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General advice for tenants

As a tenant what am I responsible for?

  • Make sure you follow all anti-social behaviour laws and do not create a nuisance e.g. excess noise.
  • Bills for gas, electricity, telephone etc. if this has been agreed with the landlord.
  • In most cases, paying the council tax, water and sewerage charges.
  • Paying rent as agreed.
  • Taking proper care of the property.
  • Allowing the landlord reasonable time to carry out repairs.
  • Providing access to the property for the landlord if a reasonable period of notice has been given.
  • Give the required notice, specified in the tenancy agreement, to end your tenancy.

What is the landlord responsible for?

  • Repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, heating, utility supplies, basins, sinks, baths and toilets.
  • The safety of gas and electrical appliances.
  • The fire safety of furniture and furnishings provided under the tenancy.
  • A landlord must provide a property tenancy agreement, detailing how and when rent is to be paid. Rent levels can be increased if allowed for in the tenancy agreement.
  • If rent is to be paid weekly, a rent book must be provided.
  • Place any deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme

When can I be asked to leave?

  • The landlord can ask you to leave at any time after 6 months, provided any fixed term you agreed has ended. He must give you 2 months notice in writing that he wants you to leave,  unless the landlord has reason to seek possession earlier. The grounds for possession before the end of the fixed term are set out in law, e.g. rent arrears, nuisance, or damage to property or contents.
  • The landlord cannot force you to leave, but may apply to a Court for a possession order. If you do not leave by the date set by the order, the landlord may apply to the Court for a warrant for eviction. The Court will then appoint bailiffs to evict you.

Can I get help with the rent?

  • If your income is low, you may be eligible for help to get housing benefit. You should apply to the council’s finance department, to see if you are eligible and how much you can claim.

What happens if I get into rent arrears?

  • The landlord can give you notice that he will seek possession through the court. The landlord can apply for a possession order using a faster court procedure, if you owe at least 8 weeks (if you pay weekly) or 2 months (if you pay monthly) rent, at the time the notice is served.

My landlord has not carried out repairs. Do I have the right to withhold my rent?

Note:  There is no absolute right in law to withhold rent, as not paying rent means that you will breaking the contract.  Your landlord may use this as a ground to seek possession before the end of your fixed term.

  • Off-setting the cost of the repair against the rent
    While Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 places a duty of repair on your landlord, your right to repair and your obligation to pay the rent are completely separate.
    However, in some instances it is possible to pay for the repair yourself and to deduct the cost from the rent.
    It is advisable to follow a set procedure as established by caselaw:
    a) Notify the landlord of the repair [preferably in writing
    b) Allow a reasonable period for the landlord to do the repair
    c) Obtain 3 estimates
    d) Supply copies of the estimates to the landlord and advise of intention to do repair, if not done within a reasonable time
    e) Once the work is complete, ask for reimbursement of invoice
    f) Failing that, deduct the cost from rent
    If you are thinking of following this procedure then it is recommended that you first seek legal advice. 
  • Note: The easiest route for a tenant to ensure repairs are carried out would be to contact the Private Housing Service who will liaise with your landlord and if necessary take legal action to ensure repairs are done.
    In all instances the first step should be to inform your landlord of the disrepair [preferably in writing] and give him, or her, reasonable time to fix the problem. Only then should you consider taking any further action. 

How much notice should my landlord give me if he wishes to inspect the property or carry out repairs?

  • 24 hours written notice is the accepted practice unless it is a genuine emergency e.g. a burst water pipe when the landlord may enter without prior notice.
  •  However you can accept verbal notice of a shorter time period if it is reasonable to do so, bearing in mind it is in your interest to have the repair carried out.

How much time should I give my landlord to carry out repairs?

  • It would not be reasonable to expect your landlord to carryout repairs immediately or even within 48hrs depending on the severity of the hazard created by the disrepair.
  • You must allow a reasonable time period, and cooperate with regard to access, to enable estimates to be obtained.
  • For example, if your boiler is not working and you are without hot water and/or heating, a period of 1-2 weeks should be adequate to enable your Landlord to provide you with a start and completion date, if not complete the repairs.

Health and Safety

Gas Safety

What are the risks?

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be caused by gas appliances and flues which have not been properly installed and maintained e.g. There is not enough ventilation due to a build up of debris behind a gas fire.

What are the Regulations about fire resistance?

Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994, every landlord must ensure that gas appliances and flues they provide for their tenant to use are maintained in a safe condition.

How do I know that the Landlord is complying with the regulations?

  • The Regulations require the landlord to carry out an annual gas safety check on installations, appliances and flues within the rented accommodation.
  • Landlords must keep written records of safety checks for a 2 year period and must supply copies to tenants at the start of the tenancy.
  • Landlords must ensure all of the equipment that they supply with the property is safe to use, but most importantly they must provide enough information for the safe use of all gas appliances, especially boilers.
  • If the tenants own a gas appliance, they are responsible for its maintenance.  The landlord is responsible for the maintenance of its installation pipe work.
  • If an agent manages the property, the landlord must be clear as to who is responsible for the maintenance of gas appliances. The agreement must be put in writing.

If the law is broken the Health and Safety Executive are responsible for taking further enforcement action.

Can the landlord do the works himself?

NO – Only businesses registered with Gas Safe should be permitted to carry out installation and maintenance of gas appliances.

You should check the contractors Gas Safe details, ask to see his certificate or check with Gas Safe direct.

The competent contractor will provide the landlord with a gas inspection certificate, and it must inform you of any appliances found to be unsafe.

For further advice about the gas safety regulations, contact the Health and Safety Executive:

To contact Gas Safe Tel: 0800 408 5500

In an emergency if you smell gas then call 24- hour National Grid Gas Emergency Helpline: 0800 111 999       

What is a tenancy deposit scheme?

A tenancy deposit law was introduced on 6th April 2007, from this date landlords and letting agents have had to protect the deposit using a government authorised tenancy deposit scheme.

Tenancy Deposit Protection is designed to ensure:

  • you get all or part of your deposit back, when you are entitled to it
  • any disputes between you and your landlord or agent will be easier to resolve

How do I find out more about keeping my deposit safe?

For more information please see the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

Rent Increase

How often can rent be increased?

The frequency of any rent reviews depends on whether this has been incorporated in the terms of the tenancy agreement.

Details of the arrangements for paying and, if you wish, for reviewing, the rent should be agreed, before the tenancy begins and included as part of the terms of the tenancy agreement.

  • If the tenancy is for a fixed term, the agreement should say that the rent will be fixed for the length of the term or, that it will be reviewed at regular intervals and how it will be reviewed.
  • If the tenancy is a contractual periodic tenancy, the tenancy agreement should say how often the rent will be reviewed and how it will be reviewed.

If you not agree with the proposed increase you can apply to a rent assessment committee to decide what the rent should be. You must do so before the date on which the new rent is due to begin.

Rent Assessment Committees

A rent assessment committee is a tribunal made up of 2 or 3 people - usually a lawyer or a property valuer and 1 or 2 lay people. They are generally appointed by government ministers. Each committee is part of an umbrella organization called the Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS) which has 5 regional offices called 'rent assessment panels. The committees are independent of both central and local government. Please see Related Content section for details.