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Private Tenant's Handbook

1. Before you begin renting a property

Before you start your search for a new rental property we would advise you to consider certain things to help you make the right decision based on your individual circumstances.

Things to consider before renting 

  • Will you be renting from a landlord or a letting agent?
  • How long do you want the tenancy for? You can ask for a tenancy to be any length between six months and seven years. 
  • What can you afford? Think about how much rent you can afford to pay: 35% of your take-home pay is the most that many people can afford, but this depends on what your other outgoings are (for example, whether you have children).
  • If you are entitled to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you may get help with all or part of your rent. If you are renting from a private landlord your entitlement will be based on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
  • Which area you would like to live in and how you are going to look for a rented home? The larger the area where you are prepared to look, the better the chance of finding the right home for you.
  • Do you have your documents ready? Landlords and agents will want to confirm your identity, immigration status, credit history and possibly employment documents.
  • Do you have the right to rent property in the UK? Landlords must check that all people aged over 18 living in their property as their only or main home have the right to rent. They will need to make copies of your documents and return your original documents.
  • Will you need a rent guarantee? Some landlords might ask someone to guarantee your rent.

2. How to rent a property

Renting through an agent or direct

Renting through a letting agent

You should find out what fees (and costs) you will be charged and when you need to pay them. By law, a breakdown of all fees should be clearly visible to you in the agent’s office and on their website. If this is not the case then please send an email to website to investigate, as they may be breaking the law.

Check whether they are a member of a Redress Scheme (someone you can complain to and ask for compensation from if they treat you unfairly). You can check the 2 Redress schemes:

If they are not a member of either of these schemes, please send an email to to investigate, as they may be breaking the law.

The most professional agents are often accredited through a professional body like ARLA Propertymark, NALS, RICS, SAFEagentor UKALA. These signs will be proudly displayed on their website and shopfront.

The council recommends that you only use a letting agent that is accredited and a member of the redress scheme. If your agent isn’t a member of these schemes, you are more likely to experience a difficult and stressful tenancy.

Renting directly with a landlord

Look for landlords who may belong to a landlord accreditation scheme.

Landlords can be accredited through national schemes such as National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA), but if not accredited, make sure you know their full name and address (such as a photo of a driving licence) before sending them a holding deposit.

Tenant fees

Under the Tenant Fees Act some fees that may have previously been charged to tenants are now banned. This applies to tenancy agreements that are signed on 1 June 2019 or later.

What fees can tenants be charged?

  • none – except a maximum of £50 to vary an existing tenancy.
  • if your agency charges you more, please send an email to to investigate.  If they are breaking the law, you will be able to claim those fees back
  • the maximum holding deposit you can be charged is 1 weeks rent
  • the maximum security/damages deposit you can be charged is 5 weeks, for rents up to £50,000 per annum
  • if your agency charges you more, please email to investigate, as they may be breaking the law.

Deposit protection schemes

If you rent out a property through an assured shorthold tenancy your landlord must place your deposit in a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme. These government-backed schemes ensure tenants will get their deposit back if they:

  • meet the terms of your tenancy agreement
  • don’t damage the property
  • pay the rent and bills

Your landlord must put your deposit in a scheme within 30 days of getting it. There are 3 deposit schemes available to your landlord:

  • Deposit Protection Service
  • MyDeposits
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Letting and property management agents in the private rented sector who hold client money are now required by law to belong to a government-approved Client Money Protection scheme. These include:

Types of tenancy

Assured Short-hold Tenancies (AST) are the most common form of tenancy. A tenancy can be an AST if all of the following apply:

  • the property you rent is private
  • your tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989
  • the property is your main accommodation
  • your landlord doesn’t live in the property

What to check before signing your agreement

Tenancy agreement

Make sure you have a written tenancy agreement and read it carefully to understand your rights and responsibilities. The landlord or agent usually provides one but you can request to use a different version. The government has published a model tenancy agreement that can be used. If you have any concerns about the agreement, seek advice before you sign.


Agree an inventory (or check in report) with your landlord before you move in and, as an extra safeguard, make sure that you take photos. This will make things easier if there is a dispute about the deposit at the end of the tenancy. If you are happy with the inventory, sign it and keep a copy.

Meter readings

Remember to take meter readings when you move. This will help make sure you don’t pay for the previous tenant’s bills.

Contact details

Make sure that you have the correct contact details for the landlord or agent, including a telephone number you can use in case of an emergency. You are legally entitled to know the name and address of your landlord.

3. Your rights and responsibilities

Your rights as a tenant

If you are a tenant in a private rented property you have certain rights and responsibilities. Tenants have the right to:

  • live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair
  • have your deposit returned when the tenancy ends
  • challenge excessively high charges
  • know who your landlord is
  • live in the property undisturbed
  • see an Energy Performance Certificate for the property
  • be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent
  • have a written agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy of more than 3 years

Your responsibilities as a tenant

  • you should give your landlord access to the property to inspect it or carry out repairs when requested. Your landlord has to give you at least 24 hours’ notice and visit at a reasonable time of day, unless it’s an emergency and they need immediate access
  • pay the rent on time, pay the agreed rent, even if repairs are needed or you’re in dispute with your landlord. If you don’t, you could lose your home because you have broken your tenancy agreement
  • pay bills that you are responsible for on time, such as Council Tax, gas, electricity and water bills. If you pay the gas or electricity bills, you can choose your own energy supplier
  • look after the property in a tenant like manner. Get your landlord’s permission before attempting repairs or decorating. It’s worth getting contents insurance to cover your possessions too, because the landlord’s insurance won’t cover your things
  • be considerate to the neighbours. You could be evicted for anti-social behaviour if you aren’t
  • not take in a lodger or sub-let without checking whether you need permission from your landlord
  • build and maintain a good relationship with your landlord

You should also:

  • make sure you know how to operate the boiler and other appliances and know where the stopcock, fuse box and any meters are located
  • regularly test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors at least once a month
  • report any need for repairs to your landlord. There will be a risk to your deposit if a minor repair turns into a major problem because you did not report it to the landlord
  • correct presentation of waste is very important, ensure that waste is presented on the boundary of your property by 7am on the day of collection if you live in a house. Do not obstruct the pavement with dustbins or waste sacks. This is an offence under the Highways Act and you may receive a fine
  • if you live in a block of flats, please ensure no bulky waste or rubbish bags are placed outside of the communal bin area as this is an offence under the Highways Act and you may receive a fine
  • register to vote

4. Your landlord's responsibilities

A landlord has a responsibility to keep rented properties safe and free from hazards to the health and safety of occupiers.

What your landlord must provide you with

  • a copy of the how to rent guide
  • a gas safety certificate. The landlord must provide one at the start of the tenancy and within 28 days of each annual gas safety check, if there is a gas installation
  • deposit paperwork. If you have provided a deposit, the landlord must protect it in a government approved scheme within 30 days and provide you with prescribed information about it. Make sure you get the official information from your landlord and that you understand how to get your money back at the end of the tenancy. Keep this information safe as you will need it later
  • a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate. This will affect your energy bills and the landlord must provide one (except for Houses in Multiple Occupation). Properties let on tenancies entered into after 1 April 2018 must have an EPC rating of at least ‘E’ (unless a valid exemption applies)
  • if your tenancy started or was renewed after 1 October 2015 your landlord cannot evict you with a Section 21 notice (no fault eviction) if they have not provided you with these documents. You can still be evicted with a Section 8 notice if you break the terms of your tenancy

The landlord should also provide you with:

  • a record of electrical inspections. All appliances and installations must be safe and checks every 5 years are recommended
  • evidence that smoke alarms and any carbon monoxide alarms are in working order at the start of the tenancy. Tenants should then regularly check they are working

Landlord licensing for houses in multiple occupation

Landlord licensing in Rochford

Only Houses in Multiple Occupation e.g. bedsits containing 5 tenants forming 2 or more households require the landlord to obtain a licence.

If you think the property you are renting is unlicensed but requires a licence you can report it to

5. Repairs

If your landlord is responsible for a repair, contact them directly, if the property is managed by an Agent contact the agent directly.

If you have an urgent repair and your landlord is not responding or refusing to do the work, contact Private Sector Housing using this form.

If you smell gas contact 0800 111 999.

Who is responsible for your repairs

Tenant repair responsibilities

  • carrying out minor repairs such as replacing light bulbs or clearing a blocked sink
  • repairing any damage caused by you or a visitor to the property

Landlord repair responsibilities

  • carrying out repairs to the structure and exterior such as roof, walls, floors and windows
  • the upkeep of the outside of the building including gutters, pipes and drains
  • carrying out repairs to the plumbing and sanitary conveniences such as baths, toilets, sinks and basins
  • maintenance of the heating and hot water systems
  • carrying out repairs of installations such as electrical wiring, gas piping, fixed heaters and water heaters
  • the installations within and associated with the dwelling for food safety

How the council can help

We advise you to try to resolve any issues with disrepair with your landlord in the first instance. The council has a duty to take enforcement action to address severe housing hazards. We also have powers to address significant moderate housing hazards.

If you are unable to resolve the problem by contacting your landlord, you can contact us by using this form.

6. Rent, eviction, landlord harassment issues

There are legal protections for some of the most common problems you might experience during your tenancy.

Rent disputes

  • you can apply to a tribunal to decide on certain rent disputes in England if:
    • you have an assured or assured shorthold tenancy and
    • your rent has been increased following a Section 13 Notice – this letter from your landlord will state the increased amount and give you information on applying to the tribunal
  • you should consider what the market rent is in your area before applying and comparing this to yours, you can do this by looking at the rent similar properties in your area are marketed at and at any Tribunal records for similar properties in your area
  • you must apply before the new rent is due to start

Rent arrears

Your landlord can evict you if you fall behind with your rent - you could lose your home. You can get advice if you’re in rent arrears or having difficulty in paying your rent from:

Illegal evictions

Depriving occupiers of their occupation of the property without following the correct legal process is illegal eviction and occupiers have legal protection.

If your landlord wants you to leave the property, they must notify you in writing, with the right amount of notice . For information visit the Shelter Legal website

If you want help you can contact the Police or


Conduct interfering with occupier’s rights or causing them alarm or distress constitutes harassment and occupiers are protected by law against it.

If you want help you can contact the Police or

7. Just moved into the Rochford District?

If you have just moved into the district we provide a whole range of information to help you understand about services and facilities available. You may need to sort your bins, Council Tax, employment and benefits with us and find your local services.

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