More and more Brits are renting, but many are still unaware of their rights as tenants.
Things can get especially hazy when you’re trying to pinpoint who is responsible for certain repairs and what you can do if things go wrong. It's important that you don't get messed around, but at the same time, you must respect the property you're living in and adhere to the contract that you've agreed to.
To help you out, we’ve demystified some of the most commonly misunderstood rights of tenants.
The contract your landlord gives you may not be legally binding
According to Direct Line, one in 10 landlords don’t have a formal tenancy agreement in place with their tenants.
They may have adapted a previous draft themselves, or might even just be using templates they found online. In either case, it’s unlikely that they will have been checked by a lawyer.
If you're in any doubt about your tenancy agreement's validity, get it checked over by a legal professional.
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Your deposit should be held in a tenancy deposit scheme (TDS)
To keep your deposit safe, it should be held in a Government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.
Shockingly enough, 9% of landlords haven’t informed tenants that their deposit is being held there. It's a legal requirement for landlords provide the name and contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme and its dispute resolution service within 30 days of taking your deposit.
Find out more on the Government's tenancy deposit protection webpage.
There are tenant guides online
Have a gander over How to rent: the checklist for renting in England - it’s packed with important information for both tenants and landlords.
Your landlord must give at least 24 hours’ notice before they drop by
It should be for a valid reason too, like doing maintenance or carrying out an inspection. Your landlord should arrange a suitable time with you in advance.
Of course, they can break this rule for something more urgent such as a burst pipe or a gas leak. Remember that it's their responsibility to cover the cost of any damage they cause.
You can change who supplies your energy
If you and any fellow tenants are responsible for paying energy bills, you do have the right to switch provider. However, be sure to check for any clauses in your tenancy agreement that require you to inform them of any changes.
A word of warning: your landlord might not approve of this. Try and resolve any disputes between the two of you first, but if you feel they are unreasonably trying to stop you from switching, get in touch with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
The landlord can raise rent during your tenancy- but you must agree to it
Your landlord is allowed to raise the rent at certain times, depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have.
On a rolling contract, your landlord can’t raise your rent more than once a year without your permission. As for a fixed term, your landlord can only raise your rent during the term if you agree. If you don’t then the rent can’t be raised until the end of said term.
Any rent rises they implement must be fair and in accordance with other rent rates in the area.
You can apply to a tribunal over rent disputes
It might get to the point where you need outside help to sort out the rent issue you’re having with your landlord.
You can only apply to the tribunal if you have an assured or assured shorthold tenancy and your rent has been increased after a ‘Section 13 notice’ has been issued. You’ll see a Section 13 Notice if the rent is not stated in the tenancy agreement and the tenant doesn’t agree to the proposed rent increase.
Make sure you apply before the new rent is due to start.
Check you're paying a fair rent
If you feel you're overpaying, have a look over the register of rents. It’ll tell you the maximum or ‘fair rent’ that can be charged for a property. If you don't find the info you need, check in with the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
Know which maintenance jobs are yours and which are your landlord’s responsibility
These can be broken down pretty easily.
- Minor repairs (changing lightbulbs, changing batteries in smoke detectors etc)
- Your own appliances
- Looking after internal decorations, furniture and equipment
- Repairing/replacing anything you’ve broken or damaged (keep the receipts as you may be reimbursed for them later)
- Making sure the home is heated and ventilated property to prevent damp, mould and other issues
- Reporting repairs and problems
- The property’s structure and exterior
- Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
- Heating and hot water
- Gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- Electrical wiring
- Any damage they cause by attempting repairs
- Issues in common areas
It’s also their job to ensure that the property is safe to live in and free of mould and damp before you move in as well as installing smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and doing regular checks for gas and electrical appliances supplied by them.
Damage caused by your family and friends is your problem
It’s true. If your mate has trashed your kitchen, you need to cover the damages (and rethink who you invite over in the future!).
You can end your tenancy immediately if you go about it in the right way
If your circumstances change and you want to leave, your landlord might agree to end your tenancy with immediate effect. Just be sure to get this in writing should any disputes arise.