It’s an issue that found itself centre-stage during the covid pandemic, when tenants were given a grace period, during which they were allowed longer notice periods, at first six months, and then – as the situation appeared to improve – four. Bailiff-enforced evictions were suspended.This was a gesture designed to recognise the difficulty tenants faced during lockdown, not only in terms of paying rent, but also in finding new homes in the event either of eviction or of coming to the end of their contracts. But it also served to highlight just how difficult renting can be, given the whims of landlords and the ever-rising costs, especially in the capital. If you’re renting, it’s unlikely you’ll be equipped with all the knowledge of your rights; after all, it’s hardly something most of us read up on for pleasure. But it could make all the difference if you find yourself in fraught circumstances. So here’s the Master Removers guide to tenants’ rights.
When you rent from a private landlord, your rights (and responsibilities) are to some extent determined by the kind of contract you sign. Rental agreements vary but in most instances, you’ll be given what’s known as an ‘assured short hold tenant’ (it’s different if you live in the same building as your landlord). If you’re a social housing tenant, the rights are slightly different and can be read up on here.
Staying In The Property
As an assured short hold tenant, you have the right to remain in the accommodation until the term fixed in your contract comes to an end. To evict you before this date, the landlord would need to present evidence to a court – whether that’s of damage, failure to pay rent or some other breach of contract. You may also remain in the property after the contract expires if your landlord hasn’t given you notice.
Enforcing Your Rights
Assured shorthold tenants can enforce their rights (for example, to expedite repairs), but it’s worth bearing in mind that when you take this step, you’ll often find that landlords take the retaliatory measure of not renewing your contract. The first step in enforcing rights is to write to your landlord explaining that you will take legal action if the matter (e.g. repairs) isn’t resolved within 14 days. If you have to take the matter further, look up your nearest county court and send them a completed claim form. This will involve what’s known as an ‘issue fee’.
Other Legal Rights
Not only do you have the right to stay in the property for the length of the fixed-term contract, you also have the right to expect the property to be kept in a good state of repair and the right to oversee small repairs yourself and then remunerate yourself by docking the cost from your next rent payment.
Tenants also have the right not to be treated unjustly based on their disabilities, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.
There is also the right of ‘succession’ – for a spouse, civil partner or partner to take over the tenancy when you die.
As a tenant, you have the right to:
- live in a home that’s safe and in a good state of repair
- Challenge any excessively high charges
- Get your deposit back when the tenancy ends (in some cases, this will also involve a deposit-protection scheme being taken out when the tenancy begins, designed to protect both parties)
- Live undisturbed in the property
- Know the identity of your landlord
- Be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent rises
- View the property’s Energy Performance Certificate
- Have a written agreement if your fixed-term tenancy is for more than three years
- Have a tenancy agreement that is fair and compliant with the law
- Be given a copy of the How To Rent guide by your landlord (in England)
- Be given a Tenant Information Pack (if you live in Scotland)
- Be given 24 hours’ notice by your landlord if he/she plans to visit/inspect the property, unless it’s an emergency requiring immediate access
- Only be visited/inspected by your landlord at a reasonable time of day agreed between both parties
A prevalent misconception is that covid has altered tenants’ responsibilities. This is not true. Your responsibilities are:
- To look after the property
- To pay the rent, even during times of dispute (e.g. waiting for repairs)
- To pay the charges agreed in your contract, such as utility bills and council tax
- To repair or cover the cost of damage that you’ve caused (or that’s been caused by friends/family)
- Not to sub-let unless your tenancy agreement explicitly allows it or you’ve reached such an agreement with your landlord