Housing

5 ways to get help if you're in a dispute with your landlord

The power balance between landlord and tenant is about to change after the government announced reforms. Here’s how you can solve your housing problems in the meantime.

complain landlord

There are several options open to you if you're at loggerheads with your landlord. Image: Abbie Parks / Unsplash

Whether it be over rent, repairs or any number of other grievances, renters and landlords are often on a collision course over complaints.

In recent years, the power balance has been tipped in the favour of the landlord. The threat of a ‘no-fault’ eviction – where a landlord can evict a tenant without giving a reason – meant a tenant could face a so-called revenge eviction for speaking out.

New reforms, announced at the Queen’s Speech, are set to change this. ‘No-fault’ evictions – also known as section 21 evictions – are set to be scrapped along with a number of reforms under the Renters’ Reform Bill.

Similarly, the Social Housing Regulation Bill is designed to improve standards for tenants in social housing and give regulators more power to deal with complaints.

But while the legislation is making its way through parliament, here are five things you can do to complain against your landlord.

Check if your landlord is legit

If you’re having problems with your landlord, it’s worth checking if they have everything in order. In Scotland – and possibly in England in the future – there is a landlord register where tenants can look up who manages their property.

Similarly, if you live in a shared house with at least four other people, your landlord should have a HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) licence. Many councils also have other, more strict, HMO licensing requirements for landlords. If your landlord doesn’t have their paperwork in order, you can complain to your local authority and can even win back your rent

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Get the Housing Ombudsman involved

If you’re banging your head against the wall in a long-running dispute with your landlord then you can escalate your complaint to regulators to step in. This means contacting the Housing Ombudsman about your case.

Under the Social Housing Regulation Bill, the Housing Ombudsman and the Regulator of Social Housing are going to be given more powers to solve disputes before they end up in the costly and time-consuming court process. The Renters’ Reform Bill will also create a new ombudsman for private renters.

Ask Kwajo Tweneboa to get on the case

Activist Kwajo Tweneboa has done more with his phone and a burning sense of injustice to uncover the state of social housing than some campaigners and journalists have done in decades. If you’re living in appalling conditions in social housing and your landlord isn’t listening, see if Kwajo can help @KwajoHousing on Twitter or via his email address in his bio.

Contact your MP

Of course, your local member of parliament should be the person to help you, as opposed to a young campaigner doing it off his own back. They could help you by writing to your landlord or raising the issue in parliament. Find your local MP and how to get in touch here.

Join a rent union

Rent unions can help you to challenge an eviction, either by querying its legality in court or by taking direct action like protesting against your landlord. There are several across the UK, including Living Rent in Scotland, Greater Manchester Tenants Union, London Renters Union and ACORN.

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