paintwork, broken fittings and dodgy appliances are all rental red flags that you’ll usually be looking out for when viewing – and they’re all things you should mention before paying a deposit or signing a tenancy agreement.

But what if it’s the property’s landlord that causes the problems?

Don’t get us wrong – there are plenty of great landlords out there who want your tenancy to be as smooth and enjoyable as you do, and they hate the dodgy ones as much as tenants do. But bad landlords do exist, and unfortunately they’re a bit trickier to spot than a bit of mould…and can cause you a LOT of hassle and expense.

Here are a few warning signs to look out for whether you’re searching for a home, or living in a home governed by a potentially dodgy landlord…

1. The property looks shabby

Sounds obvious, but if a landlord doesn’t take care to make their property look comfortable and inviting, the chances are they don’t care. A good landlord will be proud of their property, so will likely be willing to give it a lick of paint before new tenants move in, and will make sure that all fixtures, fittings and any furniture are up to scratch. As a tenant, remember you’re obligated to flag anything up that you’re not happy with, and negotiate with the landlord to get any necessary repairs made – and more importantly, get them written into the tenancy agreement.

2) Deposit dramas

Let’s face it, deposits are an expensive investment. And like any other investment, you want to make sure it’s going to the right place and will be looked after properly. Be wary of any landlord that pressures you into paying your deposit before you’ve even seen the tenancy agreement, and equally be concerned if they don’t ask for one at all.

Make sure you check that the landlord is using a secure account or scheme to hold your money, so that it’s protected exclusively to return to you at the end of your tenancy. Some common ones in England and Wales include the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and the Deposit Protection Service. Regulations state that landlords must tell you which scheme they have used to protect your deposit within 30 days of receiving it, or they face being fined up to three times the amount of the deposit.

3. Read between the lines

Your tenancy agreement is the most important and essential document when it comes to renting a new property. If a landlord can’t (or won’t) give you a copy of it to read over, it’s question time. There also should be no pressure to sign the agreement right away – you need time to read every clause thoroughly, and ensure that there is nothing in the agreement you’re not happy with or that could trip you up later on. Yep, it’s long and kinda boring, but it’s a legal document and could cost you a fortune if you’re not careful – so get reading.

Make sure that your tenancy agreement definitely includes the following: the length of the tenancy, amount of rent to pay and when, details of the deposit, and your landlord’s address.

The inventory is your next most crucial document to obtain. This will detail everything that comes in the property (including furniture) and what condition it, and the property itself were in when you moved into the property – giving you plenty of evidence if the landlord tries to wrongfully accuse you of any damage when you move out.

And last but not least, check that they can provide a gas safety record to prove that all gas appliances in the property are safe and fit for use. Good landlords will carry checks out on these every year.

4. Protect your space

There should ALWAYS be a clause in your tenancy agreement to state how much notice your landlord should give you before coming over, otherwise you may find they’re randomly turning up unannounced far too often. Your landlord may own the property, but this doesn’t give them the right to force entry – so watch out for ones that turn up without permission, and make sure you seek advice from a service like the Citizens Advice Bureau if so, who can advise you how best to deal with the situation.

A good landlord should also have measures in place to sort out repairs should anything in the property break down, like the washing machine or cooker. It is their duty to provide repairs efficiently, and advise you of their process for escalating problems – so don’t try and fix that faulty extractor fan on your own! Things like heating and water are deemed essential by your local council’s Environmental Health department, which means that they can bring in external help to force your landlord to repair these in the event of a breakdown (if your landlord refuses to do so, or won’t respond to you).

5. Get in contact

While you don’t want your landlord turning up uninvited all the time, you do want to be able to get hold of them if you need anything sorted quickly during the tenancy. Make sure you double check and clear this with them ahead of moving in. There are few things worse than a set of lost keys and a landlord in Turkey who won’t answer your calls, after all…

At SpareRoom we’ve got real people who are dedicated to carefully checking every advert placed to make sure you’re safe and getting the real deal. Meaning the risk of dodgy landlords is lower, and your security is a priority. And with over 80,000 rooms and flatmates available, you’ve got a good chance of finding the one that’s right for you.

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