If you’re new to renting, or you need a refreshment on your tenant rights, this brief 101 guide is the perfect read for you. A quick and handy overview of the most essential rights and responsibilities you have as a tenant.
Protected and bound by the tenancy agreement
The tenancy agreement is both your chain and key. It sets out the contractual relationship between you and your landlord.
If you’re renting your property from a private landlord or a company, you most likely have an assured shorthold tenancy. It is the default agreement, when there are no extraordinary surrounding your tenancy such as:
- You pay a very high or very low (or no cost) rent for your rental property
- You share all or parts of your accommodation with your landlord (you are a lodger)
- You’re a longstanding tenant and your tenancy started before 15th January 1989
- You’re renting a holiday accommodation or agricultural land
Fixed term tenancy agreement
Assured shorthold tenancies usually with a fixed term for six or twelve months. During this time the terms of the tenancy can only be changed with the explicit agreement of both parties, including the period of the tenancy or payable rent, among others.
1. Right to live in the property during the fixed term
The fixed term guarantees you relative security. So long as you respect the terms of the agreement and continue to pay the rent, you can live in the property until the end date of the fixed term period.
When that expires, the landlord can choose to end the tenancy, renew it for another fixed term, or let it roll into a periodic tenancy, which gives both sides flexibility regarding how and when to end the tenancy.
The landlord cannot evict you, unless you have severely broken the terms of the tenancy agreement, for example:
- You haven’t paid rent for 2 or more months (8 weeks)
- You act anti-socially and disturb the peace around the building
- You are using the property for illegal activities, such as drug dealing / taking
2. Responsibility to rent the property during the fixed term
Just as the landlord is required to provide you the property for exclusive use during the fixed term, you’re expected to use it, OR, at least pay for it during the term. During the fixed term, you’re obliged to rent the property and pay monthly rent, regardless if you physically occupy the premises.
You can end the tenancy early only with the agreement of the landlord, OR, if there is a special clause (called break clause) that enables either party to end the tenancy at some specifically assigned moment. However, that clause also allows the landlord to end the tenancy at their discretion.
If you leave the property during the fixed term, without getting permission from the landlord, you will most likely owe rent until a new tenant is found or until the end of the agreement.
You’re also responsible for the utility bills, council tax and any cable or Internet subscriptions in the property during the fixed term. You have a right to pick your own suppliers and even change the method of taxation, but you need to notify your landlord and seek their consent.
3. Right to live in a safe and maintained home
Your landlord provides more than just an empty property for the rent money you pay them. You landlord is also responsible to keep in good repair the property and it’s systems for supply and exploitation of electricity, gas and water.
Unless damaged by the tenant, the landlord needs to repair and maintain:
- External and structural elements – roof, walls, foundation, windows, insulation, etc.
- Gas supply and appliances – gas pipe infrastructure, valves, shoots and appliances
- Electricity wiring and appliances – switches, power sockets, electrical equipment
- Heating and hot water – boiler, heaters, central heating system, electrical heaters
- Sanitation and hygiene facilities – bathrooms, showers, toilets, sinks, plumbing and drainage
- Smoke alarms and fire fighting equipment – fire proof furniture, doors, fire blankets, extinguishers (some only required for HMO properties)
Your landlord is obliged to provide you a hazard free home. Any health hazards left ignored in the property are a serious breach to the landlord’s responsibilities and can be heavily fined upon inspection by the local council.
4. Responsibility to take good care of the property
As a tenant, you’re expected to look after the property on a daily basis and ensure that every aspect of the accommodation is functioning properly. If you take notice of a malfunction or issues with any element in the property, you’re responsible for notifying your landlord and assisting them to resolve the matter as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Unless you report damaged equipment, the landlord may only detect an issue during a scheduled inspection, but the problem may deteriorate and cause more damage until that happens.
You’re expected to take care of daily maintenance, such as upkeep good hygiene and tidiness around the property.
5. Right to peaceful enjoyment of the property
As a tenant, you have the right to live undisturbed in your home. The landlord, letting agent and any service provider that maintains the property must all get your agreement before entering the property.
All access to your home must be requested with an official notice no less than 24 hours before entry. You are free to allow or deny access at your convenience.
If anybody ignores your permission rules or enters without your presence, you can complain about them harassing you in your home and disregarding your privacy. This is a serious offence.
6. Responsibility to provide reasonable access to the property
Just because you can shut the door to everybody doesn’t mean you should. There are many occasions when access will be required so the landlord can do safety inspections or let service providers in to do a job.
If that is the case, you should do your best to come up with a reasonable schedule that respects your daily life and also caters to the problem.
You may negotiate on the available dates, but if you don’t let your landlord in, you may not receive the requested repairs.
7. Right to have your tenancy deposit protected
Deposit protection is one of the key responsibilities for the landlord. They have 30 days (from receiving the money) to protect your deposit in a government-authorised scheme and serve you with their prescribed information.
Unless they do the proper procedure, tenants can claim compensation of 1 to 3 times the deposit amount.
The law is so strict, as to prevent abuse cases, where tenants unfairly lose big amounts of the deposit for negligible issues at the end of the tenancy.
Each deposit protection scheme is sufficient for the purpose of safekeeping your money. Furthermore, all 3 of them provide free arbitration and dispute resolution services in the cases when you and your landlord cannot agree on how to split the money.
8. Responsibility to act reasonably and treat the property with respect
The tenancy deposit is your legal money and should be returned to you at the end the of the property. However, you’re only entitled to your full deposit if you’ve been a model tenant and have acted reasonably and cooperated with the landlord during your tenancy.
If you have been late on rent payments, or have skipped on portions or entire payments, it’s safe to assume they will undisputedly be discounted from your security deposit.
The landlord is likely to open a deduction dispute when there is damage to the interior of the property, the furniture or the appliances. A fair tribunal will be provided by the tenancy deposit scheme decided by an impartial adjudicator.
However, if you’ve caused more damage and financial harm to the landlord, they may choose to persecute you in the local county court and claim compensation for your poor behaviour.
9. Right to information about your property and landlord
As a tenant you have a right to know who your landlord is and have their active contacts, such as address, where you can reach them.
You also have the right to request information regarding important aspects of your rented property such as:
- Receive the name and contact details of your landlord and letting agent
- Receive prescribed information regarding your deposit
- Receive a copy of your gas safety certificate
- Receive a copy of the energy performance certificate
- Receive information about who your energy supplier is
- Receive the move in and move out inventory reports
10. Responsibility to provide truthful and accurate information about yourself
Private landlords often require their tenants to provide references from past landlords, as well as clear some background checks about themselves, such as their professional history, criminal past, credit history and identity checks.
You’re responsible for ensuring the information you provide to your landlord is true to the facts and accurate.
If you use false information to rent a property and the landlord learns of the truth, you are likely to get evicted as fast as the law allows it.