Guide
Tenant Rights Guide

As a tenant, you have the following rights when you rent a property:

  1. To live in a property that is safe and in a good upkeep
  2. To know who you are renting from
  3. To live undisturbed in the property
  4. To be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent practices
  5. To have “reasonable” adjustments made for disabled tenants
  6. To have your deposit protected for the duration of your tenancy agreement, and have it returned, as long as there is no outstanding rent due or damage to the property caused that is your responsibility
  7. To have a constant supply of hot water
  8. Receive an energy certificate for the property
  9. Have soft furnishings that comply with fire safety rules
  10. Have a written agreement if the tenancy is longer than 3 years

You also have the following responsibilities:

  1. To take care of the property you are renting
  2. Pay the rent in full and on time
  3. Pay for damage caused to the landlord’s property that is your fault (note this does not include wear and tear)
  4. Not sublet the property unless expressly permitted to do so in the tenancy agreement, this includes Air BnB.

You as the tenant have the right to live in accommodation that is “fit for human habitation” and under new legislation, a property has to be habitable from the beginning to the end of the tenancy. Therefore, if you find yourself living in a property that falls below these basic standards, then the landlord has a responsibility to rectify the problem. The options available to you are:

  • Contact the landlord

    If a situation arises where damage to the property comes about through no fault of your own (i.e. damp) the first port of call in any situation is to contact your landlord or relevant organisation. You as the tenant have every right to expect the landlord to deal with it once they has been notified.

  • Environmental Health Agency

    If the landlord fails to deal with the request, then you can send a request to the environmental health agency to view the property and assess the problem. You can then report the landlord to the council, who can then force them to take action under the threat of legal action.

  • Court Action

    The new Fitness for Human Habitation Act allows tenants to bypass the council and take action into their own hands. You should do so via the small claims court initially, as the costs are lower. Small claims courts can deal with matters of repair and compensation together if the claims for both are up to £2,000 (up to £1,000 for compensation and up to £1,000 for repairs). If you are just seeking compensation, then matters of up to £10,000 can be handled by the small claims court. Anything else will have to go to a higher court.

  • Ombudsman

    If you are renting from a letting agent, local council or housing association, then they can ask the housing ombudsman to investigate further.

Deposits

Landlords and letting agents are obliged to place your deposit in a Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) also known as a Tenant Deposit Protection (TDP), which was mandated by the government in 2007 to protect all Assured Short-term Tenancy (AST) deposits.


Once they have received your deposit, landlords have 30 days to put it in an approved DPS. If your landlord doesn’t do it, they could be liable to pay the full deposit back, plus up to three times more. If your deposit isn’t protected, a landlord may not be able to evict you.

There are 3 approved tenant protection schemes in England and Wales:

There are exceptions to the deposit protection rules, which apply to the following categories:

  • Resident landlords
  • Company lets
  • Student accommodation
  • A property let directly by a university

Deposit return

A landlord has the right to take money out of the deposit if:

  • There is outstanding rent owed at the end of the tenancy
  • If there is damage to the property not under the landlord’s responsibility or broken or lost items from the inventory in furnished apartments.

Landlords are not allowed to take your deposit to cover costs for wear and tear, or to fix damage that is not your fault, i.e. structural damage, damp etc.
If a landlord does withhold your deposit, then you can demand the landlord state the reasons for withholding some or all of the funds in writing. Even when the landlord is justified in withholding all or part of the deposit, you can insist that the landlord provide evidence for the monies withheld. For example, if there is a deduction for repair costs, you can request to see invoices for the said repair work to ensure the deductions are justified. If the landlord refuses to provide their reasons in writing, or refuses evidence of the costs, then you can take the landlord to the small claims court to get your deposit back.

The TDP offers a free dispute resolution service, if you disagree with your landlord on how much or any of deposit should be withheld. If both parties agree to use the mechanism, you and the landlord will be requested to provide evidence, and then a final decision will be made by the dispute resolution service. If you can’t contact your landlord, you can still raise a dispute with the DPS, and your deposit will be returned if the dispute resolution service agrees with your claim. If you do have a dispute with regards to your deposit, it’s best to raise the matter as soon as possible with the TDP, as there may be a time-limit on raising disputes.

Energy Rating

If you as the tenant pay the energy and water bills, then you have the right to switch energy providers, and don’t have to be locked into uncompetitive contracts. You should of course let their landlords know about the change you intend to make, but the landlord should not stand in the way of this.

If a landlord charges you for gas and electricity, then you have the right to understand how the figure was calculated, and if the landlord refuses, you can seek help from the citizens Advice Bureau, and possibly take action in the small claims court.

A landlord can raise the rent on tenants if it has been previously agreed, i.e. periodic increases are built into your agreement, or the landlord agrees the increase with you separately and the agreed rise is put into writing and signed by you the tenant. If there is a periodic tenancy, the landlord cannot usually increase the rent more than once a year.

If a landlord raises your rent unilaterally, or in a way that is outside the agreed terms of your contract, then you can apply to a tribunal to reach a resolution and get your money back.

Tenants have a right to live in a place undisturbed. If you are the victim of anti-social behaviour caused by your neighbours, you have several options available. You can speak to your neighbour and discuss the issue with them and let them know why you are unhappy with their behaviour. However, you shouldn’t put yourself in harms way to confront your neighbour, so only do so if you feel comfortable.

If the problem persists, or talking to the neighbour isn’t possible, you should first speak to your landlord and make them aware of the problem, there may be something they can do, especially if they are the landlord of the offending neighbour. You can find out if your neighbour is renting and speak to their landlord (if they are renting) and they can take up your complaint. If that doesn’t work, you can speak to the council and document the problems you have been having, and the frequency of them.

You can go directly to the council if:

  • Your neighbour is the landlord of their property.
  • You don’t know whether your neighbour rents or is the landlord of their property
  • Your neighbour rents but you don’t know who from.

If you are not satisfied with the council’s response (or housing association where relevant) you can start a complaints procedure against them, and if your problem is still unresolved, you can go to an ombudsman.

Right to rent
Under UK law, landlords have a responsibility to check the immigration status of tenants who wish to rent their property. This will usually involve you providing the landlord with documents such as a British or EU/EEA or Swiss passport, or a visa or a biometric residency permit (BRP) if you are a non-EU national.

If you don’t have any of these documents and are part of the Windrush generation, then you can tell the landlord how long you have lived in the UK, and then they can check your details against the Landlord Checking Service. The Landlord Checking Service will then contact you to confirm if you have the right to rent and provide you with the relevant documentation. If the landlord refuses to contact the Landlord Checking Service, then the you can contact the Home Office’s Commonwealth Taskforce.

If you don’t have the right to rent and the landlord finds out, then your contract is void, and the landlord can evict you by issuing you with a section 8, and then you would have 14 days to vacate the property.

If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, there are two routes they can take:

Section 21

This is also known as a notice of possession; where the landlord serves a tenant with notice to vacate the property at the end of an AST. If you have a rolling contract (contractual periodic tenancy) then your notice period may well be longer than the minimum period of two months, and most likely be judged on the period of your tenancy.

If you have been issued with a Section 21, you have every right to remain in the property up until the expiry date of your tenancy agreement. A Section 21 can be used for a variety of reasons, for problematic tenants, or simply if a landlord wants to regain possession of the property, a landlord doesn’t need a particular reason to issue a Section 21. Landlords do however have to follow a set of rules in order for a Section 21 to hold up legally, and the validity of a section 21 can be challenged if the correct procedure isn’t followed.

The criteria for a Section 21 is as follows:

  • The landlord has to give you a 6A Form and has to give at least 2 months’ notice to vacate the property.
  • For HMOs, in many cases the landlord needs a licence in order to issue a Section 21, and so if they don’t have one, the Section 21 is invalid. You may be entitled to compensation if your landlord has been running an unlicensed HMO.
Section 21

A Section 21 is not valid in the following instances:

  • If it issued before you have been given a gas safety certificate, and energy performance certificate and a “How to Rent: Checklist for renting in England” guide (this doesn’t apply if the tenancy began before 1st of October 2015).
  • If it is served within the first 4 months of a tenancy.
  • If your deposit isn’t protected by a tenancy deposit scheme (in this case a landlord can only issue a valid Section 21 if they return your deposit first).
  • If it is issued within 6 months of a council order, obligating the landlord to make repairs to the property under either an improvement notice or an emergency works notice.

If you have been issued with a Section 21 that is incorrect, you have the legal right to remain in your home. In order to evict you, the landlord will need a new Section 21 in order to proceed.

If you wish to dispute the Section 21 notice, then you can do so by filling out a N11B defence form, but you risk expensive court fees if you lose the case.

Section 8

A landlord will typically issue a Section 8 if the tenant has violated the terms of the tenancy agreement and is in breach of contract, for example the tenant has several months of unpaid rent, and is a process for the landlord to take possession of the property. There are specific criteria that are required to be mentioned in a Section 8, the notice must use a specific document called “Form 3” or be a letter with all the same criteria as Form 3. The notice period to vacate the property will be between 14 days, 4 weeks or 2 months.

Often when tenants are served with a Section 8, they will leave the property to avoid a long and costly legal battle. However, if you are issued with a Section 8 and you want to dispute this, then the landlord has to apply to courts to enforce the Section 8, and the court will then send you a defence form, detail of the court hearing and a list of evidence that the landlord has submitted to support their case. The court then convenes and will then decide to either uphold the Section 8, dismiss it or postpone or suspend the repossession. If a Section 8 goes to court, the landlord must prove to the court that there are valid grounds to evict you.

Illegal evictions

Illegal Evictions

If a landlord doesn’t follow the correct procedures after issuing a Section 8 or 21, then these orders become invalid, and any action is not legally enforceable. You are entitled to take legal action against the landlord if they continue trying to evict you without the proper authorisation.


It is also a criminal offence for the landlord to:

  • Harass you the tenant to get you to vacate the property.
  • Physically remove you or prevent you from entering the property.
  • Cut off water or electricity whatever the circumstances, even if rent or other bills haven’t been paid.
  • Changing the locks of the property without your consent.

A landlord is permitted to evict tenants themselves if the tenant is:

  • A lodger
  • In a council or housing association hostel
  • In emergency accommodation.

Even when a landlord has the legal authority to evict you, they must still give you reasonable notice before an eviction (usually between 14 days and 2 months). If you are a private tenant, a student living in halls, a council housing tenant or living in the same building as the landlord, then the landlord will need to get a court order, and then a bailiff is permitted to carry out the eviction, the landlord cannot do it themselves.

If the landlord tries to evict you in what is known as a revenge eviction, for example if you have reported poor living conditions to the local council and have then been served with a Section 21, you can challenge a revenge eviction in the courts, it’s advisable to contact Citizens Advice.

If a you have been evicted illegally, there are several options available:

  • The local council can provide you advice on how to proceed.
  • For more serious cases, the police can be brought in.
  • In a legal setting, you can apply for an illegal eviction injunction, which if granted can force the landlord to let you back into the property and set up safeguards against future harassment.
  • As well as appealing and reversing the eviction, you may also be entitled to compensation and can explore several options such as a no-win no-fee claim.