Frequently Asked Questions

Introduction

The Advice Line team regularly handle over 2,500 calls per week from our members on a wide variety of topics. Many of the questions we are asked are similar in nature so we have listed a few of them below to give you an idea of how we would answer these. Of course every case is different and our Advisers can help you by taking all of the circumstances into account during a call.

Our service to you

At the NRLA we have 25 trained professional advisers whose job it is to give our members the advice they need, when they need it. Managing a property can be plain sailing when things go well but as we all know there are times when things don't and that is when we are here for you.

We can give advice based on legislation, however we are not solicitors. We will provide you with options for potential solutions to any queries raised based on legislation. We are not able to assess certificates or specifications including but not limited to electric, gas or fire.

If you are contacting us regarding serving notice or something that involves intricate discussion or detail, to ensure we give you the best service we will need to give this advice over the phone and will not be able to provide this through our online advice services.

We can give an overview of court forms and will direct you to our completion notes to assist you in completing these documents as we are not able to assist you in completing these question by question.

Please note we cannot comment on or draft individual correspondence on our members behalf.

If you wish to contact us about our campaigns or lobbying please visit the Campaigns section of the website and share your story there as our advisors will not be able to assist with policy and lobbying queries.

What we can advise on

  • Pre-Tenancy
  • Tenancy Deposits
  • Letting Agents
  • Tenant Problems
  • Rent arrears
  • Possession
  • Tenancy Management
  • Repairs
  • Health and Safety
  • Universal Credit
  • Housing benefit matters
  • Small Claims
  • Council Tax
  • Inventories
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

What we can't advise on

  • Freehold & Leasehold
  • Commercial or Agent agreements
  • Stamp Duty, Insurance, Mortgages & Tax
  • Scotland & Ireland
  • Investments
  • Business rates
  • Business arrangements
  • Holiday lets & Airbnb
  • Break clauses or wording of clauses
  • Ground Rents
  • Rent Act Tenancies
  • Planning

Before you call us

To make sure you get the most from your contact and to help us deliver an effective and efficient service for all our members, please make sure you have the following to hand:

  • Your membership number or details available as you will be asked for this at the start of the call and we cannot proceed without it
  • All the relevant facts and correspondence e.g. a tenancy agreement

When calling the Advice line please ensure you are not driving or on speakerphone to ensure good call quality for our conversation. Our Advisers are trained not to continue with the call if they can't hear you properly.

Advice line opening hours 

Our Advice Line operates between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday (not including English & Welsh public holidays) and also 9am to 1pm on Saturday. Between these times, if you need help then please call us on 0300 131 6400. Remember, you must be a current member and there are only certain areas where we can (or are allowed to) advise.

Frequently asked questions

We've listed some of the more common questions below so if you haven't yet joined or our lines are closed, you might find your answer below.

Question 1

I have had a tenant in a property in England since 2016 and have decided to take over the management myself. I have just opened an account with my chosen tenancy deposit scheme so the deposit can be transferred from the management agency that looked after the property, however the management company say I have to pay part of the deposit back to the tenant under the new legislation. Is this correct as the tenant took on the property in 2016 before the changes in legislation, so nothing has really changed?

If you are going to keep the existing tenancy agreement in place, which commenced prior to 1st June 2019 and it will not become a statutory periodic tenancy on or after 1st June 2020, you can keep the amount of deposit that is currently held without having to refund any difference over the equivalent of 5 weeks rent.

However, you should provide the tenants with a Section 48 notice to confirm an address in England or Wales where they can serve notice to if they want to end the tenancy, as this address may have changed now that the agency is now longer managing the property.

The agent may have assumed you are issuing a new tenancy agreement therefore the advice would be correct in that situation, but you do not have to issue a new agreement unless of course you prefer to.

Question 2

If the AST agreement is agreed online, what is the best way of dealing with signatures? I assume typing in names in capital letters is not sufficient. Secondly, does each page need to be initialled by both parties and if so how is that enacted online?

We always advise a member to arrange for the tenancy agreement to be signed with a wet signature, therefore block capitals would not suffice.

If you decide to use electronic signatures they are legally binding, but if you are choosing to email any documents or deposit certificates: confirm the tenants' email address in advance, make absolutely certain you get proof they have received it and acknowledge receipt. It is also important to make sure the property is safe and complies with Fitness for Human Habitation.

Only the last page of the agreement needs to be signed by the tenants, but if you would prefer the tenants to initial each page that is also fine.  

Question 3

I have a young couple that we want to rent our 2 bedroom house to. They have bad credit as they spent a bit on a credit card when they were young. The girl's mum has offered to be a guarantor. Should I credit check both the mum and girl?

We would advise a landlord to always fully reference check any guarantor to ensure they can make the payments in place of the tenant.

Having a guarantor is pointless if they are unable to make the payments on behalf of the tenant. It is also preferable that the guarantor is a UK homeowner to make it easier to recover any money owed.

Question 4

I have taken a holding deposit and the tenant check has come back accepted. Do I:

A - Ask the tenant to sign another form to say that we will return the holding deposit or convert the holding deposit into part of first month's rent (first months rent to be paid up front before the tenancy is signed) and arrange a date for them to sign the tenancy? Or

B - Give the tenant an extension letter, if the 15 days are due to expire and the tenant has not signed the tenancy?

Did you provide the tenant with an initial holding deposit form to confirm how the process works? The NRLA have a Initial holding deposit form we recommend all members use.

Under the rules of the Tenant Fees Ban, the landlord or agent has 15 days to make a decision after taking a holding deposit. This can be extended if both parties agree to a date in the future, therefore we would advise you to confirm this in writing and ask the tenant to sign that they agree.

Once a decision to grant the tenancy has been made, the landlord or agent must notify the prospective tenant within 7 days. This should set out whether the holding deposit will be refunded in full or whether any of it will be retained.

Question 5

We are about to serve a Section 21 on behalf of a landlord, obviously they now require 3 months' notice. If the tenant vacates before the 3 month notice expires do they still have to give the required 1 month notice as per the terms of their tenancy agreement? Or are they simply allowed to leave at any point within that 3 months?

The Section 21 notice does not end the tenancy and instead informs the tenant that the landlord can apply for a possession order for the property once the notice period expires.

Therefore the tenant is still required to serve a valid notice, in line with the tenancy agreement to the landlord if they decide to move out.

If they fail to do so properly, the landlord can still hold them to the contract but may decide not to if they prefer to have possession of the property back.

Question 6

I have a tenant who wishes to end his contract as he left to live with his father prior to the lockdown. Can he do this? As it is a HMO, can I get a new tenant now as they would be entering a new home?

As long as the tenant is not still in a fixed term contract they can legally end their tenancy by providing notice in line with the clauses stated in the tenancy agreement, returning all the keys and giving back vacant possession of the room/property.

We have updated our guidance on new lets in line with the Government's latest advice which now states that in England landlords and agents can enter into new tenancies at this time.