Tenant Rights

Tenancy Agreements

Tenancy agreements are there to help protect your rights as a tenant and outline your obligations whilst living in the property. Always make sure to read the any paperwork carefully before you sign.  An Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST) is a tenancy that gives the tenant the right to live in a property for a period of time. A tenant has four basic rights in an Assured Shorthold Tenancy;

The right to live in the accommodation uninterrupted.

Tenants have the right to control over the property without being disturbed by the landlord. A landlord cannot interfere with a tenant’s right to live in the property or they can be found guilty of harassment.

The right against eviction

The landlord must have a valid reason in order to evict a tenant. This could include a number of reasons including rent arrears, breach of contract, or the tenant causing as serious annoyance to neighbours.

If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, they must apply to the courts for a possession order. The landlord must provide evidence and a valid reason to obtain this. A landlord can give two months' notice without having a reason but the notice cannot run out before the end of the fixed term.

Section 8 Notice: A section 8 notice is different from the more common section 21 notice to quit in that it is served on the tenant by a landlord wishing to regain possession of a property during the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST).  A section 21 noticed can only be used for regaining possession at the end of a tenancy agreement. 

A section 8 notice can only be issued to a tenant who has breached the terms laid out in the tenancy agreement and if certain conditions have been met, the most common being one involving rent arrears.

The right to live in a property that is kept in good condition

The law says that the landlord must keep the property in good repair. This includes both interior and exterior of a property, and includes the roof, walls, doors and windows. The landlord must also keep any electricity, gas, water and sanitation in good working order. Any furniture that is provided must be fire resistant, and the property must have an energy performance certificate.

However a tenant is usually responsible for taking care of a number of smaller jobs, including changing fuses and light bulbs, or unblocking a sink. Check your tenancy agreement, as these smaller terms can vary depending on your landlord.

The right to information about the tenancy

If your tenancy started after March 1997, you have the right to ask your landlord for details on your tenancy, including the start date of your tenancy, the amount of rent you must pay and the date on which it must be paid, and the length of any fixed term. You can also find out how and when the rent may be changed. The landlord must provide this information to you within 28 days of your request.

Standard Clauses

You will have clauses in your tenancy agreement describing the landlord’s obligations. This will cover a range of aspects from complying with health and safety regulations to returning deposits.

There will be clauses outlining the tenant’s obligations. Whatever your agreement is, you will generally be expected to look after the property in a reasonable way and make sure your rent is paid on the agreed dates.

There will most likely be a clause relating to the non-payment of rent. The actions taken in this event will vary according to the landlord.

There will be clauses outlining the end of tenancy agreement, and the actions that will be taken to end the tenancy. Often clauses like this will involve a notice period for departure of the property.

Section 21 Notice to Quit

Operating under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act, this is the notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property at the end of An Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). A landlord has the legal right to get their property back at the end of a tenancy, but must follow the correct legal procedure, which includes serving the section 21 notice.

The Landlord and Tenant Act (1985)

The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1895 outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the Landlord and the Tenant throughout the tenancy, and refers to all Assured Shorthold Tenancies. See legislation.gov.uk for the Act in full; http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/70

Deposit Protection Schemes

Landlords take a deposit as a way of safeguarding their property should problems arise during your tenancy.

Since April 2007 all landlords and agents who take deposits from tenants on residential property must protect the tenant’s deposit. We use My Deposit; a non-custodial government authorised protection scheme.

Within 30 days of receiving your deposit, your landlord will protect your deposit and provide you with details of the scheme and what to do if there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy.

To avoid any disputes at the end of your tenancy, always ensure the property is of good standard. Make sure to fill in the inventory report form provided when you move in, so any problems can be quickly resolved.

Guarantor forms

For full full-time students, or someone who cannot provide a suitable employment reference, you will need to have a guarantor. This is someone who will be financially prepared to pay any rent arrears or damage in excess of the bond in the event you cannot pay. A suitable guarantor would be someone who is employed or a UK homeowner. Mature students who can provide evidence of sufficient income may not need a guarantor.

Tenant contents insurance

The landlord should be covered for buildings insurance, contents insurance, and rent guarantee insurance.

You will need to arrange your own tenant’s contents insurance, as the landlord insurance will not cover your personal possessions. This is not compulsory; the issue of whether or not to insure your possessions is a matter of personal choice.

Health and safety 

It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the property is safe for you to live in.

In the case of all leases under 7 years, the landlord must make sure that installation, maintenance and safety checks on gas appliances are carried out by a Gas Safe engineer, and keep a record of each safety check for at least 2 years.

Landlords are responsible for ensuring that the electrical system and any electrical appliances that they supply are safe to use. This may include cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines and immersion heaters

In HMOS (Houses in Multiple Occupation), the landlord must provide you with adequate fire precautions. Fire alarms must be provided in each high risk area, a fire extinguisher of the correct type should be on every floor, and each shared kitchen must be provided with a fire blanket. There should also be a well marked exit route in case of a fire.

In smaller or single occupancy dwellings, the only specific fire regulations relate to furnishings. Any upholstered item (such as sofas, beds and cushions) must be fire resistant.

Landlords can choose whether or not to allow smoking in their properties. There will usually be a clause in the tenancy agreement if they do not allow it. If smoking is permitted landlords should supply smoke alarms in all areas where smoking is allowed.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

By law all rental properties in the UK require an energy performance certificate. This shows both the landlord and the tenant how energy efficient the property is, and the certificate lasts for 10 years. The EPC is necessary for tenants to gauge what they expect their heating bills be, and for landlords to gauge how the property can be more thermally efficient. The EPC measures its performance on a sliding scale from grade A, being the most efficient, to G being the least.