September is a peak time for the rental property market and many people will find themselves sharing a property thanks to the proliferation of shared houses aimed at young professionals and friends who rent together. However, sharing a home is not always easy thanks to differeing definitions of what “clean” means, friends sleeping over, parties and pets.
Jordan Brown, legal adviser at DAS Law, answers some of the most common questions posed by flatmates:
Q: The condition of my shared housing is so bad that it is causing me to have health issues; can I force my housemates to clean up?
A: The first step is really to try and have a discussion with everyone in the house about the effect this is having on your health. It is usually best to try and have a constructive round table discussion, and to avoid ganging up on a particular culprit. If possible, you should come to a joint agreement as to how to manage the cleaning duties moving forward. If the problems persist then you may need to consider reporting these issues to your letting agent or directly to the landlord. If the health impact is so serious to you that it is affecting your health, then you may have to involve the Environmental Health Department within your local authority.
Q:My flatmate’s significant other is over at our flat a lot of the time it feels like they live here also. They use our utilities, food and Wi-Fi free of charge. Can I ask them to leave and how can I enforce this?
A: Some allowance should be made for infrequent visitors, however if the non-tenant’s presence becomes a nuisance then it is would be best to have an initial discussion to try and resolve the issues between yourselves. If this is not possible and you have separate tenancy agreements then there is likely to be a term in your flatmate’s tenancy saying they cannot sub-let or move non-tenants into the property. There is also usually a clause stating they should not do anything or allow any behaviour which may be construed as a nuisance to other tenants. You could then report the presence of the non-tenant to the landlord who will decide whether to take action in relation to any breach of tenancy.
Q: My flatmate has purchased a dog, but I don’t like it and our contract states that we can’t have pets, what action can I take?
A: Because you have to live with this person, the best option is to try and resolve it amicably before making any complaint to the landlord about your flatmate’s breach of the tenancy agreement. If you have a joint tenancy this means you would be jointly liable for this breach and any damage the dog causes, so your flatmate should be made aware of this.
Q: My landlord has refused to return our deposit for damage caused by someone that no longer lives with us, what can we do?
A: This depends on whether you have a single or joint tenancy. In a single tenancy an individual deposit should have been taken from you, and as long as you abide by the terms of your tenancy and cause no damage yourself then the landlord cannot make any deduction from this deposit. If a joint deposit has been taken then there is likely to be shared responsibility for damage and the landlord could dispute the release of some or all of the deposit if they can show they need this money to rectify the damage. In any cases of dispute, the deposit should have been protected in a deposit protection scheme and their dispute resolution process can be used.