When you rent a property, you’re effectively living under someone else’s roof (albeit they’re not living there at the time).
This may feel precarious, but it doesn’t mean you can be thrown out on a whim.
Due to recent rules and regulations that landlords and letting agents must abide by – tenants’ rights are strictly upheld.
The new legislation makes it more difficult for landlords to evict a tenant and gives long-term tenants more rights.
But, many people are still unsure about what their rights are. We help answer the question ‘what are my rights as a tenant?’
All landlords are required to uphold tenants’ rights. However, there are some landlords who will violate these!
To ensure your landlord is ‘legit’, you can start by checking their accreditation. Belonging to a relevant industry body means they’re obliged to adhere to a code of practice which outlines standards of behaviour.
Such schemes also usually offer an independent arbitration should something go wrong.
Although there’s no compulsory registration scheme for landlords, the vast majority of private landlords have to be registered with their local authority. There are also voluntary membership schemes like the National Landlords Association.
Letting agent accreditation
Again, for letting agents, there’s no compulsory registration stipulations. But, professional letting agents should all be registered with either the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS), as well as the Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPOS) or Property Redress Scheme (PRS).
All of the schemes are self-regulating but do provide an independent means of redress for disputes between tenants and letting agents.
There may also be local accreditation schemes specific to the area in which you plan to rent and a list of these can be obtained from the relevant local authority.
What rights do tenants have?
While you have many responsibilities you also have certain rights as a tenant.
You can expect your landlord or letting agent to act in a professional and timely manner in regards returning your calls/emails, particularly if they concern repairs.
One of your basic rights as a tenant also includes feeling safe in your rented property.
Your landlord or letting agent’s responsibilities include:
- attending to any repairs in the property within a timely manner of your report
- dealing with emergency repairs as soon as possible
- acting as a buffer between yourself and the landlord in the event of a dispute concerning the property, ie the landlord is taking too long to give the go-ahead for a particular repair, etc
- issuing a receipt or invoice for every payment received (for rent, a deposit, refund etc). Your deposit should also be lodged with one of the tenancy deposit schemes. You should be given proof of this within 30 days of (failure to do so could result in the letting agent or landlord being taken to court)
- issuing you with a signed tenancy agreement
- going through the inventory with you
- providing a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate for you to view, as well as certificates showing recently completed gas and electric safety checks
What if the landlord or letting agent is failing to act in my interests?
In the event your landlord or letting agent are:
- not responding to your requests for repairs
- entering the property for inspections without informing you
- repeatedly increasing the rent,
there are organisations you can turn to. Landlords and letting agencies cannot ignore tenants’ legal rights! Particularly if you live in a HMO, your landlord has extra responsibilities when it comes to safety, e.g. providing a fire extinguisher.
This includes some of the accreditation bodies we previously mentioned, but there are others.
If you feel the property is unsafe or uninhabitable, you can speak to the local council’s environmental health officers.
In the event you believe the rent has been increased unfairly then you can ask the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to review it.
If there’s vandalism or unreasonable noise in your block of flats/neighbourhood, you can ask the council’s anti-social behaviour team to investigate.
Helpful guidelines for tenants
You’ll find the legal obligations of landlords and letting agencies on the UK government’s website under Private Renting. Here you’ll find out what you can expect as a tenant, what responsibilities your landlord has and who to appeal to if you believe your rent has been increased too much.
Your landlord should present you with one of these at the start of your tenancy. This will show they’re aware of the current government legislation regarding renting and inform you of the law around short-assured tenancies, deposit schemes and giving notice in the event you want to move out prior to the tenancy ending.
Renting in a new area? Phil Spencer’s Property Report contains information on everything from local planning applications and local amenities to school ratings.