Knowing your rights as a tenant
Moving out of your family home and renting a property is a big step. Before you take the plunge, check out your legal rights … here we describe the main ones and answer the most common questions.
How can I be sure who my landlord is?
The law says you’re entitled to know the name and address of your landlord, so you can check that there’s a valid address and contact details for them.
Do I need a tenancy agreement?
A written agreement isn’t usually a legal requirement but most letting agencies will insist on it for both yours and your landlord’s protection. You should also be ready for the landlord to request references from your employer and carry out a credit check to prove you can pay your rent.
Can my rent be increased?
Your rent can only be raised if you agree to it or if an annual increase or review is specified in the tenancy agreement.
Can I redecorate the property?
Redecorating can benefit both you and the landlord, but it’s their decision whether they’re happy for you to get creative with a paintbrush. You may have a better chance if it’s an older property and you’re on a long-term let with a good relationship your landlord. The tenancy agreement should detail what changes, if any, you can make.
Who is responsible for repairs?
Legally, the property must be safe and in a good state of repair. The landlord is usually responsible for repairs, such as a sudden leak, boiler breakdown or washing machine malfunction, but you will be responsible for things such as changing a light bulb!
Can the landlord call in at any time?
Landlords can’t just breeze in. They have a right to visit however for an annual inspection, or to carry out essential repairs, but must give 24 hours’ notice in writing.
Can I be evicted?
No, not unless you break a term in the tenancy agreement, such as not paying the rent or are being an antisocial tenant in terms of your behaviour. After the fixed term ends, the landlord must give at least two months’ notice if they want the property back, and you must do the same when you want to leave and move on elsewhere.
Can I get my deposit back?
By law, the landlord must protect your deposit in a government-approved scheme and return it to you when the tenancy ends. You might not get the full amount back if, for example, you owe rent or there is damage to something that needs repairs. You must expect to clean the property thoroughly including the carpets, oven and fridge when you leave – if you don’t the landlord has the right to get professional cleaners in and deduct this expense from your deposit.
Landlords should give tenants a government booklet ‘How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England’. Or you can download it on www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent, or for ease click on our renting page here.