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Part 3: Know your rights as a tenant of private rented property

By Bea Patel, Property Editor and Director of Shop for an Agent – The Estate Agent comparison site

In the previous two articles in this four part series, I looked at Tips for moving into private rented property and Tips for when living in your private rented property. This week I’ll cover information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

When you move into a private rented property, you’ll have a tenancy agreement. This agreement is a written or oral contract between you and your landlord, giving you both certain rights, for example, your right to live in the property and your landlords right to charge you rent to occupy the property.

By law, you’ll both have rights and responsibilities, but your agreement can give you both more than your statutory rights, but not less. If you’ve made certain arrangements about your tenancy with your landlord, this will be included in your tenancy agreement, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the law.

Your responsibilities

  • Keeping up with your rent payments. This can be weekly or monthly. You should know when your rent is due and if you’re unsure, check with your landlord or the letting agent. Your landlord can evict you if you fall into arrears.
  • Keeping up to date with bills. If bills are not included in your rent, you’ll have to pay for gas, electric, water, TV License and council tax. You may also need to pay for a phone line and any TV packages or internet costs should you want this.
  • Looking after the property. You’d be responsible for maintaining the décor, any equipment, white goods and furniture. Reasonable wear and tear is fine but if, for example, you’re pet damaged the sofa causing it to rip, then you’d probably have to pay for the damage or replace whatever gets broken. It’s also your responsibility to:
    • Report any repairs.
    • Check the fire alarm is working.
    • Change light bulbs.
    • Stick to any conditions on smoking or having pets.
    • Abide by the terms of your tenancy agreement.
  • Making sure the property isn’t empty for long periods, for example, if you have to temporarily stay with a relative to care for them or you’re going to be in hospital for a while. Your landlord may think you’ve abandoned the property. You should speak to your landlord if you’re concerned about this and you must continue to pay your rent.
  • Ask your landlords permission if you want to:
    • Make any improvements to the property.
    • Sublet the property or take in a lodger.
    • Run a business from the property.
    • Pass the tenancy on to someone else.

You should put this in writing and keep a record of all correspondence.

If you have a joint tenancy, this means that all the tenants are equally responsible for paying the rent and bills, and abiding by the terms of the joint tenancy agreement. You could be held responsible for another tenants rent or bill payment if they fail to pay it.

Landlord’s responsibilities

As part of your tenancy agreement, the landlord also has certain responsibilities, such as:

  • Ensuring you have their contact details, and if a Letting Agent manages the property, you should write to them. If your landlord fails to give you their details within 21 days, they could be fined.
  • Making sure the property meets safety standards. This is a legal obligation and your landlords must make sure:
    • Electrical equipment is safe.
    • Furniture meets fire standards.
    • All gas appliances have a Gas Safety Certificate.
  • Conducting most repairs. This applies to the external structure of the property, for example the roof, walls, chimney, guttering and drains. Your landlord is also responsible for some internal repairs such as keeping the equipment working for your water, gas and electric supply.
  • Protecting your deposit. For some tenancy agreements, your landlord must protect your deposit in a UK Government-backed Deposit Protection Scheme. They should also return your deposit to you at the end of your tenancy agreement, unless any disputes occur over damaged property or rent arrears.

You should also check your tenancy agreement on the rights your landlord has to increase your rent. Ensure you understand this, as landlords can increase rent in certain circumstances and at certain times during a tenancy agreement. This would depend on the type of tenancy agreement you have and its terms. Seek advice if you’re not sure of anything.

In the final part of this four part series, I’ll discuss what you need to know when moving out of your privately rented property.

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