Who is responsible for repairs on a rental property? Do these need to be carried out within a certain time period?

Generally, the responsibility for repairs is outlined within the tenancy agreement that a tenant has with their landlord. The landlord will almost always be responsible for major repairs such as structural repairs, gas and electrics etc, and often will wish to be in control of minor repairs too. Often, landlords will forego standard wear and tear repairs but if there has been accidental or deliberate damage, this will likely be the tenants responsibility to fix. I would suggest, though, that it is not advisable for the tenant to carry out any repairs unless the tenancy agreement says you can. If you are unsure about what you are obliged to do, always seek advice.

In terms of a time limit in carrying out repairs, the standard position is that these will need to be done within a “reasonable” time. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances and the required repair.

Can a landlord choose not to rent to potential tenants because of age, children or pets?

It is common for landlords to put in place conditions in respect of who they will or will not rent to. Often, in leasehold properties, this is because the landlord has entered into a legally binding agreement when purchasing the property that they will not have pets. Similarly, some properties will only be rented to people over a certain age as the development or estate is intended to be a retirement community.
That is not to say, though, that there is not a grey area. For example, say a landlord implements a condition that there should be no pets, but a prospective tenant has a guide dog and is refused. In situations such as this, the generally accepted provisions may well be able to be challenged but specialist advice should be sought before doing so.

What can a tenant do if they feel their deposit has been deducted unfairly?

The answer to this question differs in whether or not the tenancy has been protected (as it should be) by a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) or not. If it has not, this is an entirely different issue, giving rise to an entirely different claim against the landlord.

TDSs, amongst other things, are there to stop landlords from unlawfully deducting monies from tenant deposits. TDSs have a free dispute resolution scheme in situations like this, and unless a tenant agrees to a deduction then one should not be made. If a tenant does not agree, the dispute resolution scheme will assess the positions of both parties and make a decision without the parties needing to go to Court. That is not to say you cannot instruct a lawyer, but given the cost of doing so, the scheme is a very helpful tool.

Based on the Government guidelines and with consideration of the Coronavirus pandemic, what rights do tenants have when asking for a temporary rent reduction?

It is important to note that rent will remain payable by a tenant unless mutual agreement (in writing) has been reached between tenant and landlord that it should not be paid, or should be varied. If a tenant is aware that they will not be able to pay their rent, they should contact their landlord to try and reach an agreement. A landlord can agree to a plan to deal with the arrears at a later date and whilst landlords should do what they can, they are not obliged to agree to a cessation or variation.

The most practical advice for tenants at this stage is to have early conversations with their landlords about their position, if required. If a landlord will not agree to reductions, tenants can seek assistance for free from Shelter, Citizens Advice or The Money Advice Service, who might even be able to assist tenants in accessing special funding.

With consideration of the Coronavirus pandemic and the Government enforced lockdown, what protection do tenants have against eviction?

The Government has asked landlords to be understanding, and not to issue notices for possession of properties, but they can still do so. The Coronavirus Act 2020 has stated, though, that any notice served must be a 3 month notice. This means, a landlord cannot seek possession of a residential property during this period until the 3 months has expired.

For more information, or to discuss how Ellisons may be able to assist please contact Molly Frankham.