A Guide to Tenants' Rights
What You Need to Know
- You have the right to be able to contact your landlord directly.
- A landlord or letting agency is legally obliged to give at least 24 hours notice should they wish to enter a rental property.
- Your rent cannot be put up without your express consent for the duration of a fixed-term tenancy agreement.
- Even if you are breach of contract, your landlord will still have to go through the courts to get you evicted and take possession of a property.
- You are covered by your rights as a tenant, even if they aren’t written into your tenancy agreement.
- If you have any doubts about your rights, seek out expert and impartial help, for example through a Housing Advice Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Make sure your landlord has a current gas safety certificate if you have gas central heating.
What type of tenancy do you have?
From the start, it’s important to establish whether you have an assured or short-hold tenancy or a ‘licence to occupy’ as this will affect your rights and responsibilities.
As a general rule, if you do not have exclusive use of any part of a property, for instance if you live with your landlord who requires access to your room, you have a licence to occupy.Alternatively, if you have exclusive use of part of a property, even if you share communal living areas, then you will generally be signed up to an assured or short-hold tenancy agreement.
As a rule, tenancies starting after March 1997 are automatically registered as a short-hold tenancies, unless special steps have been taken to set up an assured tenancy.
A landlord has a right to ask you for a deposit so as to protect themselves against unpaid rent or damage to a property.
However, tenants’ rights are protected through government-approved tenancy deposit schemes and a landlord is required to tell you which one he has put your money into.
Your tenancy agreement should state in clear terms when some or all of a deposit may be withheld and you have the right to appeal any deductions, through the tenancy deposit scheme your landlord is signed up to.
Changes to a Tenancy
If you are signed up to a fixed-term tenancy, your landlord or letting agency cannot put your rent up without your express consent.
Similarly, they cannot make any other changes to a contract or other legal documents you’ve signed without your permission.
Even when a fixed-term contract comes to an end, a landlord is still required to give you at least one month’s notice for any proposed rent increase and even then you have the right to disagree with this, in which case you can apply to your local council’s rent assessment committee who will decide whether your landlord is being reasonable.
Should you die, your tenancy may be passed on to another member of your family for the remainder of any fixed-term contract, with landlords again required to give two months’ notice that they plan to take possession of the property once this time is up.
Access to a Property
As a tenant, you have the right to private accommodation. Your landlord or letting agency must give you 24 hours written notice should they wish to enter the property, while as a tenant you are obliged to meet any reasonable request for access.
This right can be lifted in exceptional circumstances, for example in the case of an emergency such as a burst pipe when you are not home.
Rights Concerning the Standard of Accommodation
You have the right to live in safe and comfortable accommodation without unnecessary disturbance.
That is, your landlord is obliged to ensure that a property is structurally sound, ‘wind and waterproof’ and generally habitable, with leaking roofs and damp not legally acceptable.
You have the right to insist that a property complies with all relevant building regulations, including rules on fire safety, that hot water and heating systems are safely maintained by CORGI-registered professionals.
Furthermore, you have the right to insist all electrical equipment is regularly tested and safe to use and that, if a property is furnished, the furniture is fit-for-purpose and meets the relevant fire-resistant regulations.
Your landlord needs to have a current gas safety certificate if you have a central heating boiler – these are yearly and its for your own protection so make sure he it.
If there is a problem with any of the above, it should be covered by the landlord’s property insurance, however you need to insure your own belongings separately.
Landlord Contact Details
Tenants have the right to be able to contact their landlord directly. Should you put such a request in writing to your letting agency, they are legally obliged to provide you with the details within 21 days.
Additionally, if your landlord changes, you have the right to be notified within two months of this happening.
Ending a Tenancy
The majority of landlords and tenants sign short-hold agreements, usually in the form of fixed-term contract for 6 or 12 months. Under these, landlords can regain possession of a property six months after the start of a tenancy, so long as they give two months’ notice. They do not have to give any reasons or justification for their decision.
Landlords signed up to assured tenancy agreements, however, can only evict their tenants if they can prove to a local court that they have ground for possession, for example if you have fallen behind on rent or have acted as a nuisance.
Once a tenancy is over, you have the right to expect your deposit to be returned within 30 days, provided you have stuck to the terms of your contract.
If you fail to comply with your responsibilities, your rights may be compromised. For instance, a landlord has the right to possession if you owe at least eight weeks’ rent. The housing charity Shelter offers a guide to your responsibilities as a tenant here.
However, even if you are in breach of your tenancy agreement, a landlord or letting agency will still have to go through a court to obtain an eviction order.