Are you a tenant or a landlord with a problem about a tenancy?
Evidence is key whether you’re a tenant or a landlord if you want to get things sorted out. When landlords don’t put things right or tenants breach the terms of their tenancy agreements get the evidence you need to get it addressed.
Tenants can have a raw deal from landlords and if you’re having problems gather evidence of what’s wrong so you can be heard and taken seriously. If you’re living in a block of flats and sharing similar problems, band together to keep records and take action together. If you’re part of a tenants’ union do the same. There’s power in numbers.
Here are some common problems and advice on what to do:
- If your building is unsafe
Ask your landlord to do a fire safety test, for example to the outer cladding. If they’ve done a fire safety test, ask for a copy.
It’s essential to ask in writing and keep a copy. Save all correspondence to keep everything together and in the right order (attach it to your record and upload it if you are using ONRECORD). Do the same with all the replies. If you don’t keep records you won’t be able to prove what you’ve done. Send your landlord a letter or email saying why you think it’s unsafe and include any specific repairs that need to be done such as putting right a fire door that doesn’t close properly.
- If your landlord refuses to do a fire safety test
Find your local council’s details online and contact the ‘environmental health department’. Explain what’s happened and include what you’re worried about, how old you and any other tenants are and if you or any other tenants have a serious illness or disability
The council can arrange for an inspector to check your home for hazards – this is known as a ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)’ inspection.
- Collect evidence
Get together any evidence you have that your home is unsafe – for example you should:
- get a copy of your fire safety assessment
- get copies of any letters or keep a note of conversations you’ve had with your landlord about the problem. Include in any notes what you said and the replies.
- write down the reasons you disagree with the assessment
- ask for a report from the fire service
Complaining about a neighbour
See our guidance on what counts as anti-social behaviour. The problem is likely to count as anti-social behaviour if it causes you ‘nuisance and annoyance’, for example playing loud music late at night or putting rubbish in your garden.
It doesn’t count as anti social behaviour if the problem is to do with normal day-to-day living, for example:
- the sound of walking in your flat
- a baby crying
- cooking smells
Make a note whenever the problem happens so you don’t forget it and when you look back at your records it will prompt you to remember. If the same things happen keep a record of each one to show the frequency and seriousness.
Write as much detail as possible. Include what happened, the length of time and how it affected you, for example, “10 July – dogs barking from 10:15am to 12:35pm. Loud enough to hear in living room.” In that case you can make an audio recording and show the time and place where the noise was happening.
Keep any messages your neighbour sends you and collect evidence if you feel safe to. For example, take a photo of rubbish that’s been dumped in your garden, needles or syringes on the pavement outside. Anything that can support what you’re saying.
If your landlord is failing to make repairs
If your landlord doesn’t do anything after you report the need for a repair, you will need to take other action but before you do, be prepared.
Always keep evidence of the communications you had with the landlord about repairs and the replies or lack of replies, together with supporting evidence of what’s wrong, such as a photograph of something broken or damaged. If there’s a managing agent make sure they know if repairs aren’t done after a request. Make them keep chasing it.
No matter who your landlord is, keeping evidence about the repairs will always be useful. This includes:
- Keeping a record of any conversations you have with your landlord, the date and time you spoke to them and anything they agreed to do or refused to do. If you’re fobbed off explain what was said to make you think that. Always name who you spoke to and, if you can, their role. If it’s an important conversation write to them straight away confirming what was said.
- Keeping copies of any letters or emails you sent to, and received from, your landlord or their agent
- Taking photographs of the fault, particularly if the problem gets worse over time, in which case show pictures over time as the problem worsens.
- Keeping any belongings or taking photographs of belongings that have been damaged because of the repair problem. For example, clothes or furnishings damaged by mould. Make a note of how much they cost you or keep receipts if you have to buy new things to replace them.
- Keeping a note of any medical visits if you are injured or made ill by the problem.
- Save any expert evidence you may have, for example, reports from a surveyor or an Environmental Health Officer.
If you do this you will have collected evidence over time of the original problem to show how serious it is, if it’s worsened and its impact on you and anyone else living in your home. But just as important is the evidence of the landlord’s attitude to your problem, the speed of any responses, the seriousness of the landlord’s response to your problem and any actual action taken to remedy the problem.
ONRECORD is designed for exactly this kind of problem. It makes it as easy as possible to gather and organise your evidence and will produce a clear chronology of what’s happened which is downloadable and can be used to seek advice and take any recommended action.
Just as tenants can have a raw deal so can landlords. If tenants are a problem it can be very costly to get things sorted out and if you want to prove a problem or problems you must have evidence.
Whatever problems a tenant is causing you, start to keep records as soon as things start to go wrong. Follow the same advice as for tenants and you’ll have a body of evidence to share with an advisor or to use in any proceedings you need to take. Remember just asserting something is not the same as having records with supporting evidence. Keeping records will put you in the best position when you want to take action.
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Shelter provides lots of good advice on private renting here including finding a home with a private landlord, paying rent and other costs, rental agreements, problems during a tenancy and what to do when you leave.
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