An increasing number of Britons, especially under 30s, now rent their home rather than own it. In fact according to UK accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper, by 2025, nearly half of young people between the ages of 21 and 39 will rent and remain as tenants rather than own their home – and as a result they are increasingly known as “generation rent”.
And while landlords have both rights and obligations, so do private tenants.
If you’re not sure about the respective rights of yourself and your landlord, the first thing to look at is the tenancy agreement.
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How we can help
Our leasehold team represents privately renting tenants throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset – and further afield – from our offices in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge and Amesbury.
The team acts for a wide range of landlords and tenants, providing straightforward practical cost-effective advice on a wide range of legal issues including:
- Eviction and unlawful eviction
- Landlord responsibilities
- Landlord and tenant disputes
- Residential Tenancy Agreements
The rights of assured tenants
These days most private tenants in England and Wales are what is referred to as “assured shorthold tenants”.
Assured tenants have a number of automatic rights including the following:
- to stay in your accommodation unless your landlord has strong reasons to evict you [eg rent arrears, damage to the property, or other breach of your tenancy agreement]
- to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair
- the right of a your spouse or civil partner to take over your tenancy should you pass away
- not to be treated unfairly through some form of discrimination
Please note however, we are not able to assist tenants with regard to housing disrepair or in relation to council tenancies.
Protection Under Tenancy Agreements – Five Steps to Take
Before you rush into a tenancy of leasehold property, there are certain simple steps that any tenant needs to take to ensure financial and personal protection.
1. Take out your own insurance
It is not safe to assume that the landlord’s house insurance will cover theft of any of your personal possessions. More often than not the landlord’s insurance policy will only cover the buildings and his or her possessions. Check the position of your lease, but unless it clearly indicates that your landlord will be responsible for insurance of your personal possessions, you should therefore look to take out your own insurance policy for any valuable possessions that you will have in the property.
2. Check whether the property is safe
You should check and get assurances or certificates from the landlord that the property complies with the following regulations.
- Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, amended in 1993
- Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
- Smoke Detectors Act 1991, (if the property doesn’t have smoke alarms ask if they can be installed)
- Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.
In addition, you are advised to check whether electrical appliances have been PAT tested (Portable Appliance Testing) by the landlord.
The regulations place a legal obligation on the landlord to supply you with copies of the requisite certificates. If your landlord refuses to do so then you should write to him informing him of his legal duty under the regulation to furnish you with a copy at the start of your tenancy. Failing this, you should make a formal written complaint to your local Health and Safety Executive which can be found via their website.
Since 1 October 2008 all homes being let are required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is broadly similar to the labels now provided with domestic appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines. Failure to provide an EPC could mean a fine of up to £5000.00 from Trading Standards.
3. Check that your deposit has been placed in a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme
Since April 2007 landlords or managing agents are obliged to place a deposit paid by a tenant into a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme.
This is an authorised scheme which protects the deposit and minimises the risk of landlords unreasonably pocketing your deposit at the end of the tenancy.
Your landlord or agent must tell you within 14 days of you handing over the deposit which one of the three authorised schemes your deposit is protected by and provide you with details of the scheme. The three schemes include:
- The Deposit Protection Service which offers a free-to-use system funded from the interest earned on the money deposited
- Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd which is a partnership run by the National Landlords Association (NLA) and Hamilton Fraser Insurance
- The Dispute Service
If your landlord or agent fails to place your deposit within one of the protection schemes they could be liable to pay you up to three times the amount of your deposit.
4. I know the person who is letting the property to me therefore I don’t need to sign a tenancy agreement.
Oral agreements can be difficult to enforce because there is often no proof of what has been agreed. If a particular problem arises it will be difficult to enforce it as it may not have been discussed. Nevertheless a tenancy agreement exists even if there is only an oral agreement between you and your landlord. For example, you and your landlord may have agreed at the start of the tenancy how much the rent would be and when it is payable, whether it includes fuel and bills such as water rates or whether your landlord can decide who else can live in the accommodation.
If you have a dispute with your landlord or you are trying to enforce an oral agreement with your tenant or landlord you should consult an experienced landlord and tenant solicitor.
5. I have not read the tenancy agreement; I can’t be bound to its terms.
The tenancy agreement (or lease) is a legally binding document. You should be aware that by signing the agreement you will be bound for the full term of the tenancy and will not be released from your obligations (for example, to pay rent) before the tenancy expires without the consent of the landlord.
The landlord should also sign the tenancy agreement. A landlord, by signing the tenancy agreement will be temporarily transferring possession of the property to you. A landlord will not be able to repossess the property before the tenancy expires unless you give up the tenancy or break the tenancy agreement; in the latter case a court order is required.
Before you arrange a date and time to sign the tenancy agreement, make sure that you (and all the other tenants if you are in shared accommodation) have seen a copy and read it through so that everyone including the landlord understands their obligations. Ask questions to clarify anything that you are unclear about. To safeguard your position on any tenancy, consider running any questions you may have past a solicitor experienced in this kind of work.