Tenancy Agreements - Rights and Responsibilities
If you rent your home (whether it is a house, part of a house, flat or apartment) from a private landlord in the UK then both you and your landlord have certain legal rights and responsibilities. These rights exist whether or not you have a written tenancy agreement.
Tenancy laws have recently changed in Scotland, with Private Residential Tenancies (PRTs) replacing Short Assured Tenancy agreements. PRTs give tenants different Scottish tenants different rights in the areas of rent reviews and termination. Having said that, much of what we outline in this article applies to all private landlords and tenants across the UK.
What are your rights under a private tenancy agreement in the UK?Tenants have the following rights, most of which will be set out in a written tenancy agreement:
- The right to know the name of your landlord. If you don't know who your landlord is you are entitled to ask the person you pay rent to. You should do this in writing and if you are not given the name of your landlord within 21 days, the landlord can be fined
- The right to reside in the property without being disturbed by the landlord (this is called 'quiet possession')
- The right to live in a property that is 'wind and water-tight' and in a good state of repair
- The right to have your deposit protected under an official tenancy deposit scheme
- The right to have the deposit returned to you at the end of the tenancy
- The right to challenge charges which you think are excessively high
- The right to be shown the energy performance certificate relating to the property
- The right not to be unfairly evicted
- The right to be charged a fair rent.
You might be surprised to learn that tenants in England and Wales do not have a legal right to a written tenancy agreement if the term of the contract is less than 3 years. Nevertheless, most reputable landlords will provide a written tenancy agreement to ensure that you both are clear on the terms of the contract. Tenants in Scotland are entitled to a written tenancy contract. Regardless of whether you have a written contract or not your statutory rights and responsibilities still apply.
What are your responsibilities as a tenant?
There are certain obligations which will be set out in your tenancy agreement which you must comply with or your landlord may have grounds to evict you from the property. Your obligations are:
- To take good care of the property and keep good repair and condition and in good decorative order. This included taking steps to prevent water pipes freezing in cold weather
- To pay the rent and other charges (such as utility bills and Council Tax) on time
- To allow the landlord access to the property at reasonable hours during the day to inspect the condition of the property or to carry out repairs or other works to the property or to carry out maintenance of the appliances. The Landlord must give you at least 24 hours' notice but you must give immediate access in an emergency
- To repair damage to the property or its fixtures and fittings caused by you or your visitors
- To report any other damage not caused by you to the property to the landlord
- To return all the keys of the property to the landlord at the end of the tenancy and to remove all rubbish and all furniture and personal effects owned by you and leave the property and the landlord's fixtures and fittings in the same condition and state of repair as at the start of the tenancy, fair wear and tear excepted
- Not to sublet the property without the consent in writing of the landlord
- Not to cause nuisance or annoyance to others living close by
- Not to make alterations, improvements or additions to the property, including the erection of a television aerial, external decoration and additions to or alterations to, the landlord's installations, fixtures and fittings without the prior written consent of the landlord
- Not to remove any items listed in the inventory from the property.
What are the landlord's safety responsibilities?
Your landlord has certain safety responsibilities with regard to gas, electrical fittings and appliances and fire safety:
- Gas - Your landlord must ensure that all gas fittings (appliances, pipe work) and flues in the property are maintained in a safe condition, that all installation, maintenance and safety checks are carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer and that an annual safety check is carried out on each gas appliance/flue.
- Electrical - Your landlord must also ensure that all electrical appliances and equipment supplied by him are safe so as not to cause danger.
- Fire safety in general - Your landlord must ensure that all furniture and furnishings meet with the legal regulations on fire safety. There must also be at least one fire alarm on each floor of the property and, depending on the size of the property, a fire extinguisher.
What are the landlord's repairing obligations?The landlord is responsible for:
- maintaining a wind and water-tight property that is fit for human habitation
- repairing the structure and exterior of the property
- repairing and keeping in good working order all installations in the property for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation and heating (other than those installed by you or which you are entitled to remove).
What are the tenant's repairing obligations?
Your repairing obligations are in relation to damage caused by you or your visitors. You are not obliged to carry out repairs not caused by you (e.g. acts of vandalism) or which are the responsibility of the landlord.
If you cause damage to another person's property (e.g. burst pipes cause water damage to a downstairs property) you are responsible for the cost of repairs.
What should I do if my property needs repairing?
If you think your property needs repairing (e.g. a roof that leaks or faulty wiring), you should contact your landlord straight away. There will be a clause in the UK tenancy agreement on reporting repairs. Your landlord is obliged to repair any damage to the property or repair or replace any defective fixtures, fittings, furnishings or appliances within a reasonable period of time after being notified by you.
You must still pay the rent while you are waiting for the landlord to carry out the repairs. Your landlord should let you know when the repairs will be done.
When can my landlord increase the rent ?
The rent demanded under a UK tenancy agreement must be a 'fair market rent', i.e. in line with the average rent in the area.
PRT agreements in Scotland allow for one rent review per year. Rent increases can also be capped, in Scotland, if the property is in a designated rent control zone.
In England and Wales the ability of the landlord to change the rent depends on the terms of the tenancy agreement and the type of tenancy:
- If you have a periodic tenancy (one where the fixed term has ended but the tenancy continues from month to month or week to week) the landlord cannot increase your rent without your consent more than once a year.
- If you have a fixed term tenancy then the landlord cannot increase the rent without your consent. If you do not consent to the rent increase the landlord can only increase the rent at the end of the fixed term.
If the tenancy agreement has a clause about increasing the rent, the landlord must follow this. Otherwise:
- the landlord can only increase the rent at the end of the fixed term if you renew the tenancy agreement
- you can both agree to a rent increase but you should get written confirmation of the agreement from your landlord.
If you pay rent weekly or monthly, your landlord has to give you at least one month's notice to increase the rent. If your UK tenancy agreement is a yearly contract, the landlord has to give you six months' notice.
You can contact a rent assessment committee if you think your rent or any increase is unfair.