Your rights as a tenant
Published 8 September 2015 by Kyri Levendi
Get clued up on your rights as a tenant with our guide.
More and more people are choosing to rent these days – in some cases it may be because although they’d like to buy a place of their own they can’t afford to, or are saving up to do so in future. But many others enjoy the flexibility that renting gives them, as well as the ease of not having to maintain a property.
Whether you are renting an urban bedsit or a mansion in the country, as a tenant you have a certain rights that your landlord should abide by, and most do. But new figures from Shelter reveal that last year 17,000 people called their helpline due to problems with their landlord, so we thought we should run you through the basics.
When agreeing to rent a property, the landlord will usually ask you for a deposit to cover the cost of any damage or for cleaning the property after you’ve left. If you’re a shorthold tenant (usually on a 6-12 month tenancy agreement) you have the right to have your deposit protected with a government-approved deposit protection scheme.
Unless there’s a dispute over any damage, a landlord should return your deposit to you at the end of your tenancy – no matter your agreement.
Any repairs that need to be made to the structure or exterior of a property are the responsibility of the landlord. So if your roof is leaking or you’re having problems with the guttering or drains, your landlord (or their agent) should take steps to fix this. Anything that supplies water, gas and electricity to your home should be kept in safe working order as well. Smaller jobs like fixing a light bulb are up to you!
As a tenant, your landlord has a legal obligation to ensure your safety by doing the following:
• Obtain a gas safety certificate for all gas appliances
• Provide a fire alarm
• Make sure any furniture they supply in the property meets fire safety standards
• Ensure electrical equipment is safe
• Carry out necessary work identified by gas engineers
If you’re living in a property with other tenants, your landlord has to make sure there is adequate means of escape in the event of a fire.
Your own space
Even though you’re renting, the property is still yours to live in without disturbance. Your landlord has the right to access your property to inspect it or do any repairs but they shouldn’t just come in whenever they wish to. They should arrange a time to visit and give you a reasonable amount of notice beforehand.
You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable in the property or made to feel as though you can’t stay there. If you do feel as though your landlord is making it difficult for you, this could be classed as a harassment and your landlord could face fines or imprisonment for this.
Rules on rent
Your landlord should communicate clearly with you when you need to pay your rent and how they would prefer you to pay it (e.g. by cash, cheque or into a bank account). If your pay your rent week-by-week, they must provide you with a rent book.
Your landlord has a right to increase your rent but how they go about this will depend on the type of tenancy you have and what your agreement says. If your landlord refuses to accept rent from you, you should still attempt to pay it – maybe move the money into a separate bank account until you can seek appropriate advice.
You can read more about what to do if you have a complaint with your landlord here.