With an increasing number of Brits choosing to be lifelong tenants or simply unable to afford their own home, it's more important than ever to be up to date on what is and isn't acceptable tenant and landlord behaviour.
Of course, the vast majority of landlords are fine and will be very helpful if you have a problem. However, there’s always the exception, which is why it’s so important to know your rights before you sign any contract.
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).
Unscrupulous landlords and letting agents may not be very forthcoming about your rights, so make it your business to know them. Your main rights:
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 around. They should also provide at least 24 hours' notice, unless it’s an emergency.
Raising the rent
Your landlord is allowed to raise the rent; however, this is only permitted at certain times, and must be fair and in accordance to other rent rates in the local area. 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.
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 your whole deposit.
Your landlord can’t just 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.
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:
Rented properties should not have any dampness – whether rising damp or dampness from the outside (i.e. penetrating damp). Indeed, your landlord may be liable if you develop breathing problems as a consequence of damp. Your landlord may blame dampness on your condensation, but you have the right to have an investigation.
Even if the dampness is caused by your habitation, it could still be that the property has below-par ventilation. Try to agree on a remedy that’s beneficial to both you and your landlord. If it’s not practical to install ventilation and a dehumidifier is used instead, remember that if you pay for the electricity, you’re paying for that too, so try to negotiate money towards the electricity bill.
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 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
This means you need to make sure you can pay your rent on time, don't keep pets in the property if they're not allowed, and don't sub-let a room to someone else without getting permission from your landlord.
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, a specialist council worker who can mediate in disputes between landlords and tenants.
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.