The United Kingdom rental market has different types of rented accommodations. The NIHE or Housing Executive and registered housing associations provide the public with social housing options. The other alternative is to rent privately through private landlords.
A private landlord is someone who owns a property and rents it out themselves. They work independently from a property management company or letting agent. As there are no third parties involved, private landlords manage their rentals directly.
There are two categories of private landlords: accidental landlords and professional landlords.
Accidental landlords are those who own a single rental property, which is typically acquired as a one-time investment or family inheritance. Accidental landlords also follow a casual approach to being a private landlord. It is not their main source of income.
Professional landlords treat being a landlord as their business. Most of them own multiple rental properties.
According to Statista, as of last year (2020), there were approximately 4.44 million (or 18.7%) private renters in England. Private landlords are popular choices among families and temporary residents like expats.
Before renting from a private landlord, find time to understand the private landlord-and-tenant relationship. Make sure you know all the responsibilities you and your landlord have. For example, a tenancy agreement is a legal contract that you and your landlord need to enter to make your tenancy binding.
It is also vital to understand what your landlord’s responsibilities are. Below, we detail everything a tenant needs to know when renting from a private landlord.
Knowing what your landlord’s responsibilities are is important as it gives you an advantage—you can protect yourself against unfair practices and other untoward incidents.
Here are the main responsibilities of private landlords according to UK laws:
An Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is the most prevalent kind of tenancy. It is defined by certain characteristics:
The Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme is a government-support project intended to protect tenants’ deposits.
Landlords who do not follow this law are considered to have committed an offence against the government.
Landlords should get an EPC every time they build, sell, or rent out a property.
There are buildings or properties that do not require an EPC; however, landlords with rentals that need one but do not have one may be fined.
All tenancies that commence on or after February 1, 2016, are required to have the right to rent document checks. Tenants who plan to make the rented property their main home are also obligated to submit acceptable right to rent documents. The Government provide a useful guide in relation to Right To Rent checks.
Certain properties are exempt from right to rent checks. These are:
It is your landlord’s responsibility to verify your documents and do a right to rent check before your tenancy starts. Landlords should keep copies of all documents until the end of your rental period. All original documents you submit must be returned to you right after the check is completed.
Right to rent checks are carried out in two ways:
The online checking service may not be advisable for certain circumstances, so manual presentations are often more favoured. However, for tenants with a biometric residence card, a biometric residence permit, who were granted status via a virtual points-based immigration system or given a status through the EU Settlement Scheme, using the online Home Office right to rent service is allowed and may be more suitable.
For manual document-based right to rent checks, the acceptable documents are categorised into three list groups.
LIST A GROUP 1
List Group 1 is a list of acceptable single documents, in pictures, proving your right to rent. These documents include:
– Current or expired UK passport
– Current or expired passport or passport card proving that the document owner is an Irish citizen
– For tenants who are family members of an EEA (European Economic Area) or Swiss citizen, a current document provided by the Home Office and showing evidence that the holder is permitted to stay in the UK indefinitely is required.
– Certificate of naturalisation (or registration) as a British citizen
– Family members of a Swiss or EEA citizen are required to submit a Home Office-issued current permanent resident card
– Current or expired Biometric Immigration document provided by the Home Office and the document has to show that the holder has permission to stay in the UK indefinitely or with no time limit.
– For tenants from the different UK Crown Dependencies with EUSS status, a document from the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey, or the Isle of Man showing their settled immigration status is required. This document should be LCS-verified.
LIST A GROUP 2
List A Group 2 is a list of valid document combinations, again, proving your right to rent. Tenants can combine any two of these documents:
– UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, or Irish birth or adoption certificate
– A letter provided by a UK local authority or government department
– A letter from the HM prison service (including the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Scottish Prison Service)
– A letter of attestation from an employer
– A letter of attestation from a UK passport holder who is currently employed in an acceptable profession. (A list of acceptable professions is made available to landlords and tenants)
– A criminal record check
– Provisional or full UK driving license
– Proof of service in the UK Armed Forces (current or previous)
– A letter provided by a UK institution for further or higher education
– Disclosure and Barring Certificate
– A screenshot or document copy of Benefits paperwork
– A letter from a private rented sector scheme
– A letter provided by the National Offender Management Service
– A letter of confirmation from a police force that shows evidence that a List A Group 1 document was reported stolen
LIST B is a list of picture documents intended for time-limited right to rent.
– Current Biometric Immigration document showing time-limited leave
– A Frontier Work Permit
– A current travel document or passport that indicates a time-limited period
– A Home Office-issued current document for a Swiss or EEA family member on time-limited leave
– A Home Office-issued non-EEA National Residence Card showing time-limited leave
– A current UK immigration document with a time-limited Home Office endorsement
The UK government website has a complete list of the documents that are acceptable for right to rent checks.
For time-limited tenancy, landlords are required to finalise the right to rent check 28 days before the tenancy starts.
It is important to note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary changes for facilitating right to rent checks were implemented, the latest one being last March 30, 2021. These changes are to remain in place until August 31, 2021:
– Instead of face-to-face document checks, landlords should carry out the process through video calls.
– Tenants are allowed to send a photo or scanned copy of their documents via a mobile app or their smartphones. They are not required to send original copies at the moment.
– Landlords are required to use the Landlord Checking Service in case an existing or prospective tenant is unable to submit any of the acceptable documents. After the temporary adjustments in the right to rent checks end on September 1, 2021, landlords are expected to check tenants’ original documents, or virtually check applicants’ right to rent if you were provided with their share code.
In case you cannot provide the acceptable documents, your landlord is obligated to get in touch with the Home Office Landlord Checking Service. Your landlord shall receive a response in more or less two working days.
Ensuring the safety of their property is an important responsibility of every landlord. Thus, your landlord has to carry out regular safety checks, covering essential aspects of the rental home.
Gas safety checks must be carried out at least once a year. This inspection includes not only gas appliances but air vents, pipes, and installations as well. Your landlord should hire a registered engineer to perform these safety checks. After the inspection, the engineer will provide a copy of the property’s gas safety certificate.
An electrical safety check is needed for tenancies that are contracted for less than seven years and for those where the tenants do not live with their landlords. It is also a requirement for house in multiple occupation (HMO) landlords. The inspection must be done every five years.
Electrical safety checks cover everything that has to do with electrical fittings throughout the property. Landlords must hire only qualified electricians to inspect the electrical appliances, lights, and sockets around the property. Choosing the right electrical products is important, too. Products with the CE mark are recommended because they are compliant with European law.
Your landlord is obligated to schedule regular fire safety checks. In addition, the following guidelines must be strictly followed:
Aside from the right to rent and safety checks, it is also your landlord’s obligation to provide you with copies of important documents or paperwork, such as those for tenancy deposit protection.
Tenants’ deposits are protected using any of the three government-approved schemes: Deposit Protection Service, Tenancy Deposit Scheme, and MyDeposits. Landlords are provided with a document that contains details about the deposit being protected, including the amount of the deposit, rental home address, landlord’s contact details and name, your name and contact details, what to do to get back the deposit, and other essential information.
Landlords are expected to give their tenants a copy of this document—known as a Deposit Registration Certificate, along with the deposit protection paperwork. They should do this within 28 days of the tenancy starting. If they do not, they have broken the law and a tenant may be eligible for up to three times the deposit amount in compensation.
Other documents your landlord should hand over to you are their contact details, and as already mentioned earlier, a gas safety certificate, how to rent checklist, and an EPC or Energy Performance Certificate.
As indicated above, landlords are required to place your deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme or TDP. This is a government initiative that protects you by ensuring that if you pay your bills and rent, follow the stipulations of your tenancy agreement, and keep the property damage-free, you will get back your deposit. This deposit is considered advance rent. Your landlord will decide the amount of your deposit.
Landlords are required to put their tenants’ deposit in a TDP no later than 28 days after they receive the payment. If your landlord fails to do this or refuses to, they will have to answer to the authorities and pay compensation to you greater than the deposit amount - up to three times the amount of the deposit.
You can also take action against your landlord if the 28-day window has passed and your deposit has not been placed in a TDP. If it is proven in court that your landlord did not protect your deposit, two possible scenarios can unfold: you will be repaid for the deposit or it can be paid into a TDP bank account in 14 days. Your landlord will also have to pay you an amount that’s three times your deposit. This should be completed within 14 days after the court gave the order.
Typically, the court will give you the right to stay in the property even if your tenancy has ended if it is proven that your landlord did not protect your deposit. As such, your landlord will not be able to give you a Section 21 or eviction notice.
Landlords should not let the property you rent get into a state of disrepair. If they do, you can seek legal help from Housing Disrepair Solicitors and get the repairs fixed. Major repairs in your home are the responsibility of your landlord. This covers the following:
Your landlord is also responsible for repairing damage that resulted from repair attempts. All the common areas in the building or block of flats are also the landlord’s obligation. These details should be indicated in the tenancy agreement.
Your responsibility, as a tenant, is limited to the interior and decorative aspects of the rented property. In addition, minor repairs or works, like changing the light bulb, are also your obligation. If you damage anything in your rented home, you are also responsible for its repair. However, if the damage is a result of other people’s actions, your landlord cannot hold you liable for the repairs.
If you cannot pay your rent or have missed some payments, you owe your landlord money. This is what’s known as arrears or priority debt. If this happens, your landlord has the option to evict you from the property.
Approach your private landlord as soon as you can. Explain your situation. If you’re waiting for a benefit payment, let your landlord know and offer the assurance that you will slowly pay off the arrears. You can come up with an agreement that will make it easier for you to pay off the rent dues, which may be easier than paying the full amount all at once.
One way of doing this is through a repayment plan, where you agree to pay a particular amount either weekly or monthly, and on top of your rent. You need to plan this well with your landlord so you can come up with an amount that suits your budget.
If your landlord is not in favour of a repayment plan, continue to pay the amount you offered, but be sure to keep records of each payment. It’s important to have a paper trail (i.e. receipts or bank statements) of your payments as these can be useful in case you’ll have to go to court.
You can get in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau in your area if your landlord threatens to evict you. There is an eviction process that needs to be followed, so you won’t be evicted right away. You’ll have to be given a Section 21 notice first.
If you cannot pay your rent because of reduced income, you can get benefits that you can use to pay off your arrears.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules for eviction have not changed, but there are some new aspects that may require your landlord to serve you a six months’ notice before you are evicted. This will only apply, though, if the rent you owe is less than six months’ worth.
If you are unable to pay your rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, talk to your landlord and you can potentially come up with a compromise that will make the repayment easier for you.
If you do not talk to your landlord right away, your landlord can begin processing your eviction immediately after finding out about your missed payment. The situation can become even more complicated if you have been late with your rent payment before, or you already have arrears, and if you entered into an assured shorthold tenancy and the term has ended. If this is your situation, the court will allow the landlord to give you a possession order and you will have to leave the property in 14 days.
Not paying rent due to housing disrepair issues that haven't been seen to is also not advisable. This is mentioned in our guide The Do's and Don'ts when dealing with Housing Disrepair.
So, never take your missed rent payments for granted.
Yes, your landlord can increase your rent, but there will be certain rules to consider before they do.
If you want to challenge your landlord’s rent increase, you’ll have to submit a request or appeal to a rent complaints tribunal.
Here are some other facts about rent increases in the UK:
For private renting, there are two primary categories of tenancy agreements:
Periodic Fixed-term tenancies are those that have a set time period (eg.. one year).
Periodic tenancies are those that are entered into on a month-to-month or week-to-week basis.
Under these primary categories, there are four sub-types:
AST is the most prevalent type of tenancy. This rental agreement is for private properties and tenancies that commenced after 1989. Assured Shorthold Tenancies involve properties where the landlord does not live in the property and is the tenant’s main accommodation.
Holiday rentals, properties with more than £100k a year for rent, and those that are free or no rent are not qualified in the AST category.
Typical ASTs have a fixed term period of six months or 12 months.
Non-Assured Shorthold Tenancies is applicable only for certain situations, specifically those where an AST may not be used. These are characterised by a rent of less than £250 every year, the landlord and tenant living in a common property (but there is no sharing of facilities), and the property not being the tenant’s main home.
In this scenario, landlords are not required to protect their tenants’ deposit in a protection scheme.
Secure Tenancies are lifetime tenancies that were replaced by an Assured Shorthold Tenancy through the 1988 Housing Act. Under this type, tenants have stronger rights and are protected from immediate eviction.
The Statutory or Rolling Tenancy is a Periodic Tenancy that is granted through the Housing Act of 1988. It is intended for tenancy agreements that do not have clauses indicating what will happen to the tenancy when the fixed term period ends. It runs on a month-to-month or week-to-week basis, depending on the last rent rate that was paid.
If any of the following situations happened to you, you should file a complaint about your landlord right away:
If you are unsatisfied with your landlord’s service or you think they violated your rights as a tenant, there are steps to follow in raising your complaint.
If you are not comfortable talking to them in person, you can send an email or talk to them on the phone. It is your choice. Your landlord’s contact details are in the tenancy agreement. Many will only correspond with their landlord via written communication, like email, SMS, or letter, so that there is evidence of all communication.
If your landlord still does not act on the problem you reported, get in touch with a specialist landlord dispute solicitor. They will help you determine the best option, the next step. In case you plan to pursue legal action against your landlord, the law firm will also be able to provide you with choices for finding reasonable legal costs.
Do not hesitate to contact the police if you think the situation is starting to get out of hand (i.e. you are already being threatened or illegally evicted). Although they are not allowed to end your tenancy after you submitted a complaint, some landlords are brave enough to try to do so.
Knowing what your landlord’s rights are and which ones are yours will help ensure you’re getting a good deal before entering a private rental agreement. It’s also the best way to protect yourself from inefficient and irresponsible private landlords.
If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Check your eligibility to claim here.
Fairweather Group Ltd t/a DisrepairClaims.co.uk do not give legal advice; Our service is limited to the process and administration of compensation claims. You do not need to use a claims management company to make a claim. You have the right to use the Housing Ombudsman to seek redress for free. You can also seek legal advice elsewhere.
The No Win No Fee Success Fee for getting your housing disrepair compensation is based on which expert panel member we refer you to. Our panel consists of Bond Turner and DW Marketing Limited.
The No Win, No Fee varies, but is generally between 25%+VAT - 50%+VAT. There may be a termination fee if you cancel your claim with a panel member after the cooling off period. We are paid a referral fee by our panel members for a successful referral. Fairweather Group Ltd will not charge you for our service.