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Renting Advice Renters Rights   |   Jun 23, 2014

Tenants Rights - Know your rights as a renter!

There are more renters in the UK than ever before, with the Telegraph website reporting that 3.9 million people rent property at this moment in time. The problem is, many of us rush into agreements for at least the next 6 months of our lives without even really knowing a lot about tenant's rights. We're handing huge sums of money over every month without knowing what tenants rights we do and don't have or what owners should be providing us with.

With any luck, everybody will have a great landlord who adheres to everything without cutting any corners, but unfortunately this is the real world, and there are cowboys out there in every profession who want to get away with as little as possible. Protect yourself from bad landlords and know your rights.

What are your tenants rights?

First you need to know what kind of tenancy agreement you have:

1) Assured or fixed-term tenant

  • Assured tenancy: Usually means you can live in the property for the rest of your life
  • Fixed-term tenancy: Usually lasts for at least 5 years

An assured tenancy can be offered at the end of a starter tenancy (a starter tenancy is sometimes given to people who have just moved into social housing as a kind of “tester” period). Unless your starter tenancy is extended after 12 months or unless the council has started action to evict you, you automatically become an assured or fixed term tenant.

Your rights can also include

  • The right to buy your home
  • Having your home repaired
  • Swapping your council home with that of another council tenant

Cases where your tenancy can be ended

  • Giving the housing association at least 4 weeks’ notice in writing (see here for our sample letter of notice)
  • You’re evicted by the housing association
  • You swap homes with someone or transfer your tenancy
  • Your housing association or council moves you (it should offer you a new property)

Your rights as an assured or fixed-term tenant

Safe from serious ‘category 1 hazards’ - these are stipulated as anything that could cause death or serious injury (loss of limbs, poisoning, fatal burns, cancer)

  • In a reasonable state of repair (not falling down)
  • Fitted with reasonably modern facilities
  • Adequately heated
  • Right of your spouse or civil partner to take over the tenancy on your death (the right of succession)
  • Not to be discriminated against due to any disability, gender, sexual orientation, maternity, religion, race or beliefs

You can make a complaint if you are worried about the standard of your accommodation.

If you’re a social housing tenant you can get involved and run a maintenance service as part of the Tenant Empowerment Programme. You can follow this programme on Twitter here.

2) Assured Shorthold Tenancy

  • Assured Shorthold Tenancies are the most common form of tenancies in the UK and used by agents and private landlords alike
  • You are an Assured Shorthold Tenant if your rental agreement is fixed for a period over six months

Cases where your tenancy can be ended

  • Once your fixed term ends, your landlord can apply to a court for possession if they give 2 months’ notice in writing
  • If your landlord or agent doesn’t renew the agreement your tenancy will turn into a periodic tenancy

Your rights as an Assured Shorthold Tenant

  • The property must be in a good state of repair and be safe when you move in, and it is between you and your landlord to keep it that way. If the responsibilities aren't set in your agreement, there are laws set that explain who is responsible for what.
  • You have the right to see the property’s Energy Performance Certificate
  • Tenancy agreements should be fair and must comply with the law.
  • You have the right to know who your landlord is. If you’re working through a “middle-man,” an agency for example, they should provide these details, if not you can request these details and if it isn't supplied within 21 days then owners can be fined.
  • A rent book should be supplied detailing the name and address of the landlord, payment amount and date paid and any utilities and any other bills you have agreed to pay. This book needs to be provided within 28 days. A PDF book can be downloaded here.
  • If you don’t have a tenancy agreement or it isn't outlined in your agreement, UK law states that everybody is entitled to a 6 month tenancy turning into a periodic tenancy after that.
  • If an owner or agent wants to visit for whatever reason, they must give 24 hours notice and arrange a time that is reasonable for both parties. They can only visit without prior warning if it’s an absolute emergency.
  • Renters have the right to live undisturbed. This comes in the Freedom of Harassment law, meaning that owners cannot change locks, cut off utilities or behave in a threatening manner.
  • Deposits to be returned if all requirements are met on departure, there is also a right for the deposit to go in to a protection scheme at the start of the tenancy.
  • Excessively high charges can be challenged.
  • The law protects renters from unfair eviction.
  • 28 days notice for eviction must be given and a section 21 eviction notice can not be issued if your deposit isn't covered under a government approved deposit protection scheme.

The landlord’s maintenance responsibilities:

The drains, structure and exterior of the property (including drains, gutters and external pipes)

  • Electric wiring and gas pipes (including taps and sockets)
  • Toilets, baths and sinks
  • Fixed heaters (gas fires or night storage) and water heaters

The landlord is required by law to carry out these duties however there have been instances where fear of eviction can stop a renter asking for repairs. A landlord may react badly and try to regain possession of the property or choose not to renew the rental agreement when it expires. If you’re worried this could happen, please see this advice from Shelter, call their helpline here or find a Shelter advice centre in your area.

Discrimination

If you’re worried that your landlord is discriminating against you because of a disability, your gender, maternity, pregnancy, race religion or belief then see the links below.

Knowing all this will give you piece of mind and if you have a particularly difficult landlord then refer to this blog, the gov.uk website and the Citizen's Advice Bureau. Here’s some useful links:

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/housing_w/housing_renting_a_home_e.htm

https://www.gov.uk/private-renting/your-rights-and-responsibilities

http://www.nihe.gov.uk/index/advice/renting_privately/advice_tenants/tenants_rights.htm

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