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Welcome to Unlock the Law's full property guide for tenants & landlords in England & Wales. This guide will explain the main rights and responsibilities that both tenants & landlords should consider before entering into an agreement.
An increasing number of people find the prospect of renting a home far more attractive than making the significant investment, in time and money, to purchase a home. It is important to understand that by deciding to rent, you are entering into a particular kind of legal relationship with your landlord. This relationship requires both parties to observe the responsibilities that they owe to one another for the duration of the tenancy.
At Unlock the Law we have poured over the law and how it applies to renting a property in England and Wales. In this guide we tell you everything that you need to know about renting a property.
Contrary to what many people may believe, there is a lot to be considered when thinking about renting a property. Chief among these is the fact that by renting, you will never own the property in question. By extension your rights in terms of what you are able to do with the property e.g. make cosmetic changes, have guests etc. are limited according to what you agree with the landlord. By making the decision to rent, people will forgo a degree of the freedom that they would otherwise have if they had bought a property. However they also are not burdened by the significant mortgage repayments that tend to be associated by buying a property.
It may sound surprising but there are different kinds of landlords, and being a tenant of a particular landlord can have an impact on your legal rights. The distinction is between two specific kinds of landlord:
If your landlord is a Social housing landlord, they will either be a local authority – a district or borough council – or a housing association. By extension as a tenant with a social housing landlord, provided that your tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989, you will be a secure tenant or an introductory tenant.
A private individual that allows you to take up residence in a property they own in exchange for rent will be your landlord. Depending on when your tenancy began, you will fall into one or another category of tenant.
Where a tenancy began on or after January 1989, a tenant will most likely either be an assured tenant; or an assured shorthand tenant.
As a social housing tenant, you will be entitled to live in the property in question. The only reason that your entitlement to live in the property will become the subject of debate is either (i) where you violate the terms of your tenancy agreement; or (ii) your landlord seeks to evict you from the premises. It should be noted that if there are severe breaches of the tenancy agreement, a landlord may take steps to have you evicted from the property anyway.
The law also grants social housing tenants a number of other rights, including:
As a private housing tenant, the rights that you have will depend on the type of tenant that you are. However there are a few responsibilities that all private housing landlords owe to their tenants, including:
There will also be additional requirements that landlords must observe in terms of their properties, where they are let as furnished properties to tenants. If this is the case, tenants are entitled to expect certain things to be provided, including:
It is also not uncommon the private properties often has a television set. Unless a landlord installed the set in question, it is the responsibility of the tenant to secure a license for it.
Your tenancy agreement – whether written or verbal – will lay down what you can expect from your landlord. The agreement will also include what your landlord can expect of you. Notwithstanding the terms of the tenancy agreement, it is important to be conscious of the rights that landlords (public or private) have in respect of their property.
Landlords are entitled to access to the property in question in order to carry out necessary repairs. It should be noted that in the case of emergency repairs, landlords are entitled to immediate access in order to make the property safe for their tenants. Furthermore they are also entitled to enter the property to inspect the state that it is in. However in practice landlords should seek the permission of their tenants to enter the property, and should give at least 24 hour's notice.
It should also be borne in mind, as will often be stipulated in the tenancy agreement, that landlords have the right to the rent they are owed in exchange for granting people tenancy in their property.
The amount of money to be paid in rent will depend on whether or not you are a social housing or private housing tenant.
The rent for tenants in social housing is determined according to the local authorities' policy for housing, as well as the money that is allocated by central government. It is not possible for tenants to control the amount of rent that is due for a property.
In the case of private tenants, a landlord will normally have investigated what they can expect to let a property for in terms of rental payments. It is open to landlords to increase the rent that they expect from tenants, however, this must be made clear within a tenancy agreement or otherwise brought to your attention.
If you are unable to pay your rent and find yourself in, or at risk of being in arrears, it is important that you speak with your landlord. It must be noted that a failure to pay rent is a basis for landlord to take legal action in order to evict you from their property. If you are able to engage with them, and come up with a practical, workable solution that will allow you to clear your arrears and make all future rental payments, this will avoid the need to involve the courts.
If you are not able to clear your arrears, and there is no reasonable likelihood of this changing, then your landlord can begin the process to have you evicted from the property. The process involved will depend on whether or not your landlord is a social housing, or private landlord.
Social housing landlords are obliged, when attempting to evict a tenant for rent arrears, to follow a set of rules known as the rent arrears protocol. This requires that they write to you and seek further information as to why you cannot pay your rent, and provide assistance in terms of seeking housing benefit. If there is no likelihood of the situation changing, the next step is for the landlord to formalise matters:
Private landlords are also obliged to follow a relatively similar procedure to that of social landlords in order to evict tenants for rental arrears:
Nothing in this guide is intended to constitute legal advice and you are strongly advised to seek independent legal advice on matters that affect you.