Tenancy rights (26/8/2014)
Next month a number of new adults will be leaving home for the first time to go to University. If lucky they will be accepted into a Halls of Residence. But if not, it will be private rented accommodation and the students will join the 8 million people who are currently renting in the UK. This article is about your rights if you are renting.
Your landlord responsibilitiesYou should receive your landlord’s details within 21 days of starting a tenancy agreement. If not the landlord can be fined for not providing their details. If you have not received any details you should ask whomever you rented the property through to provide this information. In Scotland, you must receive a tenant information pack at the beginning of an assured or short hold tenancy.
Your landlord’s responsibilities are as follows:
- The property is safe and in a good state of repair
- Your deposit is returned at the end of the tenancy
- You are able to live in the property undisturbed
- Not to unfairly evict you or charge an unfair rent.
- Ensure any gas equipment is installed correctly and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer including annual equipment check and providing a copy of the gas safety certificate within 28 days of moving in.
- Ensure any electrical equipment such as sockets, cookers etc. are safe
- Adhering to fire safety regulations and ensuring there is an escape route from the property and all furnishings provided are fire safe.
- As part of agreeing to rent a property you have agreed to take good care of the property. For example remember to turn off water in the winter if you leave the property for a long period of time.
- To pay rent as set out in your tenancy agreement, even if you are in disagreement over any other costs related to the property.
- Pay all other charges that have been agreed with the landlord such as Council Tax, energy and water bills.
- Pay for any damage to the property caused by yourself or any of your visitors.
- Only sub let the property if the landlord has given written consent.
Who is responsible for what?
Your landlord is always responsible for repairs to:
- The property’s structure and exterior
- Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
- Heating and hot water
- Gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- Electrical wiring
- Any damage they cause through attempting repairs
If repairs aren’t doneIf the repairs are not undertaken then you should contact your local environmental health department for assistance, as they must take action if the issues could cause harm to you or others. In Scotland you need to contact the Private Rented Housing Panel.
At the beginning of the agreement
At the beginning of the agreement you should take an inventory of the property. An inventory lists the condition of the property and all its contents. Landlords often expect one to be done. Check the document before you sign it and if possible attach photos. There is no agreement on who pays so it is typical that the costs are split between the tenant and the landlord.
Unfit to live inIf the property is unfit to live in then contact your Council’s housing department who will undertake an assessment of the property.
Rent increasesIf your contract is a rolling contract (monthly or weekly) then your rent can only be increased once a year. If you are in a fixed term tenancy your rent can only increase by mutual agreement.
If you have an assured short hold contract (usually 6 or 12-months), once the initial period has passed, it will convert to a rolling contract and at this point either party can give notice to terminate the agreement.
Any rental increases should be fair and reasonable.
Leaving the property
If you want to leave the property you will need to give notice. With an assured short hold tenancy you will need to wait until the fixed period ends and then you can give written notice. The notice period will be within your contract but is typically 1-month.
Your landlord can only evict you after serving notice, which will require a possession order from the Court, for issues such as non-payment of rent.
Your landlord must place your deposit in a Government approved tenancy deposit scheme if you have an assured short hold tenancy. At the end of the tenancy your deposit must be returned to you within 10-days after agreeing whether or not any deductions should be made.Your deposit can be subject to deductions if you have not paid your bills, met the terms of your tenancy agreement or caused damage to the property. If there is a dispute then the tenancy deposit scheme will offer a free dispute resolution service. In this instance both you and the landlord need to provide evidence. An independent assessment and decision is then made regarding returning the deposit.