As a tenant moving into a private rented property, you have a number of rights and responsibilities, just like your landlord. These rights and responsibilities are often defined in your tenancy agreement so, if you’re unsure, this should be the first port of call. This guide defines the key rights and responsibilities you have as a tenant.
The rights of a tenant
As a tenant in a private rented property, your tenancy agreement (which should be co-signed by you and your landlord before you move in) provides you with a number of rights:
- The right to live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair
- The right to have your deposit returned at the end of the tenancy (provided that you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement). If you started your tenancy after 2007 and have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, then your deposit should also be protected by the landlord for the duration of the tenancy
- As part of this, you’ll have the ability to challenge any charges that you believe are ‘excessively high’
- The right to know the identity of your landlord
- The right to live in the property undisturbed
- The right to see the property’s energy performance certificate (EPC), and except in very specfic circumstances, should be rated a minimum of E.
- The right to be protected from unfair rent and unfair eviction
- The right to have a written agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy of more than three years
- As of 1 June 2019, to not to have to pay certain fees when setting up a new tenancy, under the Tenant Fees Act (commonly referred to as the Tenant Fee Ban).
If you have a written tenancy agreement, then it should be fair and compliant with the law. Many sample tenancy agreements are available online, such as this one from the .GOV website. If you don’t think you’ve received one from your landlord, then enquire immediately. That way, your rights are protected.
Likewise, if you’re reading the above and you’re not sure who your landlord is, then you can make an enquiry with your letting agent or the person you rented the property from. Your landlord has a legal requirement to let you know who they are and they can be fined if they fail to tell you within 21 days. If you’re unsure and you have a tenancy agreement, then read it carefully as this is where the information’s usually displayed.
In addition to the above, if you live in Scotland and have started a new assured or short assured tenancy, then your landlord must provide you with what’s known as a tenant information pack. This can be downloaded as a PDF.
Your responsibilities as a tenant
Although a tenancy agreement displays your rights, it also clearly shows your responsibilities as a tenant.
Your landlord must give you at least 24 hours’ notice to enter the property, unless it’s an emergency and they need immediate access. Our page Rights for Inspecting or Viewing a Property as a Landlord provides more detail.
As such, as long as they’re asking to visit at a reasonable time of day and have provided the appropriate amount of notice, you must allow them access to carry out inspections and undertake any maintenance work. Unless they specifically ask, you probably won’t have to be present to allow them access.
In addition to this, your responsibilities as a tenant mean that you must:
- Take care of the property in the absence of the landlord. This includes not causing any damage to the property while you inhabit it and performing tasks such as switching off the water at the mains while you’re away and the weather is cold, or reporting any issues with the property promptly so the landlord can fix before they cause any serious damage
- Pay the agreed amount of rent on time even if you’re in dispute with your landlord or waiting for repairs
- Pay all other charges and bills outlined in your tenancy agreement. This is likely to include, but not necessarily be exclusive to: council tax, utility bills and TV licence fees
- Pay for any damage that’s been caused by you, other tenants or guests (including family and friends)
- Only sublet your property if the tenancy agreement states that you may do so
If you don’t meet these responsibilities, or are found to be in breach of your tenancy agreement, then your landlord has the right to take legal action to evict you. This is a last resort and something that neither you nor the landlord want things to come to.
To ensure that it doesn’t get to that stage, make sure you read your tenancy agreement in full and, if you’re unsure about anything it contains, speak to your landlord or letting agent.