Private tenants – know your rights – help is out there

Story and photo by Carrie Hedderrwick

Have you been harassed by your landlord or threatened with eviction? Have you a written tenancy agreement and a current gas safety certificate? Is your deposit in a protection scheme?

All tenants, whether private, housing association or council, have certain rights. Unfortunately, many landlords and letting agents either do not inform their tenants or do not know themselves what these rights are. Private tenants or landlords wanting advice can use the details below.

A recent prosecution led to a guilty verdict for a local landlord who evicted a woman from her flat on the Wicker, forcing her to sleep on the streets. After a year living in her flat, the landlord had appeared one day demanding that she leave that day. When she objected, he responded – “this is my house; I can do what I choose!” Immediate help came from the Salvation Army; later the council took the case to court. The landlord was prosecuted under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Another recent case concerned a local landlord who pleaded guilty to failing to license a property in Page Hall.

Cllr Dunn, Cabinet Member for housing, said:

“We encourage anyone who is concerned about the state of their rented property or who feels pressured by their landlord, to contact the council so that we can help to resolve the matter or bring action against them.”

Letting agency shopfrontIn Page Hall, the Selective Licensing Scheme was introduced by the council four years ago to address poor physical conditions in private rented properties and to improve landlords’ knowledge and practice. Having worked in the Private Housing Standards team, I was interested to visit iLet4You, a lettings agency in Page Hall that opened fifteen months ago. Prominent in the window advertising properties to let, are memberships of various national organisations – the UK Association of Letting Agents, the Property Redress Scheme and the Deposit Protection Scheme. Many agents are not members of many, or any, of these types of national schemes. However, staff at iLet4You, as well as membership, have also attended a range of courses including those run by the Council.

iLet4You also works closely with Firvale Community Hub, who are compiling a ‘How to Rent’ guide written in Roma.

Another initiative that iLet4You proudly told me about, is their sponsorship of Enterprise Events at Firvale School.

Like Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice, school students carry out tasks in teams, working together to create, develop and sell items and products. Next, maybe school students could be taught the basics of landlords’ and tenants’ rights and responsibilities.

Please remember, if you, now, are in need of advice or help – ring Private Housing Standards 0114 273 4680 email phs@sheffield.gov.uk, or visit www.shefield.gov.uk/home/ housing