Legal help, services and support for private residential landlords
Tessa’s Ten Top Tips on Consumer Law
A tenancy is almost always a consumer contract. The landlord is treated as being a business (even if the landlord only has one property) and the tenant is treated as a consumer – so the consumer legislation will apply to protect the tenant
The consumer legislation will also apply to protect landlords in their dealings with letting agents, where the landlord is not a ‘professional’ landlord.
However, the consumer legislation will not apply if the tenant is a limited company – as a company cannot be a consumer.
Neither will landlords who own the property via a limited company be able to take advantage of the consumer laws that will protect landlords who own rented property in their own name. Landlords should take this into account when deciding whether or not to own property through a company.
The Unfair Terms rules which now form part of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 apply to all tenancies apart from Company Lets
The Consumer Rights Act also sometimes allows tenants to apply to the Court to ‘unwind’ their tenancy and end it early (and in some circumstances refund all payments made) where landlords have acted unfairly
The Consumer Rights Act also introduced new transparency rules regarding letting agents fees – for example, it will be unfair to quote fees without including VAT where VAT is payable
Where letting agent contracts are signed after an off-site meeting or via the phone or internet, the agent must (assuming the landlord can be classed as a consumer) notify them of their right to cancel the contract within 14 days. If this is not done, the landlord can cancel and refuse to pay any fees for up to 14 days after the agent finally notifies the consumer of their rights.
All letting agents must belong to a Property Redress Scheme which provides a cheap and easy way for both landlords and tenants to bring a complaint
A landlord or agent must not advertise a property by describing it in a misleading way as this will be a breach of the general Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations and may allow a tenant to ‘unwind’ the tenancy.