What are my rights as a private tenant? 6 of your most common questions answered
It’s our job to protect the rights of private renters and we work closely with many of you to make sure unscrupulous landlords don’t take advantage of you, especially if you have challenging personal circumstances to deal with as well.
It is however, important that you should know your basic rights so that should you feel your landlord is being unfair or unreasonable, you are able to:
- stand up for yourself and
- know that it’s possible
- to get legal help by calling us at 020 7624 4327 or talking to your local council tenancy officer.
We thought we’d share some answers to the most frequently asked questions we’ve experienced. This is by no means a comprehensive list of questions. If, after reading this, you still need answers, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
1. What information should my tenancy agreement contain?
It is possible to have a written tenancy agreement, or for you to have an oral agreement. Both types of agreement are equally valid and enforceable. However, it is better for you to have a written agreement, as this will reduce the risks of disputes later. A written tenancy agreement also suggests a higher level of professionalism on the part of the landlord.
If you do not have a written agreement, you can require your landlord to give you a written statement, setting out some basic terms of your agreement. The landlord has four weeks to comply with such a request. The statement must give the following details:
- Date of start of tenancy
- Rent payable, whether monthly or weekly
- Due date for rent e.g. 1st of every month
- Length of the rental agreement
- Any provisions dealing with a rent review
A written tenancy agreement is your contract with your landlord. It is a legally binding document. It should contain all of the above information. It should also say whether you have paid a deposit and if so the amount. It should say what the deposit can be used for. It should also set out your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and explain the circumstances in which the agreement can be brought to an end. It should also deal with what will happen at the end of the tenancy.
It is important that you read any agreement you are given before you sign it. Do not be afraid to ask for an explanation of anything you do not understand, or the removal of terms you know you will not be able to comply with (e.g. not to have pets if you know your cat or dog is an indispensable part of your family).
As well as any written tenancy agreement or statement of terms, the landlord must provide you with an updated gas safety certificate, an energy performance certificate and a booklet called How to Rent. Some landlords/agents will ask you to sign a receipt to say that you have been given these documents. It is important to check the receipt against the documents you have been given and either amend the receipt or refuse to sign it, if any of the documents listed there are missing.
2. Who holds on to my deposit?
Your deposit must be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of you paying the deposit. Your landlord must give you the details of where your deposit is protected. The landlord should also give you a copy of the booklet produced by the scheme used, which explains how deposit protection works.
3. What are my rights if the property is not in good condition?
The property must meet basic health and safety standards (although this could be relative).
If there is an issue that directly affects your physical and mental well-being (within reason), your landlord must endeavour to fix it. This is a legal requirement. This could include issues such as:
- Mould or damp
- Gas leak
- Unsafe, unsecured entrance
- Poor or inadequate lighting
- Pest infestation
- Drainage/Sewage issues
You have the right to take legal action if your landlord does not fix these issues. If you are facing difficulties with your landlord refusing to solve problems that have an impact on your health and safety, please give us a call. It’s our job to make sure your legal rights as a private renter are protected.
4. There are problems with the property, but they are not affecting my health and safety. What are my rights?
Your right to have minor repairs done and less serious defects remedied is basically the same as for more serious defects (note however, the tenancy agreement can require you to do certain minor repairs – such as changing tap washers – yourself). The problem is that it might not be as easy to get help to force your landlord to do less impactful repairs. However, there may be practical steps you can take to deal with minor repairs – please contact us to discuss these.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that it’s the landlords duty to make sure the following areas are safe and in sound condition:
- Overall structure of the property
- Drain pipes, gutters and sinks
- Heating and hot water
- Electricity and wiring
In cases where white goods (washing machine, dishwasher, fridge freezer) are provided by the landlord the court would probably require the landlord to make sure they are in kept in working order. If you have a written agreement that does not say who is responsible, you should ask if a term can be included to make it clear that the landlord is responsible for repairs/replacement. If, however, you were responsible for damaging any appliance supplied with the property, then it will be your responsibility to get it fixed.
5. Can the landlord suddenly increase my rent?
Not during the fixed term, if you have a fixed term tenancy agreement. They can increase the rent at the end of the fixed term, if you choose to continue living there and are signing a new contract. You do not have to accept whatever increase the landlord suggests; you should try to negotiate if you are not happy with what the landlord suggests. You should not agree to a rent increase you will struggle to afford.
If your contract is not fixed i.e. rolling, the landlord can increase the rent but only once a year. In this case they must give you a month’s notice. The notice must include information about your rights to challenge the proposed increase.
6. Can my landlord evict me?
Yes, but your landlord will usually need a possession order from the court first. How easy it is to get one will depend on the type of tenancy you have. There are various stages to the eviction process. The first stage is that the landlord must give you written notice explaining the ground on which they intend to ask the court to order you to leave. To be valid the notice must be in the right form.
Once the notice period ends, they must apply to the court for an order telling you to leave. You must be given a copy of the landlord’s court papers and you will have the chance to respond. However, the time for a response is limited and you should seek advice immediately (it is better to seek advice as soon as you receive the warning notice referred to above).
Once an order has been made telling you to leave, your landlord has to arrange for the court bailiffs to carry out an eviction. It is only at this stage that you have to leave.
Some landlords try to get their tenants to leave through harassment or by taking away your basic amenities, or by using other underhand methods. Please remember that you are safeguarded against this under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and other legislation.
If your landlord tries to evict you illegally, they can be taken to court. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 020 7624 4327 It’s our job to make sure your rights as a private renter are protected.
For more information on how we can help you as a private tenant, please visit our website and don’t hesitate to give us a call.
For the time being, it is business as usual at A4R, however, we have taken the decision to work remotely and to communicate only via telephone or email. If you need to contact us, please call 020 7624 4327 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.