Quick Guide - Consumer Law

Quick GuideThere is an increasing amount of consumer-related law which is relevant to landlords, some (but not all of which) is in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

In this quick guide, we list the various types of law that which we cover in Landlord Law and which we have classed as ‘consumer’, and give a bit of information about them.

Note that although the deposit protection legislation could be classed as ‘consumer law’, because of its importance for landlords it has its own section.

Note that if you are not a Landlord Law member, or have a Basic Membership some of the links will not work for you.  To join click here.  To upgrade your membership see here.

There are a number of principles which now apply to landlords which come under the general description of 'consumer law' which include

  • The concept of 'fairness' - as in essence consumer law is an attempt to balance things so that consumers (who rarely take legal advice before entering into a contract) are not prejudiced
  • Misleading advertising - this can now carry penalties so landlords and agents should be careful not to misrepresent a property
  • The letting agent fee transparency rules and codes of practice, along with the obligation to belong to a Property Redress Scheme
  • Distance and off-site rules - which provide for the right of cancellation if a contract is signed off-site.  Note that this does not apply to rented properties but does apply to letting agent contracts
  • The right to 'unwind' tenancies where someone has been induced to enter into a contract by some form of unfair practice.  This is a powerful right although is time-limited and applications must be made within 90 days

For more information:

There has been legislation on unfair terms since regulations were first introduced in 1994.  The rules are now contained in Part 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

 

This basically provides that if a clause would put a consumer in a worse position than they would be under the general law, the clause will not be enforceable unless it has been specially negotiated with the consumer (and the business is able to prove this).

 

For example, prohibition clauses (unless they are prohibiting something which is against the law anyway) MUST contain the right for the consumer (ie tenant) to request permission to do the prohibited thing, which permission should not be unreasonably refused.  Landlords often invalidate pet prohibition clauses by removing this wording.

 

Find out more about unfair terms in our article here.

There are two types of discrimination that landlords need to worry about:

 

  • Direct discrimination - which is where you discriminate against someone on the basis of one of the 'protected characteristics' - which includes sex, age, disability, race and ethnicity, religion and sex/sexual orientation.
  • Indirect discrimination - which is where you are discrimination against a class of people which will adversely affect someone protected by one of the protected characteristics.  For example discrimination against people on benefit is now considered illegal as it adversely affects women/single parents and disabled people.

See our article on discrimination here.

 

We have a free webinar on an important case on indirect discrimination here.

Landlords have special duties towards tenants who are disabled, in addition to the general duty not to discriminate (as disability is a protected characteristic).  These are:

 

  • To make reasonable adjustments (at your expense) to your procedures or physical features of the property - eg by providing signs or replacing taps or door handles
  • To consider any requests disabled tenants may make to carry out alternations or improvements which would help the tenants enjoyment of the property  - these would be at the tenants' expense but the tenant can only do them with your consent, which you should not refuse unreasonably.
  • To permit the tenant to keep an assistance dog - although this does not apply to 'emotional support animals'.

We have a webinar on discrimination from barrister Justin Bates here.

 

See some FAQ below:

 

Data protection is all about protecting people's data so that those who hold it (known as Data Controllers) are obliged to look after it properly.  This includes landlords who should register with the Information Commissioners Office and make sure that they comply with the rules.

 

The Data Protection Rules, as well as being about being careful with people's data (so they are not used by criminals for identity theft for example) is also all about transparency.  So you need to be very upfront with the people whose data you hold about what you do with it and where it is held.

 

Since new regulations came into force in May 2018 there has been a lot more focus on data protection rights and there are swinging fines for those who recklessly put other people's data at risk.  So landlords need to know the rules and how to comply with them.