What are my rights when renting privately?
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Types of tenancy
Most tenancies that started after 28th February 1997 are known as Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) and even if you do not have a written tenancy agreement, the default tenancy you have will be this type of tenancy. An assured shorthold tenancy is a tenancy that gives you a legal right to live in your accommodation for a period of time. Your tenancy might be for a set period such as six months – this is known as a fixed-term tenancy or it might roll on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis. This is known as a periodic tenancy.
There are other types of tenancy which can affect your rights. Shelter’s website has a useful tenancy checker tool which explains more about the type of tenancy you may have and what your rights are.
Tenant rights and responsibilities
If you have an AST the law gives you rights to get information about your tenancy, allows you to stop other people from freely entering the property, and get certain types of repairs done. You will have the right to live in a property that is safe and in a good state of repair (see section on repairs below) and have your deposit returned when the tenancy ends (see section on deposit protection below).
If you have a written tenancy agreement, this is likely to set out your rights and responsibilities as well as the landlord’s rights and responsibilities. By signing this agreement you are agreeing to the terms it sets out.
It is important that you don't break your tenancy agreement because most tenants can be evicted if they don't follow the rules of their tenancy. This includes things like paying your rent on time, paying the bills, taking care of your home, being a good tenant and neighbour, asking permission before making any changes to the property and reporting repairs.
Being served notice and illegal evictions
Most private tenants can only be evicted if their landlord follows the correct legal procedure. This process usually starts when your landlord gives you notice to leave the property - most tenants are entitled to a written notice to leave a property. The main exception to this is if you live with your landlord and share facilities such as the bathroom or kitchen, in which case the landlord only has to give you verbal notice.
When you can be given the notice depends on the reason your landlord is evicting you and the type of tenancy you have. If you have a fixed-term tenancy for a set period, for example 6 months, the landlord can give you notice any time but it cannot take effect until the end of that fixed period, unless they can prove a legal reason to evict you – usually if you have broken one of the rules in your tenancy agreement. If you have a periodic tenancy that runs from week to week, or month to month, your landlord can give you notice any time. This type of notice is usually referred to as a “section 21” notice. Standard section 21 notices ALWAYS require at least two month’s notice in writing.
If you think your landlord might be trying to evict you illegally or you are unsure about whether you have been given the correct notice please contact the Housing Advice Team.
Please visit our homeless page for more information about what to do if your landlord has served you with notice.
Health and safety and repairs
Your landlord is responsible for making sure the property is safe and free from hazards. This includes making sure gas and electrical appliances are safe and complying with fire safety guidelines. Your landlord also has a responsibility for carrying out certain types of repairs. These include repairs to the property’s structure, sanitary fittings and pipes/drains, as well as heating, gas appliances and electrical wiring.
Tenants have some responsibility for minor repairs and maintenance such as internal decorations, gardens, furniture and small DIY jobs such as changing plugs and lightbulbs. For more information visit Shelter’s website which has lots of helpful information on health and safety.
If your property needs repairs contact your landlord straight away. It’s important that you carry on paying your rent. If your landlord is unable or unwilling to carry out repairs or if you think your home is unsafe, please contact the council’s Environmental health department who may be able to carry out an assessment of the property.
If you have an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007 your landlord must place any deposit you pay into a tenancy deposit protection scheme. If your landlord doesn’t do this within 30 days of receiving the money and doesn’t tell you which scheme it is protected with, you could take your landlord to court for compensation. It also means your landlord cannot serve you with a section 21 notice
At the end of the tenancy your landlord should return your deposit to you if have kept to the terms of your tenancy agreement, there is no damage to the property and your rent is up to date. If you do not agree with any deductions that your landlord proposes, the deposit protection scheme can help make the decision independently.
These rules still apply even if somebody else paid the deposit on your behalf.