Tenants Advanced Guide to Renting A Home In England

Renting a property can be a bit of a minefield, there is unfamiliar jargon, fees, deposits, responsibilities, agreements and checks to navigate. It is especially confusing if you are a first-time renter, there has been a raft of new legislation in recent years so even long-term tenants might not have a clear understanding of every nuance of what can be a complex situation. 

It can be hard to know what your rights and responsibilities are as a tenant or what to do if you’re struggling financially or even understanding who pays what bills can be unclear. It then becomes even more confusing when you realise that the rules and terminology for renting a home are slightly different for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so in this guide we aim to give you detailed information on renting a property in England. This guide is fairly large and if you have a burning question you might want to jump straight to the point, here is a handy contents section that details and links to the various aspects we cover in this article:

  1. How to Rent Guide
  2. Right to Rent
  3. Tenancy Agreements
  4. Paying Rent
  5. Checks and Referencing
  6. Financials (fees, deposits and charges)
  7. Legal Obligations
  8. Ending a tenancy
Book Valuation

How to Rent Guide for Tenants

Perhaps the first port of call is the how to rent guide for tenants. This is a document published by the Government which must be provided to a tenant at the start of the tenancy by the landlord or their agent. This latest how to rent guide covers everything from what an assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement is, to what fees a landlord can charge, how to find your new home, how much you can reasonably afford and what deposit needs to be paid and much more. This guide gives great advice on renting a house. One important thing to understand when reading this guide is the difference between the words must and should. For example, in section 4 the guide states that the landlord must provide you with certain paperwork. This means that this is legally required and there are penalties if the landlord does not provide these documents. Then there is the phrase the landlord should provide you with certain other documents. This means that there is no legal requirement to supply these documents and no penalties for not providing them, but that it is best practice and a general expectation that they are supplied. We will cover what a landlord should legally provide later in this guide. It makes sense, if you are looking to rent, to download a copy of the how to rent guide before you start looking for your new rental home, as there is a lot of good information in there which is helpful to be aware of before you commit to a new home. Remember that a landlord must provide you with a copy of the guide, but only once you have agreed to rent the property. Some of the information around benefits, fees, affordability, how to choose the right home in the right area and whether you have the right to rent in the UK, are all important things to consider early in the process.

Right to Rent

Before you consider a rental property you will need to be able to prove that you have the right to rent in the UK. Even if you are a UK citizen by birth you will still need to prove you have the right to rent. It is a legal requirement for a landlord or their agent to check your right to rent status for all occupants of the property aged 18 or over irrespective of whether they are named on the contract or not. For UK citizens this check is mostly manual still and providing a passport (even if it is expired) is enough to prove a right to rent. If you do not have a passport then there are other documents that can be used to prove the right to rent such as a valid driving licence and an original birth certificate both of which are acceptable. 

For those who are not British citizens the process can be manual or digital. For those that have biometric identification such as a residence card or permit, for those with pre-settled or settled status and for those who have applied for a visa using the UK immigration: ID Check App, the process is digital and a landlord cannot accept a manual check of the biometric documents. Instead, you will need to register with the Government and supply a share code. The caveat to this is if you can supply other acceptable and original non-biometric documents, the landlord or their agent cannot insist that the online portal is used. 

This brings us nicely to those prospective tenants who do not have biometric identification and those who do not wish to use the online portal. There is quite a long list of documents which are acceptable to prove an unlimited right to stay or a time limited right to stay. These are defined in the Government’s guide to right to rent checks  in Annexe A. List A group 1 defines the documents which, if one of them is provided, provide an unlimited right to rent; List A Group 2 is a list of documents which requires two documents in the list to be produced which also provide an unlimited right to rent. List B defines documents which can be accepted to prove a time limited right to stay. If you provide any of these, your landlord will need to carry out follow up checks. 

Right to rent checks are a legal requirement whether you are a UK citizen or not and a landlord cannot rent a property to you without carrying out a check.

Tenancy Agreements
 What is a Tenancy Agreement?

A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract between a landlord and a tenant which details all the terms and conditions associated with renting a given property. The agreement will detail the landlord’s details and the tenants. It will define the rent to be paid and also when the rent is to be paid and also the deposit amount. On top of that it will detail both the tenant’s and the landlord’s legal responsibilities. The Government has a model tenancy agreement that covers Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements (AST) and we will cover these a little later. There are several types of tenancy agreement so what are the different types? 

  • Assured Tenancy – this type is quite rare these days and hasn’t really been used since 1989. In essence though an assured tenancy gives you the right to live in the property for the rest of your life.
  • Assured Shorthold Tenancy – these were introduced in 1989 for most residential tenancies unless the annual rent is over £100,000, little or no rent is being paid (less than £250 per annum) or it is a holiday rental. These agreements tend to have an initial fixed term of 6 or 12 months during which time the tenant cannot be evicted unless they materially breach the terms of the contract and the rent cannot be increased. In addition, the deposit must be registered with a government approved scheme and, at the end of the tenancy the contract stays valid on a periodic rolling tenancy which can only be ended by one of the parties service notice. 
  • Non-assured Shorthold tenancy or contractual tenancy – these tenancies arise in circumstances when an AST is not valid as detailed above. In this case the deposit does not need to be registered with a government approved scheme and no notice is required to regain possession at the end of the fixed term.
  • Regulated Tenancy – similar to an assured tenancy, these are even older than assured tenancies, but they allow a tenant rights to the property for life and also have the rent set by the Valuation Office agency.
  • Excluded tenancy – this tenancy type is for lodgers where the tenant lives in the same property as the landlord and shares facilities such as bathrooms or kitchens. Typically, the deposit does not need to be registered with a deposit protection scheme and the tenant can be evicted giving just 4 weeks written notice. 

Tenancy Agreement Quick Questions and Answers

For the most part, modern tenancies will be ASTs (assured Shorthold Tenancies) and we will focus on AST agreements in this guide. When it comes to tenancy agreements, it isn’t just about what type. There are many other considerations that need to be taken into account and many questions that we regularly hear. We will try to answer some of those here.

We hope these tenancy quick questions and answers help, but if you have a specific question that is not covered in this section, then it is a good idea to contact your letting agent or landlord for clarity or seek independent advice from a legal advisor or an association like Citizens Advice.

A tenancy agreement becomes legally binding on the date that the signed agreement states. This is typically the day that the tenancy starts. Note that the agreement needs to be dated and signed by both parties before it is legally binding.

If you are in a property, with the knowledge and agreement of the landlord, but have no written contract, there is essentially a verbal contract that can be relied upon. It has to be said, though, that the level of protection is much less than that given in a proper written contract. Saying that, there still are statutory legal rights such as the right to enjoyment, water, heating, a safe environment, proper maintenance and protection from eviction. The most difficult thing is proving the end of the fixed term as this was never documented. In any case a landlord should still give the same notice period as a standard AST which is currently 2 months for a section 21 notice. The most important thing in this situation is to be able to prove the date you moved in. Typically, an eviction cannot then take place for 6 months after that date unless standard contractual terms like non-payment of rent have been breached.

Typically, a long-term tenancy would be where the fixed term is longer than 12 months.

There is no right or wrong answer here and it really depends on what the tenant and the landlord agree. ASTs are a minimum of 6 months and up to 12 months, typically.

A break clause is a clause in the tenancy that allows either party to terminate the agreement before the end of the initial fixed term. Bear in mind though that the minimum contract length is 6 months, unless there are grounds for eviction so a break clause within the first 6 months would be difficult to enforce.

Yes, you can as long as it contains all the relevant current legislative requirements and does not contain anything that is illegal. So that all parties are protected (both landlord and tenant) it is better to use a template copy of a standard contract to avoid any contractual pitfalls.

A rolling contract is one that has no fixed end date and just runs month to month or quarter to quarter. Within a rolling contract there aren’t the same protections as there are in a fixed term, e.g., eviction, with the right notice can be served at any time. A rolling contract happens in two circumstances:

  • Where the agreement is written with no specific end date or fixed term. This is relatively rare
  • When the fixed term of an existing AST comes to an end and no new fixed term contract is signed. This is then called a periodic tenancy and the same terms and conditions apply as per the original contract. There are two types of periodic tenancy: a contractual periodic tenancy, where the tenancy agreement specifically states that a periodic tenancy will follow at the end of the fixed term; A statutory periodic tenancy is the other type and this happens when the original contract does not allow for a periodic tenancy after the end of the fixed term and no new agreement has been signed. It is important to note that in these circumstances a brand new tenancy agreement is started under the same terms and conditions as the original tenancy.

A rolling contract can be indefinite and there are no legal limits on how long they can be.

An Assured Shorthold Tenancy otherwise known as and referred to in this guide as an AST, is the most common tenancy type used today. It is basically an agreement in which a landlord agrees to rent out a property that they own to a tenant under certain conditions and which gives them the right to regain possession of the property at the end of the tenancy. The assured piece means that the tenancy is assured for a certain period. The shorthold refers to the fact that the assured timing is limited. In most ASTs the fixed term during which occupation is assured is either 6 months or 12 months. This means that, unless the tenant breaches any of the clauses of the contract, they cannot be evicted during that period. As we mentioned above some people will have or at least have heard of assured tenancies, so, what is the difference between an assured shorthold tenancy and an assured tenancy? Assured tenancies are exactly that, assured. There is also no time limit on this so, according to the contract the tenant has the right to stay in the property for life. To gain an eviction there either has to be a material breach of the contractual terms or the landlord needs to gain a court order. As we have mentioned the assurance in an AST is time limited, after which the landlord has the automatic right to seek repossession of their property.

Paying Rent

How much rent can I afford?

Renting a home uses a different affordability calculation to buying a home, so it is not always the case that if you can afford the mortgage payments, you can afford the rent. So, how much should you spend on rent? According to the how to rent guide 35% of your take home pay is the maximum that would be deemed affordable. Saying that, some agents or landlords place a 30:1 guide on affordability where the monthly rent should not exceed 1/30th of your annual salary. So, if you earn £30,000 you will not be considered for a property with a monthly rental cost of over £1,000. Do take into account that this will be based on both incomes when the tenancy is a joint tenancy. There are times, though, that the affordability calculations simply will not allow you to rent a suitable property and in these circumstances, it might pay to have a guarantor.

What is a Guarantor for rent?

If a tenant fails an affordability check or a credit check for a rental property, they can still be considered as a tenant if they have a guarantor, but what is a guarantor for rent? Essentially a guarantor is someone who agrees to pay the tenant’s rent on their behalf if the tenant is unable to. The guarantor will be required to sign a guarantee agreement which makes them legally liable for the rent in the event that the tenant does not pay. Here are some commonly asked questions around guarantors:

How to get a guarantor for renting?

This is perhaps the easiest part and it is simply a case of asking someone you know, a close friend or family member or even an employer, to agree to being a guarantor for you, which leads us on nicely to the next common question…

Who can be a guarantor for renting?

Pretty much anyone can be a guarantor as long as they are over 18, have a good credit history and can afford the rent. Typically, this will be a close friend or relative.

What to do if you can’t find a guarantor?

This can be quite tricky but there are solutions that can be looked at:

  • Pay several months in advance. This can be quite expensive, but paying your rent, say, 6 months ahead alleviates all issues with concerns around non-payment
  • Take out a rent insurance policy. Whilst this does add to the monthly outgoings it will provide some assurance to your landlord that rent will be paid
  • Engage the services of a rent guarantor company. Again, this will cost extra money over and above the rent but will give the landlord a guarantor. Please note that we do not endorse any rent guarantor companies.

Does a rent guarantor have to be a homeowner?

Ideally yes, a landlord will look for a guarantor to be a homeowner, but it is not an absolute requirement. It is entirely down the landlord who they will accept as a guarantor so being a homeowner will certainly be advantageous.

Do guarantors get credit checked?

This is a decision for the landlord to make, but it would be very rare for the landlord to not carry out a credit check on the guarantor in the same way that they do for the tenant.

Can a pensioner be a guarantor for renting?

Yes, they can as long as the landlord is happy that they can afford the rent in the event that the tenant defaults on their rent.

How much does a guarantor need to earn?

There are no hard and fast rules here, but typically a guarantor will need to be able to show income of at least three times the annualised rent which is a slightly higher affordability criterium than for the tenant themselves. This is because it is likely that the guarantor will also have their own expenses.

What checks are done on a guarantor?

The same sorts of checks will be carried out on a guarantor as the tenant so they will need to be credit referenced as well as prove their income.

While we are talking about finances, we will touch upon what happens if you struggle financially once you have moved in.

What can you do if you can’t afford your rent

Anyone can find themselves in financial difficulty for many reasons such as a sudden redundancy or an illness which affects their ability to work. So, what can you do if you can’t afford your rent? The first thing to do is talk to the landlord or agent straight away and see if you can negotiate a payment plan during your period of financial hardship. While talking to your landlord see if they would be amenable to you taking in a lodger or roommate to help with the rent payments. Talk to the local council as quickly as possible to see if there is any help they can give or any benefits that you are entitled to that could help. You could talk to close family members to see if they can help you out with your rent payments. Look at your monthly outgoings and see where you can cut back. Things like TV packages, gym memberships, phone packages and Wi-Fi bundles are all places to look for savings. One final thing to consider is if you can take on a second job to help you through.

We are often asked: How long can a tenant stay without paying rent?

We would never advocate not paying your rent on time. According to the law, if the rent is paid monthly and there are two month’s of arrears a landlord needs to only give 2 weeks notice of eviction. If the landlord seeks to repossess the property for this reason using what is called a section 8 repossession order (ground 8 of schedule 2 of the housing Act 1988) then the court must order the tenant to vacate the premises. A landlord can, however, apply for an eviction order if the tenant is persistently late paying the rent and at any time after non-payment of the rent. In these cases, a court has discretion as to whether to order the eviction. Saying that a landlord should have made every attempt to reach out to the tenant and sort the issue out. We will cover repossession orders later in this guide.

So far, we have covered some important information that a prospective tenant needs to know before looking for somewhere to rent, but what happens when you have found the right place?

Checks and Referencing

What checks are done for renting a property?

It is important to understand what checks are done for renting a property as it is not a case of simply saying “I’ll take it” and signing on the spot, there are some formalities to go through first. Let’s cover this by answering the most common questions we are asked:

What checks must a landlord do?

A Landlord, by Law has to check your right to rent status as described earlier in this guide (hyperlink). All other checks that a landlord carries out are simply good business practice and not mandated in law. At the least you can expect a landlord to carry out a credit check and affordability check, proof of your current address and of the last 3 years and they might seek references from your employer or previous landlord if applicable.

What documents do I need to rent?

You may need as a minimum the following documents:

  • 3 months’ payslips
  • Proof of identity such as a passport
  • 3 months’ bank statements
  • Employment reference
  • Previous landlord reference
  • Proof of current address using a utility bill and address details for at least 3 years

Do landlords/agents need your bank account number?

Unless you are thinking of paying by cash each month, which a landlord/agent might not accept, your landlord or agent will need your bank account number to set up a direct debit or to recognise a standing order payment.

Tenant referencing what do they check?

During tenant referencing, the landlord or their agent, will check your credit rating using a credit reference company, they will check your employment status with your employer or through your bank statements they will check your income and, from your bank account statements your main outgoings. They may also, if you are a previous renter, check with your previous landlord to ensure you were a good tenant.

How long does tenant referencing take?

This is typically quite quick and turnarounds in a day to a week are pretty common. It really depends on how quickly you provide the required documents and information.

What is a credit check for renting?

Like taking out a loan or buying something on finance a credit check is where the landlord checks your credit status to see if you have any adverse financial history which might make you a risk of non-payment of rent.

How long does a credit check take for renting?

From getting all the required information a credit check will typically take no more than 48 hours.

Why would a tenant fail referencing?

There are several reasons why a tenant might be turned down at the referencing stage:

  • Insufficient income
  • Credit history issues such as county court judgements, history of late or non-payment
  • Unemployment or no proof of employment
  • Tenant is self-employed and can’t provide satisfactory proof of income.
  • The landlord reference is poor

What is an inventory check?

On the day that you move in, or very close to the day an inventory check will most likely be carried out. Sometimes this is done ahead of moving in and a copy is supplied for the new tenant to check once they move in. In essence it is a detailed description of the contents and condition of the property at the time that the tenancy starts. This will cover all the fixtures and fittings, carpets, cupboards, curtains and any furniture, appliances or other items supplied in the property. It is important to check this very carefully and make any required amendments. Remember that this will be used when the tenancy is over to compare the contents and condition at the start and at the end of the tenancy. Any differences could lead to a deduction in the deposit being returned. If there are any amendments or comments on the report, make sure they are documented and photographed for evidence. Most agencies will allow up to 7 days for any changes.

What must a landlord provide by law?

As far as documentation is concerned a landlord must provide the following documents to a tenant when they move in:

  • Valid EPC certificate. Note that a rental property must have a rating of E or better. If the EPC shows a rating of F or G the property cannot legally be rented out.
  • A copy of the how to rent guide.
  • Documentation associated with the registration of the deposit. This must be provided within 30 days of the deposit being registered.
  • Gas safety certificate.
  • A working smoke alarm on every floor of the property where there is any living accommodation including kitchen and bathrooms.
  • A Carbon Monoxide alarm in every room where there is a fixed combustion appliance such as a boiler or a wood fire. This does not include a gas cooker or hob.
  • Copies of the electrical installation condition reports (EICR), which are legally required to be generated every 5 years.
  • A safe property within which the tenant can live. We will also cover this later in this guide as part of the section on a landlord’s responsibilities. (hyperlink)

On top of this a landlord should (but is not legally required to) supply the following at the start of a tenancy:

  • A record of any electrical safety inspections
  • Evidence that the supplied smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have been tested and are working.


Rent, Deposits and Fees

At the start of a tenancy there are certain upfront financial outlays that a tenant will need to pay and there are very specific rules around what fees a tenant can be charged for starting a tenancy:

  • The rent amount, how often it is paid and the date on which it needs to be paid is set out in the tenancy agreement. A tenant will normally pay one month’s rent at the start of the tenancy and then pay each month, or whatever the payment period is, in advance.
  • There are two types of deposit that a tenant could be asked to pay
    • A holding deposit. This is a payment that the tenant makes to have the property taken off of the market while referencing is carried out. This is capped at 1 week’s rent and is refundable under most conditions.
    • The security deposit is paid at the start of the tenancy and is capped at 5 weeks’ rent for properties where the annual rent is less than £50,000 and 6 weeks where the annual rent is more than £50,000. A landlord cannot ask for a larger deposit if it is agreed that pets can stay in the property. The deposit must be registered or deposited with a government approved scheme. The landlord can deposit the money in their own account but will still need to register the deposit with a scheme. This is called an insured deposit. The landlord can also deposit the money directly with the scheme and this is called a custodial deposit.
  • As part of administering a tenancy there are certain fees that can be charged but these are restricted to:
    • Interest on rent which is more than 14 days overdue and this is capped at a rate of 3% above the bank of England base rate
    • Early termination costs which are capped at the financial loss incurred by the landlord if the tenancy is terminated early
    • Payment for changing the contract which is capped at £50 inc VAT.
    • Lost keys can only be charged for at a reasonable replacement cost.
  • The following fees are prohibited:
    • Property viewing
    • Referencing
    • Administration charges
    • Guarantors (this can be a condition of the tenancy but the landlord or agent cannot charge fees for meeting this condition)
    • Inventory checks (both check in and check out)
    • Right to Rent checks (the landlord or agent are liable for this cost, unless the tenant fails the check)
    • Pet fees/deposits
    • Renewal/exit fees
    • Interest on permitted payments
    • Professional end of tenancy cleaning – as a special clause (breach of contract ONLY)
    • Third party fees (unless the tenant chooses to undertake the services themselves)
    • Gardening services (unless included within the rent)

Talking about finances, the last bit to cover is some jargon and myth busting around bills and rent payments as we often get asked what some of the acronyms mean and how they are applied.

Who pays council tax tenant or landlord?

This is a question we get asked a lot and it all depends on what is in the contract. For most AST agreements council tax will be paid by the tenant. Always check the agreement though as this will be clear about who pays. It does get a little more complex when a contract rolls over to a periodic tenancy though. If the tenancy rolls over to a contractual periodic tenancy the tenant, if they are liable for council tax, is liable right up until the end of their notice period, even if they leave the property early. If the contract rolled over to a statutory periodic tenancy, which are new tenancies with no fixed term, then, the tenant is only liable for council tax while they live in the property. This means, if they vacate the property early and without due notice, liability for the council tax reverts to the landlord.

How much can a landlord raise rent in a year?

The first thing a tenant needs to know is that, without the express agreement of the tenant, the landlord cannot increase rent during the fixed term of the contract. Any rent increases after the fixed term will either be covered under the rent review clause in the contract or by using what is called a section 13 notice and filling out form 4 as shown on the Government’s website. Where the rent is paid monthly or less the minimum notice that must be given is 1 month. We mentioned earlier that, after a fixed term a periodic tenancy is formed unless a new fixed term contract is signed and that there are two types of periodic tenancy. The rules around rent increases are different for the two types of periodic tenancy. If you have a contractual periodic tenancy, then rent can only be increased once a year. If there was a 6 month fixed term, then the rent can still only be increased after 12 months have passed. For statutory periodic tenancies, though, which had a 6 month fixed term, the rent can be increased immediately at the end of the fixed term.

Some other questions we encounter about rental payments are:

What is the average increase in rent per year?

There is no average as it all depends on market conditions, the prevalent mortgage interest rates and inflation. As an example, though, in the 12 months to August 2022, according to the office of national statistics average rents increased 3.4% in England whereas in the same time period a year before the average rent increase in England was 1.2%

What’s the most a landlord can increase rent?

There is no legally set limit and any rent increase should be fair and realistic.

What is a fair rent increase?

A fair rent increase is a bit of a moving feast but essentially an increase that is carried out using the right process, giving the right amount of notice and which is in line with the local market for similar properties is likely to be fair. So, if for example similar properties are renting for £1,100 per month an increase to £1,100 per month is likely to be fair, but the % increase should also be in-line with local market increases so an increase of 20% to match local market rents if the local market rent increases are only 5% might not be fair.

What is a section 13 rent increase?

A section 13 rent increase is really only needed when a rent increase cannot be mutually agreed or where the tenancy agreement does not contain a rent review clause, which will have already been agreed by signing the contract. In this case the landlord can propose a rent increase using form 4 as mentioned above. This is governed under section 13 of the Housing Act 1988 which is why it is referred to as a section 13 rent increase.

What is a rent increase notice?

A rent increase notice is the document which the landlord serves on a tenant to propose a rent increase. This is, as mentioned, tenancy form 4, which must be filled out properly and served with the right level of notice, which is at least 1 month.

Can I reject a rent increase?

Yes, a tenant can reject a rent increase. The first thing to do is simply try to negotiate with the landlord. In the meantime you should continue to pay the required rent at the previous rate, though. If no agreement can be made then either the landlord or the tenant can ask a tribunal to make a decision.

Moving on to look at one of the main acronyms used when it comes to rents in the UK.

What does PCM mean for Rent?

You will see PCM quite a lot in rental adverts and it simply means per calendar month. This means that the rent is payable on the same day every month. If your tenancy starts on the 11th of the month, then you will pay your rent the 11th of every month moving forwards when paying per calendar month. One area of confusion that some people have and we get asked is whether rent pcm is per person. Typically, not if a whole property is being rented and the pcm value is for the property irrespective of how many people are living there. The only real exception here is when an individual room or rooms are being rented and then the advertised price is likely to be per room, but again this is unlikely to be per person. Saying that, though, make sure you check with the landlord or agent as there are exceptions to every rule.

The final question we often get relates to PW.

What does PW mean for rent?

This simply means per week and suggests that rent is payable weekly rather than monthly.

So, we have covered a lot of ground already and now it is time to cover the landlord and tenant’s legal obligations when it comes to renting a property.

Tenant’s legal obligations

In a lot of respects, the legal obligations on a tenant are relatively simple to comply with. They are, at their very core simply to adhere to the rental contract terms and conditions, but splitting that out a little:

  • Take good care of the property, for example turn off the water at the mains if you’re away in cold weather
  • Pay the agreed rent, even if repairs are needed or you’re in dispute with your landlord
  • Pay other charges as agreed with the landlord, for example Council Tax or utility bills
  • Repair or pay for any damage caused by you, your visitors, family or friends
  • Only sublet a property if the tenancy agreement or your landlord allows it
  • Allow the landlord access to the property to carry out inspections or make repairs
  • Not cause a nuisance or allow visitors to cause a nuisance to the occupiers of neighbouring properties
  • Not carry out any illegal activities in the property
  • Report any issues with the property in a timely manner to allow the landlord to sort them before they become a major issue


Landlord’s legal obligations

We have covered some of these in the section what must a landlord provide by law? (hyperlink) Which covers the documentation that a landlord must legally provide to a tenant at the start of the tenancy, but a landlord has many other legal obligations:

  • Carry out right to rent checks on tenants
  • Register the deposit with a government approved scheme and provide details to the tenant within 30 days
  • Install a smoke alarm on every floor of the property and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a fixed combustion appliance in compliance with the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment)Regulations 2022
  • Carry out annual gas safety inspections using a qualified engineer and supply the report to the tenant. Any issues raised on the inspection need to be rectified in a reasonable time. If the gas safety report shows an issue that is an immediate danger then the engineer is duty bound to disconnect the gas. This is in accordance with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
  • Carry out an Electrical Installation safety inspection every 5 years. If the report shows certain issues with the installation, then the landlord must remedy the issues within 28 days
  • Ensure any furniture supplied complies with current fire safety legislation and has appropriate tags
  • Supply a suitable water supply which is free from Legionella
  • Provide a property with an EPC rating of at least an E
  • Provide a property which is compliant with the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. This requires a landlord to ensure that none of the following applies to the property:
    • the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
    • the building is unstable
    • there’s a problem with damp
    • it has an unsafe layout
    • there’s not enough natural light
    • there’s not enough ventilation
    • there is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
    • there are problems with the drainage or the lavatories
    • it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
    • any of the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005 are present

We do get some questions around a landlord’s legal obligations which we will try to answer here:

What should a landlord provide in an unfurnished property?

As long as the property has adequate lighting, running water, drainage, adequate sanitaryware, kitchen cupboards, flooring, and a functioning heating system, a landlord does not have to provide anything else, which leads us on to the next question

Do landlords have to provide white goods?

The answer is no, they don’t. Although quite often a landlord will provide the basic appliances, a landlord does not need to provide any white goods at all.

Do landlords have to install fire doors?

Not in a normal private rented property. Fire doors are only required in Homes of Multiple Occupation.

What are a landlord’s heating obligations?

A landlord has to provide a property with adequate heating in every occupied room and that the property has adequate hot water too.

What temperature must a landlord provide by law?

A Heating system in a property must be able to heat up sleeping rooms to at least 18°C and living rooms to at least 21°C when the external temperature is -1°C

A landlord has a lot of legal obligations and one of the main ones that they have is to sort any issues with the property, but what are your rights if they don’t?

What to do if your landlord doesn’t fix things?

Under the Landlord and Tenants Act 1985 and the newer Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 a landlord has a legal obligation to repair any issues with the property unless the issue or damage has been caused by the tenant’s actions or inactions. That is to say, if the tenant has caused the issue, then the landlord is not obliged to repair it and the responsibility falls to the tenant. If this is not the case, however, then a landlord is legally obliged to fix issues with anything that they have supplied and the property itself. As can be expected there are a lot of questions around a landlord’s repair liability and we often hear questions like:

  • How long does a landlord have to fix a problem?
  • Can you stop paying rent if things aren’t fixed?
  • How long can a landlord leave you without electricity?
  • How long can a landlord leave you without hot water?
  • How long can a landlord leave you without an oven?
  • How long does landlord have to fix washing machine?
  • How long can a landlord leave you without heating?

Unfortunately, only one of these questions has a robust and definitive answer. You cannot stop paying rent if things are not fixed. You have a legal responsibility to pay rent and this is not vacated simply because the landlord does not fix an issue.

As for the other questions around the time frame in which a landlord needs to address an issue, the law simply states it must be in a reasonable time. Now what is considered reasonable depends on the situation. For things like hot water, heating, cooking facilities and electricity, which form part of the homes (fitness for human habitation) Regulations, a failure might be considered an emergency, especially in the winter. As such a landlord would typically be required to do what they could to sort the issue as soon as possible and respond within 24 hours. For the others like washing machines or fridges or even leaky taps, the timing is really a matter for agreement and as long as it gets resolved sensibly there are no legal time requirements.

Ending a tenancy

As with most things in the world, tenancies will come to an end and it is important to know how a tenancy can be ended, what notice needs to be given and what happens at the end.

How much notice does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out?

The first thing to know is that a landlord cannot try to gain possession of the property during the fixed term of the tenancy unless the tenant has materially breached the terms of the agreement in which case a landlord can seek repossession using a section 8 repossession order. The notice period required for this depends on the reason for the eviction:

  • Section 8 using any of grounds 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9 or 16 – two months
  • Section 8 using the rent arrears grounds (8, 10 and 11) – two weeks
  • Section 8 using grounds 3, 4, 7b, 12, 13, 14A, 15 or 17 – two weeks
  • Section 8 using ground 7a (anti-social behaviour with a conviction) – One calendar month
  • Section 8 using Ground 14 (the discretionary ground for anti-social behaviour) – Immediately after the notice counts as served (usually 24 hours)

Outside of the fixed term the landlord can serve what is called a section 21 (or no fault) eviction notice and they have to give 2 months’ notice for that.

How much notice to give landlord

As for the landlord a tenant cannot leave a property within the fixed term of the contract. If they do, they are still liable for the full rent of the fixed term. The amount of notice that needs to be given by the tenant will be stated in the contract but it is typically at least 1 month’s notice if the rent is paid monthly. Note that the termination is at the end of the rental period so if rent is paid on the 25th of the month, for example, and notice is served on the 15th of the month, the contract will end, at the earliest on the 25th of the following month. Notice should be given to the landlord in writing. An email would be satisfactory.

Once a tenancy has been ended, check out inventory will take place and this will use the original check in report as a comparison. Any issues other than fair wear and tear will need to be documented on the check out report with photos. The landlord will then, if applicable, propose deductions from the deposit for any damage or unpaid rent or bills. Let’s cover that in a little more detail.

How long does a landlord have to return a deposit?

Deposits will only be returned at the end of the tenancy once the final check out has been agreed and any deductions also agreed. If the landlord holds the deposit in their own bank account, they must repay the deposit within 10 days of the tenancy ending if the deposit deductions have been agreed. The tenant does not need to request that the deposit be returned for the clock to start. For a custodial deposit the landlord will approve the release of the deposit and the tenant can apply to the deposit protection scheme directly to have the deposit returned, it will be returned within 2 days of the agreement.

What can landlord deduct from deposit?

Sometimes a landlord may want to deduct funds from a tenancy deposit before returning it. This usually happens if the tenant has caused damage to the property, not left it in a clean or fit state, or hasn’t paid their rent. Common deposit deductions include:

  • Damage to the property itself
  • Indirect damage due to the tenant’s negligence
  • Damaged or missing contents (e.g. furniture supplied by the landlord)
  • Returning the property in an unclean state (worse than it was originally let)
  • Leaving unwanted belongings at the end of the tenancy (without discussing with the landlord)
  • Outstanding rent
  • Unpaid bill(s)

What if there is a dispute?

There are occasions when a landlord and tenant are not in agreement about proposed deductions and in these cases the issue needs to be raised with a deposit protection scheme, all of which run a free dispute resolution service. In these cases, both the landlord and tenant will provide evidence to an adjudicator. This might be communications, photos, videos, inventory reports and also inspection reports. The adjudicator will then make a decision on the deductions. This decision is final as far as the deposit protection scheme is concerned but either the landlord or the tenant can take legal action if they decide to.

What can I do if my landlord doesn’t return my deposit?

The first port of call if the landlord does not return the deposit is the tenancy deposit scheme and their dispute resolution scheme. In pretty much every instance this will resolve the issue. If not, then the next stage is to apply to the courts to have the deposit returned.

We have now covered most of the main points that any prospective tenant needs to know but there are a couple of other bits that, for completeness we will also cover and these are Rent to Buy and Rent to Rent.

What is rent to buy and how does it work?

The Rent to Buy scheme is a Government backed scheme where a tenant pays a lower than market value rent (Typically around 20% less) to allow them to save for a deposit to buy a property. To be eligible for this a tenant needs to be in employment, full or part time, be a first-time buyer and able to pay for rent and save for a deposit at the same time and the intention is to buy a property after 5 years. Finding homes on the scheme can be done through the Help-to-buy website on their property search page.  In essence the tenant will be on an AST agreement for a fixed term of 2 years and paying a rent which is at least 20% below market value. This rent will need to be paid for a minimum of 5 years during which time the tenant needs to be also saving for a deposit.

After the first 5 years of renting, your landlord will have the following options: If you need more time to save for the deposit, but still want to buy the property, you can agree to carry on with the reduced rent with your landlord, if they are happy with it.  If the landlord wants to sell the property, they should give the tenant first refusal. The tenant can then buy the property, if they wish at market value and use the saved deposit towards the purchase. The landlord has the option to pull out of the scheme and revert to a standard full market rent contract. If your landlord agrees, you can continue to rent the home but not using Rent to Buy. You may also have the option to buy the property within 5 years on a Shared Ownership basis. You will need to agree this with your landlord. If this is offered, you will need to meet the Shared Ownership eligibility, affordability and sustainability requirements.

What is rent to rent and how does it work?

Renting a home can be complex and there is plenty of legislation governing how rentals should run and the process of renting. We hope this guide has helped you to understand the rental process and complexities in more detail. The information contained in this article is correct at the time of publishing and should not be relied upon in place of expert, independent advice.