As a renter, you hope your tenancy goes smoothly with no issues and an excellent landlord who's always ready to help. And most tenants enjoy that exact experience. But whatever your tenancy brings it's important to know your legal rights. And how to protect them if you need to.
Before anything else, you need to know the kind of tenancy you have. This will affect your tenants’ legal rights. If you rent your property from a private landlord and have lived there for less than 20 years and pay less than £100,000 in rent it's highly likely you have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). This is by far the most common type of tenancy in the UK. For the purposes of this article, we'll assume you have an AST.
This is the contract you sign with the landlord. It will spell out how long your tenancy is for, how much rent you must pay and the date the tenancy begins. It will also include other details like the landlord's contact information and whether you have to pay costs such as council tax, energy supply etc. It could also include other clauses such as whether you're allowed to keep a pet and what happens if you're responsible for anti-social behaviour.
But everything in the contract must be fair and reasonable. It must also comply with the law. For example, you have the right to live in the property undisturbed. As an illustration, your landlord can't demand you be present at 10 o'clock every Monday morning for a property inspection. This isn't fair nor is it reasonable. It's not enforceable.
It’s highly likely your landlord will ask you for a security deposit before you move in. This is standard practice and is usually equivalent to between four and six weeks rent.
Once you pay the deposit to your landlord they must protect it in a government approved scheme. This is a legal requirement. They have 30 days in which to do this and they must give you information about the scheme including its name, how the scheme works and all the paperwork issued by the scheme. The deposit protection scheme is in place so the landlord can't take money from your deposit without your permission.
You’re entitled to compensation if your landlord doesn't protect your deposit within 30 days. This can be as high as three times the amount of the original deposit you paid. In addition, the landlord will be unable to evict you Section 21 notice.
Apart from documents about the deposit protection scheme your landlord must also give you other information. This includes:
You must get your deposit returned to you in full within ten days of your contract ending. However, the landlord can make reasonable deductions. This could be for damages or unpaid rent for example. But you have the right to refuse to allow the landlord to make any deductions you don't agree with. If this is the case an independent adjudicator will decide who’s right and will allocate the funds accordingly. This will take longer than ten days.
Your landlord has a legal duty of care towards you. This means the property must be structurally sound and appliances safe and fit for purpose. Gas and electric appliances must be safe to use and you must have access to water. The landlord is also responsible for repairs and must arrange a gas safety certificate every twelve months.
The landlord can't just increase the rent during your tenancy. They must wait until the end of the fixed term. And even then, the landlord must give you at least one month’s notice. An exception is if there's a rent review clause in your tenancy agreement.
If you have a grievance you should complain directly to your landlord. They must have a complaints procedure in place to help resolve any issues you may have. Unfortunately, the landlord may choose to ignore you. Or offer an unacceptable solution. If this is the case you can take your complaint to a 'designated person’.
This may be a local councillor or MP. If you still can't resolve the issue the final step is to contact your local council. They will have procedures in place to help resolve conflicts between tenant and landlord.
You may also find additional online legal support on the Citizens Advice and Shelter websites.
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