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Watchdog warns landlords of tenants' rights

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have forced two large property companies, Bankway Properties and the William Pears Group, to amend their tenancy agreements.

The OFT says they were using contracts that contained potentially unfair terms such as financial penalties for breach of the agreement, and a term stating that the tenant would automatically forfeit their deposit in full if they ended the tenancy early.

Other terms to which the OFT objected included passing the landlord's legal obligations for repair of the property to the tenant - quite a common clause in many lease agreements - and a term requiring the tenant to pay the landlord for the cost of any repairs arising from damage to the property, even where the tenant may not have caused it.

The OFT is also tightening up on unreasonable restrictions such as terms prohibiting the tenant from putting up a flag, poster or sign anywhere on the property where it could be seen from the outside. The OFT has obtained undertakings from the companies that they will amend their tenancy contracts.

"Landlords should take proper account of the legitimate interests of tenants in drawing up tenancy contracts," warned Penny Boys of the OFT. "As a result of our intervention, thousands of current and future tenants will benefit from improved terms."

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