Tenant rights: don’t be the victim of a landlord - Buy To Let - Guides - Moneyfacts


Tenant rights: don’t be the victim of a landlord

Tenant rights: don’t be the victim of a landlord

Category: Buy To Let

Updated: 03/10/2016
First Published: 29/09/2016

Tenants – make sure you know your rights and responsibilities!

With more than 4.4 million households now privately rented, and 3.9 million socially rented, it's more important than ever to be up to date on what is and what isn't acceptable from your landlord.

It should be noted before anything else that the vast majority of landlords are fine and will be very helpful if you have a problem. However, as with all groups, there are some bad eggs...

Tenant polls and surveys

Studies carried out by housing charity Shelter and market research firm YouGov illustrate that not all is well in the private rented sector:

  • According to a poll by YouGov of over 4,500 tenants, one in 50 were evicted or served with a notice after contacting their landlord, local authority or letting agent about a problem in their rented home. Many more were too scared to talk to their landlords at all.
  • Research carried out by Shelter estimates that around 213,000 people were faced with losing their rented homes because they approached their landlord with an issue.
  • Twenty-five percent of renters polled by Shelter put up with a leaking roof because they were afraid of telling their landlord, while more than two-fifths of tenants said that they had experienced mould in their homes over the last year.

Whatever your situation, it's advisable to be aware of your rights as a tenant and to do your research carefully so that you don't end up as one of the unlucky number dealing with an unscrupulous landlord.

Choose your landlord carefully

Make sure you pick your rental property on more than just rent, or how it looks. You should be given an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement – don't just sign it, read it!

If your landlord employs a letting agent, make sure they are registered with the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).

Your rights as a tenant

Rogue landlords and letting agents may not be very forthcoming about your rights, so make it your business to know them.

  • Your landlord can't visit the property whenever they like…

They must have a valid reason, such as doing some maintenance or carrying out an inspection. If your landlord needs to visit, they should arrange a suitable time with you before coming round. They should also provide at least 24 hours' notice.

  • Raising the rent…

Your landlord is allowed to raise the rent; however, this is only permitted at certain times. It is also dependent on the type of tenancy agreement you have. On a rolling contract (week-by-week or month-by-month) your landlord cannot normally raise your rent more than once per year without your permission. For a fixed-term tenancy, your landlord can only raise your rent during the term with your agreement. If you don't agree, the rent can't be raised until the end of the term.

If your landlord does raise the rents, it must be fair and in accordance to other rent rates in the local area.

  • The property must be well-maintained…

Landlords must make sure that their rented property is a healthy and safe environment for people to live in. This includes:

    • sufficient heating, ventilation and lighting
    • being in good repair
    • well-secured
    • working, safe and sanitary gas, water and electricity (including annual gas boiler checks and gas safety checks)
    • any furniture or electrical appliances provided must be checked and certified as being safe
  • Your landlord should place your deposit in an approved tenancy deposit protection scheme...

This protects you if there is some dispute and your landlord doesn't want to give back all your deposit.

  • If your landlord wants to evict you...

They must follow the terms of the tenancy agreement. In some circumstances, such as where there is a dispute, the landlord may need to get a court order. Your landlord cannot force you to leave (for example by entering the property while you are out and packing up your things) as this would most likely constitute an illegal eviction. By the same token, the landlord is not allowed to harass you to leave – again, this would break the law.

Your responsibilities as a tenant

As much as we hear about nightmare landlords, there are also tenants from hell. So bear in mind your responsibilities when renting:

  • Look after the property

Most maintenance and repair is down to the landlord, but some responsibilities are yours. You need to look after the property and not damage it. You need to make sure rubbish is properly disposed of and do some maintenance, such as mowing the lawn (if specified in your agreement), changing light bulbs and replacing batteries in smoke detectors.

  • Damage

Damage you cause may have to be paid for – whether by you during the tenancy, or at the end, as a deduction from your deposit. However, you are not responsible for fair wear and tear, such as wear on a heavy-traffic area of a carpet.

  • Keep to the terms of your tenancy agreement:
    • pay rent on time
    • don't keep pets in the property if they're not allowed
    • don't sub-let a room to someone else without getting permission from your landlord

Not seeing eye-to-eye? Speak to your local Tenancy Relations Officer

If your landlord is refusing to talk to you, or is denying a problem is their responsibility, you can contact your local council for help. Most have a Tenancy Relations Officer who is a specialist council worker who can mediate in disputes between landlords and tenants.

Need help? These websites can help…

Gov.UK provides a useful source of information on how landlords should operate, and what you can expect.
Shelter has a wealth of advice for different situations as well as a free help line: 0808 800 4444
ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents). If you have had no joy with a complaint against an ARLA member, or you want to check that the letting agent you use is ARLA registered.

Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

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