Many tenants have a written tenancy agreement, but a legal contract exists between a landlord and a tenant whether or not anything is written down. A verbal agreement may simply be based on the conversation the landlord and tenant had when they originally agreed on the terms of the letting. A verbal contract may, however, be difficult to enforce, especially if there were no witnesses to the agreement.
If you are having problems either enforcing the terms of the agreement, for example, repairs, or being required by the landlord to agree to something different from the original tenancy agreement, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
How to find out who the landlord is
If you do not know the identity of the landlord, you can write to the person who last collected your rent, asking for your landlord’s full name and address. You should send this letter by recorded delivery and keep a copy. If the person to whom you have written does not reply within 21 days, this is a criminal offence. You can inform the Tenancy Relations Officer of the local authority, who can prosecute the person who has failed to provide the information.
Before contacting the Tenancy Relations Officer, you should consider whether this might provoke your landlord into retaliating with threats or attempted eviction. You should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
If you need to find out your landlord’s identity because of an emergency, such as a burst pipe, it may be quicker to inform the local authority of the emergency. The local authority has special powers to enter and carry out any necessary work, and can take steps to find out who your landlord is in order to recover its costs.
Renting from a letting agency
A letting agency can help you find accommodation owned by a private landlord. Some will help you simply to find accommodation, but many letting agencies manage properties on behalf of a landlord, which means that you may have no direct contact with your landlord.
Paying the rent and council tax
Only a tenant with a weekly tenancy, or who pays the rent weekly, has a right to a rent book.
It is important to remember that it is your duty to pay the rent and not your landlord’s duty to collect it.
The landlord’s rights of entry
Your landlord has a right to reasonable access to carry out repairs. What ‘reasonable access’ means depends on why your landlord needs to get access. For example, in an emergency, your landlord is entitled to immediate access to carry out any necessary work.
Your landlord also has a right to enter the property to inspect the state of repair, but they should always ask for your permission and should give you at least 24 hours’ notice. Your landlord does not have a right to enter in any other circumstances unless they have a court order.
If you are having problems with your landlord who is entering the accommodation without the tenant’s permission, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service. Repairs
The landlord harasses the tenant
It is an offence for your landlord to do anything which they know is likely to make you leave the home or prevent you from exercising your legal rights. This would include, for example, repeatedly disturbing you late at night or obstructing access to the home, creating noise, disconnecting supplies of water, gas or electricity where your landlord knows that this is likely to drive you out or discourage you from insisting on your legal rights. If you are subjected to harassment, the matter should be reported to the Tenancy Relations Officer of the local authority or to the police.
When renting accommodation, it’s against the law for a landlord to harass you because of your disability, gender reassignment, race or sex. Harassment can include both actions and language that you find offensive.
If you are being harassed by your landlord you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
The landlord sells your home with you remaining as tenant
It’s possible for your landlord to sell their property with you still living there. In these circumstances, you may be referred to as a ‘sitting tenant’.
When the property is sold, the new landlord would ‘step into the shoes’ of your old landlord and the terms of your tenancy agreement continue. The tenancy agreement is still valid even though the landlord’s name is out of date.
Your new landlord may ask you to sign a new tenancy agreement but they can’t make you do so. However, if you don’t sign it and you have a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy, they could give you notice to leave at the end of that fixed term.
If you don’t sign a new agreement and you have a periodic assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord could give you two months’ notice to leave.
Gas, electricity and water supplies
Your landlord must provide the services which are reasonably required by you. These services include the supply of gas, electricity and water.
Responsibility for bills
As the tenant you must pay for the fuel and water you use. You may pay the bill yourself, or the cost of fuel and water may be included in the rent and your landlord pays the fuel or water company’s bills.
For those tenants who don’t live in properties that don’t provide an all-inclusive option, you may want to consider using a company such as Glide or Split the Bills. These companies take the hassle out of paying the bills. They can help you set up one monthly payment for all your utilities and ensure that you only pay your fair share.
Charging for fuel
There are legal restrictions on the amount your landlord can charge you for fuel which is supplied through a pre-payment meter provided by your landlord. If a pre-payment meter is set to charge above the legal limits, you are entitled to a rebate when it is emptied.
If you pay your landlord each time a bill is received and you think the amount is too high, you should ask to see the bill before paying it.
If fuel is paid for along with the rent, you should check whether there is a written tenancy agreement which specifies how this is assessed.
For details of the maximum your landlord can charge for gas and electricity, consult the fuel supplier or an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
The landlord fails to pay a fuel bill
If your landlord is responsible for paying the fuel bills and has not done so, the supply may be cut off. If you have had your supply cut off, or think that this might happen, you could:
- Contact the Environmental Health Department or the Tenancy Relations Officer of the local authority, who can arrange for the services to be reconnected and the bills to be paid
- Ask the company to put the supply into your name so that the bills are sent to you. You would then receive the bills and would no longer have to pay money to the landlord for fuel. This will only be possible if you have a separate meter. If several tenants are supplied through the same meter, the supplier may only agree to this if one of them accepts full responsibility for the bills.
If you cannot get a supply put in your own name, the help of an experienced adviser should be sought before you take any further action, for example, from a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
The landlord disconnects the gas, electricity or water
You have a right to any services which you need to use the accommodation as your home, without any interference from your landlord.
Your landlord should not cut off a fuel or water supply because you have not paid your rent.If you have had your fuel or water supply cut off by your landlord, you should consult an experienced adviser immediately, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
Safety of electrical appliances
Your landlord is responsible for ensuring that any electrical appliances supplied with the accommodation are safe. This includes heaters, cookers, kettles, and any other electrical goods.
Safety of gas appliances
Your landlord must ensure that any gas fittings and appliances in the accommodation they rent out are safe.
Your landlord must arrange and pay for safety checks and any necessary work to be carried out on appliances at least once every twelve months. The checks must be carried out by a person who is registered with the Gas Safe Register.
Your landlord must keep a record of inspection dates, any defects identified and any remedial action taken. You must be given a copy of this record.
If your landlord does not carry out regular inspections of gas appliances or if they refuse to give you a copy of the inspection record, you could contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which has a duty to enforce the safety requirements.
The contact details of the HSE are:
Caerphilly Business Park
Tel: 0800 300363 (Mon-Fri 8.00am-8.00pm; Sat-10.00am-4.00pm)
If a property is let as furnished, as a tenant you could expect a level of furnishing that would be reasonable to allow you to live in the accommodation. This would include:
- Table and chairs in the kitchen/living room
- Sofa and/or armchairs in the living room
- A bed and storage for clothes in each bedroom
- Heating appliances
- Curtains and floor coverings
- A cooker, fridge, kitchen utensils and crockery.
- Any upholstered furniture must comply with fire safety regulations (see under Furniture fire safety, below).
If you think that the provision is not adequate, you can provide your own furniture, unless the tenancy agreement does not allow this.
If you are not happy with the condition of the furniture when you move in, you could consider discussing this with your landlord. Your landlord might agree to replace it. You could check what was listed in the inventory (if one exists), or tenancy agreement about the condition of the furniture.
An inventory is a list of furniture and other contents which have been provided in the accommodation by your landlord.
Your landlord usually writes the inventory. It should list everything provided in the accommodation for use by you, with a description of the items, including their age and condition. You should check that you agree with the inventory, sign and date it.
If you are visually impaired, you can ask your landlord to provide an inventory in a different format, for example, on an audio tape. Your landlord may be discriminating against you if they refuse to do this.
If your landlord does not draw up and agree an inventory, you can draw one up as soon as you move into the accommodation and get it signed and dated by an independent witness, that is someone who is not a close relative or friend.
Furniture fire safety
Any furniture provided by your landlord must be fire resistant, unless the landlord is letting a room in their own home, or letting the whole home on a temporary basis.
All new and second-hand upholstered furniture sold after 1 September 1990 should meet the fire safety regulations, and carry a label to say so. The labels should be permanently attached to a hidden part of the item. If a piece of furniture does not carry a label saying that it meets the regulations, it is likely that the item does not meet the regulations and must be replaced.
Damage or loss to contents/furniture
If you have damaged furniture or fittings you should tell the landlord what has happened and seek to agree on how the replacement or repair is to be arranged, and how payment will be made.
If you replace or repair an item without the agreement of your landlord, your landlord may identify this at the end of the tenancy, when they check the inventory. Your landlord might then deduct an amount from the deposit or take legal action against you for compensation.
Wear and tear
Over a period of time, most household furniture and contents deteriorate as a result of normal use, for example, floor coverings will become worn. This is known as ‘wear and tear’, and you would not be responsible for replacing these items.
If the extent of the wear and tear means that it causes a hazard, for example, springs in an armchair begin to stick through the upholstery, your landlord should repair or replace such items.
If your landlord has supplied an appliance such as a cooker or a washing machine that was working as the beginning of the tenancy, they have a responsibility to repair or replace it if it breaks down, unless this is the result of your negligence.
If there is damage or loss of furniture or contents, the cost may be covered by your landlord’s or your own insurance.
The tenancy agreement may state who is liable for any damage or loss to contents. The liable person, whether your landlord or you, should consider arranging an insurance policy to cover this liability.
Students are advised to insure their belongings as personal property is not insured by the landlord.
Endsleigh Insurance is a good place to start looking. They specialise in the student, education, graduate and sport markets. It is the preferred insurer for several unions and professional associations and is currently the only official and approved insurer of The National Union of Students. It’s owned in full by Zurich Insurance. For more information – www.endsleigh.co.uk
If there is a television set, DVD or video recorder in the accommodation, you are responsible for obtaining a television licence, unless your landlord installed the set. However, even if your landlord supplies the set, you should check that a licence exists by contacting the National TV Licence Records Office. If there is no licence, you could be liable for prosecution because you are the user of the set.
The landlord is not providing services
If the tenancy agreement specifies that your landlord should provide certain services, for example, gardening or lighting common parts, the landlord must do so.
If your landlord is not providing the agreed services, or is providing an inadequate level of service, you may wish to negotiate with the landlord to enforce the agreement. However, you should be aware that if you have a disagreement with your landlord, you could end up being evicted. This might depend on what type of tenancy agreement you have.
If you are experiencing problems with a landlord’s provision of services, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
Your landlord does not have the right to discriminate against you when providing services related to your accommodation. For example, your landlord tends to respond more slowly to maintenance issues raised by one tenant than similar requests from other tenants, because the tenant has a learning disability. This could be disability discrimination and would be against the law.
If you are experiencing discrimination by your landlord, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
Damage to the property
Your landlord is usually responsible for external and major structural repairs. You are usually responsible for internal decoration and for making sure that furniture and other contents, and fixtures and fittings are not damaged because of your negligence.
You will not usually be responsible for making good any deterioration caused by ‘fair wear and tear’. Your exact responsibilities will normally be described in the tenancy agreement.
You must take care of the property by doing the little jobs which can reasonably be expected of you, for example, unblocking drains and mending fuses. You should also inform the landlord about any situation which could cause damage to the property, for example, a leak in the roof.
If your landlord claims that you have damaged the property, they will normally try to keep all or part of any deposit you may have paid to cover the cost of damage.
Getting a deposit back at the end of a tenancy
If you paid a deposit to your landlord at the start of a tenancy as security for any rent arrears or damage to property, this should be returned at the end of the tenancy if the accommodation has been left in good condition and there are no arrears.
If your landlord refuses to return the deposit or makes deductions, you should check the terms of the tenancy agreement or the agreed inventory (if there was one) to see what the deposit was supposed to cover. In cases of damage to property, it will often be cheaper for you to make good the damage before your landlord comes to inspect the property than for your landlord to charge for the cost of getting repairs done.
If you have an assured shorthold tenancy and paid your deposit from 6 April 2007, or renewed your tenancy since that date, your landlord must use a tenancy deposit protection scheme. This means your deposit is safeguarded and there are procedures not involving the court that can be used to sort out problems about the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
Using the home for business purposes
If you use the whole of the property which you rent as your home for business purposes and no longer live there, you will lose any security of tenure you had and could be evicted by the landlord.
You may be able to use part of your home for business purposes as long as it is not specifically forbidden in your tenancy agreement, it does not cause a nuisance to neighbours and you have your landlord’s permission.
You may also require permission from the local authority to carry on a business. For example, there may be a need to obtain planning permission, or a special licence, depending on the activity. The business use can also lead to part of the home being assessed for the uniform business rate.
If you are threatened with eviction because you have used the home for business purposes, you may be able to defend the eviction, depending on what kind of tenancy you have, but the help of an experienced adviser will be needed, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
You can keep pets as long as it is not specifically forbidden in the tenancy agreement and it does not cause a nuisance to neighbours. However, you should normally seek your landlord’s permission because, even if you have a legal right to keep pets, if your landlord does not approve, you may end up getting evicted.
Whether you can be evicted depends on the type of tenancy agreement you have. If you are threatened with eviction because you are keeping pets, you may be able to defend this even if it is in breach of the tenancy agreement but you will have to get rid of the pet. This does, however, depend on what kind of tenancy you have.
If you are keeping pets when this is forbidden by the tenancy agreement, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
If there’s a term in your tenancy agreement which bans pets, you can ask your landlord to change it to allow you to have an assistance dog, if you’re disabled and need an assistance dog to be able to live in the property.
Your landlord should agree to this unless he has a good reason for not doing so. This is known as making a ‘reasonable adjustment’. If your landlord refuses to make a reasonable adjustment, they may be discriminating against you and could be acting unlawfully.
If you’re disabled and your landlord refuses to allow you to keep an assistance dog, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
What happens at the end of a fixed term
If you have a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy, at the end of the fixed term your landlord may offer you a new agreement. This could be for another fixed term or it could be on a periodic basis. This means that the agreement would run from one rent period to the next, for example, from month to month.
If you do renew your tenancy, your landlord may want to increase the rent. If you don’t agree with the increase, you could try to negotiate a different amount with your landlord. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to decide whether to renew the tenancy and pay the higher rent or find somewhere else to live.
If your landlord hasn’t given you notice or takes no action at the end of the fixed term, you don’t have to move out. Your tenancy automatically becomes a statutory periodic assured shorthold tenancy. A periodic tenancy is one that runs from one rent period to the next.
If your landlord decides that they don’t want to renew your tenancy and they want you to leave, they must give you a certain amount of notice. If you want to move out on the day that the fixed term runs out, you generally don’t have to give notice to your landlord. However, some agreements require notice to terminate the tenancy at the end of the fixed term. Guidance suggests that such a term may be considered unfair and unenforceable. If you are in this position you should get advice.
In practice, even if your agreement doesn’t include such a term, it’s best to let your landlord know what your plans are. This is to avoid problems; such as delays in getting your deposit back.
If you stay beyond the fixed term, even for one day, a periodic agreement begins. You will then have to give your landlord notice if you want to move out. For more information about ending a periodic agreement, see Tenant wants to end the tenancy.
Landlord wants to end the tenancy
There are many rules about the notice needed to end a tenancy agreement and apply for a possession order from the court. The rules cover the length of notice needed, the form in which it must be given and the dates on which it must take effect.
In most cases, your landlord has to serve a special notice on you before they can apply for a possession order. The rules vary depending on what kind of tenancy you have.
If a private landlord wants to end a tenancy on the date the agreement expires, they must usually serve a Notice conforming to special rules.
If you’ve been given notice by your landlord but you want to leave before the notice runs out, you should contact your landlord. It’s a good idea to see if you can come to a mutual agreement about when the notice will end. It’s never a good idea to just leave, as your agreement will continue even though you’ve left, and your landlord can continue to charge you rent.
If you receive a Notice of seeking possession, you should consult an experienced adviser without delay, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
Tenant wants to end the tenancy
If you want to end your tenancy, it’s important to do it properly otherwise you may be held responsible for paying the rent even after you’ve moved out.
What you have to do depends on whether your tenancy is fixed term or periodic. A fixed term tenancy is for a fixed period of time, for example, twelve months. A periodic tenancy is one that runs from one rent period to another, for example, from month to month. A periodic tenancy can start with a fixed term and then become periodic.
Fixed term tenancies
If you want to end a fixed term agreement early, you can only do so in one of two ways:
- with the permission of your landlord. This is called a ‘surrender’. It means you and your landlord agree to the tenancy ending. To avoid any problems, it’s best to get the landlord’s agreement in writing.
- if there is a term in your tenancy agreement that allows for the tenancy to end early. This is called a break clause. The break clause will tell you how much notice you have to give.
If you are a joint tenant, the other tenants must agree to end the tenancy too.
If you don’t end a fixed term tenancy properly, you may end up liable for the rent for the remainder of the time covered by the fixed term.
If you want to end a fixed term agreement early, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
If you want to end a periodic agreement you must give your landlord a valid notice to quit. The notice to quit must:
- be in writing
- be for at least 28 days. However, it could be for longer, so check what your tenancy agreement says first
- expire on the first or last day of a period of the tenancy (unless your tenancy agreement says otherwise). The first day of a period of the tenancy is usually the day your rent is due, but not always. It’s not always easy to work out what is the first or last day of a period of the tenancy, so you may need to get advice first.
In the case of a joint tenancy, just one tenant giving notice to quit can end the tenancy for all of the tenants. If you are unsure whether or not you are a joint tenant, an adviser will be able to help you. If you want get advice on how to end a periodic agreement, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
What happens if the tenant leaves without giving proper notice
If you leave without giving proper notice, your landlord may be entitled to charge rent up to the date when notice should have expired, or up to the end of the tenancy agreement if it is a fixed term agreement and you did not give any notice at all.
The help of an experienced adviser is almost certain to be needed if there is a dispute about rent arrears in this situation, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
How your landlord can get possession of the accommodation will depend on the type of tenancy you have.
Once your landlord or you have given notice, this does not necessarily mean you can be evicted. In nearly all cases a court order is needed, and further notice of court proceedings is often required. Whether the court will allow the eviction will depend on the kind of tenancy and the reasons for seeking eviction. However, in some cases, a court order may not be necessary. For example, a court order for eviction is not needed to evict you from your home if you have a resident landlord and the tenancy started after 15 January 1989.
If you have been asked to leave the accommodation by your landlord or have been told by them that they are taking court proceedings for possession, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
A large number of courts will have a duty desk scheme where you can receive advice and/or representation at the court hearing. The usher will tell you if one is available.
If your landlord has an order from the court giving them possession of the property, you do not have to leave until the date on the order.
Property left in the home after the tenant leaves
Property you left behind still belongs to you and normally should be returned to you when you ask for it. If you leave things behind when you give up a tenancy, your landlord may charge for the cost of clearing them out of the home.
If your landlord will not return your belongings left in the accommodation, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
The tenant is leaving and wants to pass the tenancy on
Passing on a tenancy to someone else is called assignment. The rules about who can and who cannot assign tenancies are very complex.
If you want to assign your tenancy to someone else, you should always consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
When renting accommodation, your landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. This means that they are probably breaking the law if they:
- refuse to let a property to you because of discrimination
- rent a property to you on worse terms than other tenants
- treat you differently from other tenants in the way you are allowed to use facilities such as a laundry or a garden
- evict or harass you because of discrimination
- charge you higher rent than other tenants
- refuse to carry out repairs to your home because of discrimination
- refuse to make reasonable changes to a property or a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there.
There are some circumstances where the general rules about discrimination may not apply, for example, if your landlord lives in the same property as you.
If you think your landlord is discriminating against you, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Students’ Union Advice Service.