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Renting from a private landlord

The tenancy began on or after 15 January 1989 but before 28 February 1997

If your tenancy is a private or a housing association tenancy which began on or after 15 January 1989 you may be:-

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Assured tenants

An assured tenant will not normally have a resident landlord and the landlord will not provide food or services. As an assured tenant you will be paying rent for accommodation which you occupy as your only or principal home.

You will not be an assured tenant if your accommodation is:

  • a student let
  • a holiday let
  • a company let
  • business premises
  • a Crown tenancy
  • private accommodation arranged by the local authority because you are homeless.

Rights of assured tenants

As an assured tenant you have the right to stay in your accommodation unless your landlord can convince the court there are good reasons for eviction, for example rent arrears or damage to the property, or that another of the terms of the agreement has been broken.

As an assured tenant you can enforce your rights, for instance, to get repairs done without worrying about getting evicted.

As well as the right to stay in your home as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy you will also have other rights by law including:-

  • the right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair
  • the right of a your spouse, civil partner, or other partner to take over the tenancy on your death (‘the right of succession’)
  • the right not to be treated unfairly because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

Assured shorthold tenants (before 28 February 1997)

You will be an assured shorthold tenant if your tenancy is for a fixed period of not less than six months.

This is a less secure type of tenancy than an assured tenancy. It is granted for a fixed period of not less than six months. After this ends, your landlord can apply to the court for possession as long as they have given you two months’ notice in writing called a section 21 notice. If your landlord does not renew the agreement, you can stay on until your landlord serves notice that they want to repossess the property.

If you were not given a Notice of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy or were given it after the tenancy started you will be an assured tenant. If you are not sure of your position you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

You will not be an assured shorthold tenant if the accommodation:-

  • is a holiday let
  • is a company let
  • is let to you by an educational body such as a university
  • is private temporary accommodation in which you are housed because you are homeless
  • has a resident landlord
  • is accommodation for which you pay no rent.

Rights of assured shorthold tenants

As an assured shorthold tenant you have the right to stay in the accommodation until the fixed term ends unless your landlord can convince the court there are reasons for eviction, for example, rent arrears, damage to property, or that one of the other terms of the agreement has been broken. You can stay on after the end of the fixed term, even if the agreement is not renewed, until your landlord gives you notice.

As an assured shorthold tenant you can enforce your rights, for instance to get repairs done, but if you do, your landlord may decide not to renew the tenancy agreement at the end of the fixed term.

As well as the right to stay in your home for the fixed period as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy, you will also have other legal rights including:-

  • the right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair
  • the right to have a tenancy deposit protected where either it was paid to a private landlord or letting agent on or after 6 April 2007 or, it was paid before 6 April 2007, but the tenancy has been renewed since that date
  • the right of your spouse, civil partner or other partner to take over the tenancy on your death (the right of ‘succession’)
  • the right not to be treated unfairly because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

You may have a written tenancy agreement which may give you more rights than the minimum provided by law. You can find more information on assured shorthold tenancies from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

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The tenancy began on or after 28 February 1997

Any new tenancy created on or after this date is automatically an assured shorthold tenancy, unless:-

  • it was created following a contract made before 28 February 1997; or
  • your landlord serves a notice on you stating that the tenancy is not to be an assured shorthold tenancy; or
  • there is a clause in the tenancy agreement stating that it is not to be an assured shorthold tenancy; or
  • the tenancy is one created by the death of a former protected tenant; or
  • the tenancy was previously a secure tenancy and became an assured tenancy; or
  • you are an occupier with basic protection (see under heading Occupiers with basic protection).

The list of exceptions is not exhaustive. Only the most important exceptions are given.

If the tenancy is not an assured shorthold tenancy for one of the reasons given above, it will be an assured tenancy. You will have the same rights as other assured tenants whose tenancy began before 28 February 1997 but after 15 January 1989.

Assured shorthold tenancies created on or after 28 February 1997 do not have to have a fixed term period at the beginning of the tenancy, although your landlord may give a fixed term if they want. If no fixed term is agreed, the tenancy will be what is called a periodic tenancy. No written agreement or notice is needed to create an assured shorthold tenancy on or after 28 February 1997. An oral agreement is sufficient.

Rights of assured shorthold tenants (on or after 28 February 1997)

The rights are the same as for other assured shorthold tenancies. However, there is one additional right to a statement from your landlord of the terms of the agreement. Your landlord must provide a written statement of the basic terms of the tenancy which are not already provided in writing. Failure to provide the statement is a criminal offence.

Checklist for assured shorthold tenants

If you're an assured shorthold tenant, you may find it useful to refer to a government publication called 'How to rent - The checklist for renting in England'. It summarises your rights and responsibilities and what you can expect from your tenancy. It is available from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

Model assured shorthold tenancy agreement

The government has produced a model tenancy agreement for assured shorthold tenancies. It may be of particular use if you'd like to negotiate a longer tenancy of two years or more with a private landlord.

Landlords can choose whether or not to use the model agreement, but it is available at no cost and it comes with accompanying guidance. Both are available on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

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The tenancy began before 15 January 1989

If your tenancy began before 15 January 1989 you could be either:-

  • a protected tenant (see below); or
  • an occupier with basic protection (see below).

Protected tenants

If you are a protected tenant you will:-

  • be paying rent for the accommodation; and
  • not normally have a resident landlord; and
  • not be provided with food or services by your landlord.

You will not be a protected tenant if your accommodation is:-

  • a bed and breakfast letting
  • a ‘company’ let.

Protected tenants have the strongest rights of any private tenants. If you think you are a protected tenant and your landlord asks you to move or to sign a new agreement, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Rights of protected tenants

As a protected tenant you have the following rights:-

  • security of tenure. Your landlord can only repossess the accommodation in certain specified circumstances - see under heading The right to stay in the accommodation
  • the right to have the rent fixed by the rent officer - see below
  • the right to have rent increased only in certain circumstances - see under heading Fixing and increasing the rent
  • the right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state or repair - see under heading Repairs
  • the right of your spouse, civil partner, other partner or another family member to take over the tenancy on your death
  • the right not to be treated unfairly because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

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Occupiers with basic protection

If you are not an assured tenant, assured shorthold tenant, or protected tenant, you may be an occupier with basic protection. You will be an occupier with basic protection if you have:-

  • a ‘company’ let (where a company holds the tenancy and provides accommodation for you as a member of staff)
  • a student let granted by an educational institution
  • a resident landlord who does not share living accommodation with you, the accommodation is your landlord’s only or main home and your landlord has been living there since the tenancy began and lives there when the tenancy ends. If your landlord shares living accommodation with you, you will not have basic protection - see under heading The right to stay in the accommodation
  • accommodation provided by the Crown or a government department
  • accommodation provided by some housing co-ops and almshouses
  • accommodation provided by your employer in order for you to carry out your job. If you occupy accommodation because of your job (for example, a launderette assistant or a caretaker) you may not necessarily have to give up the accommodation if you leave the job.

The above list is not exhaustive and if you think you may have basic protection you should consult an experienced adviser because people who have basic protection have limited rights. A person in this situation can contact an experienced adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Immigration checks by landlords

If you're taking on private rented accommodation on or after 1 December 2014, in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley or Wolverhampton, you have to show the landlord that you have a right to be in the UK. This also applies to any other adult you'll be living with. Landlords in these areas must check that the immigration status of tenants and adult occupiers is lawful before allowing them to rent the property.

More about immigration checks by landlords

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Fixing and increasing the rent

If you cannot afford to pay your rent, you may be able to apply for housing benefit. You may also be entitled to other benefits if you are unemployed or on a low income.

For more information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent - Housing Benefit.

If you are getting into arrears with your rent, in England and Wales see Rent arrears in Credit and debt fact sheets.

First, however, you should check the information below to see whether your rent has been fixed correctly.

If you aren't sure whether your rent has been fixed correctly, or want more advice about claiming benefits or rent arrears, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Assured tenants

As an assured tenant you must pay whatever rent you agreed with your landlord when the tenancy began. Your landlord cannot normally increase the rent unless you agree or the tenancy agreement allows it. If the tenancy agreement allows your landlord to increase the rent, it should contain information about when and how the rent can be increased.

If a rent increase has not been agreed with your landlord or if the tenancy agreement does not allow an increase, you may have the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England, or a Rent Assessment Committee in Wales, if you think the rent increase proposed by your landlord is too high. You can only do so if your tenancy is not fixed term (that is, it does not run for a specific period only, for example, six months or a year) and if your landlord uses a special procedure to increase the rent. Also, a Tribunal or Committee can set a rent which is higher than that proposed by your landlord.

The situation is complicated and if you want to take a proposed increase to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England, or a Rent Assessment Committee in Wales, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Assured shorthold tenants

As an assured shorthold tenant you must pay whatever rent you agreed with your landlord when the tenancy began.

Your rent cannot normally be increased unless you agree or the tenancy agreement allows it.

In certain cases, your landlord can instead use a special procedure to increase the rent, which involves giving you a formal notice the details of which are set down by legislation. It is in theory possible for certain types of assured shorthold tenants to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England, or a Rent Assessment Committee in Wales, like assured tenants can (see above), but assured shorthold tenants have very little protection from eviction, and antagonising your landlord could put you at risk of losing your home.

If you wish to challenge a rent increase you must consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Protected tenants

As a protected tenant you must pay the rent which you agreed with your landlord when the tenancy began. However, either you or your landlord can subsequently ask the Rent Officer to fix a ‘fair rent’.

If you intend to take action about your rent, you should make sure you are a protected tenant. You should first consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Your landlord cannot increase your rent if it has been registered as a fair rent by the Rent Officer. If no fair rent has been registered, your landlord cannot increase the rent unless you agree formally in writing, or either you or your landlord apply to the Rent Officer and the Rent Officer fixes a fair rent.

Occupiers with basic protection

As an occupier with basic protection you must pay the rent which you agreed with your landlord when you moved into the accommodation. You cannot apply to the Rent Officer or the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England, or a Rent Assessment Committee in Wales, to have the rent reduced. If your landlord wants to increase the rent you could try and negotiate. If you refuse to pay the increase this could lead to your landlord evicting you.

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Paying your rent

If you need help to pay your rent, you may be able to apply for housing benefit. You may also be entitled to other benefits if you are unemployed or on a low income.

For more information on housing benefit, see Help with your rent - Housing Benefit.

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Repairs

The landlord’s general responsibilities

By law, your landlord has a number of repairing responsibilities, including repairing and keeping in working order:-

  • the structure and exterior of the premises, including drains, gutters and external pipes
  • the water and gas pipes and electric wiring (including, for example, taps and sockets)
  • the basins, sinks, baths and toilets
  • fixed heaters (for example, gas fires) and water heaters.

Your landlord has these duties by law, no matter what is written in the tenancy agreement. However, if you ask your landlord to do these repairs they may attempt to regain possession of the property or not renew the agreement when it expires. Before attempting to use this general right to repairs you should consult an experienced adviser.

The tenancy agreement may specify additional repairing obligations. For more information on repairs, see Repairs in rented housing.

Discrimination and repairs

Your landlord is not allowed to refuse to carry out repairs to your home just because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. This is discrimination and could be unlawful.

These rules may not apply in some cases, for example, if your landlord lives in the same property as you.

If you think your landlord is refusing to carry out repairs because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Common parts

Your landlord is normally also responsible for repairs to common parts of the building, for example, stairways, lifts, hallways or garden paths shared with other tenants or your landlord.

For more information on how to get repairs carried out, see Repairs in rented housing.

Gas appliances

Your landlord must make sure that any gas appliances in residential premises are safe. They must arrange for safety checks on appliances and fittings to be carried out at least once every twelve months. The inspection must be carried out by someone who is registered with Gas Safe Register. Their website is: www.gassaferegister.co.uk.

The landlord must also keep a record of the date of the check, any problems identified and any action taken. As a tenant, you have the right to see this record as long as you give reasonable notice.

If your landlord does not arrange for checks or refuses to allow you to see the record of the check, you could contact the local Health and Safety Executive office. However, if you have limited security, you may face eviction if you take action against your landlord.

For more details on ways of getting repairs done, see Repairs in rented housing.

Disabled tenants

As a disabled private tenant you may be able to have alterations carried out to your home. You will first have to get the need for the alterations assessed by the local authority social services department. Alterations could include the installation of a stair lift or hoist, or adaptation to a bathroom or toilet.

If you want to get any alterations carried out you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

You may also be able to get a disabled facilities grant to make the home more suitable.

For information about disabled facilities grants, see Help with home improvements.

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The right to stay in the accommodation

Your right to stay in the accommodation will depend on the type of tenancy you have.

If you are asked to leave your home by your landlord you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Right to stay: protected and assured tenants

Your landlord can only repossess the property if they can convince the court that there are reasons why you should be evicted, for example, you have rent arrears, you have damaged the property or you have broken one of the terms of the agreement.

Right to stay: assured shorthold tenants

Tenancy began before 28 February 1997

As an assured shorthold tenant you have the right to stay in the accommodation for the duration of the initial fixed term unless you breach a term in the tenancy agreement, for example, you are in rent arrears, or you have damaged the property.

If you stay in the home after the initial fixed term ends and your landlord does not intend to renew the agreement and wants possession, they will have to give you at least two months' notice in writing to leave the property called a section 21 notice, and will have to go to court for possession of the property if you do not leave. If your landlord takes no action you will become a statutory periodic assured shorthold tenant and your landlord will not be able to regain possession of the property without going through this procedure.

Tenancies created on or after 28 February 1997

Your landlord cannot evict you during the first six months of the tenancy, or during the initial fixed term, whichever is the longer, unless they have grounds for doing so. For example, if you have rent arrears or you have broken one of the terms of your tenancy agreement.

At the end of this period, your landlord can automatically get a court order to evict you, as long as they have followed the correct legal procedure. This means giving you a notice called a section 21 notice. It must be at least two months long. If you do not leave the property by the time the notice has run out, your landlord must apply for a court order. Your landlord can get a court order even if you have not broken any of the terms in your tenancy agreement.

Right to stay if tenancy deposit has not been protected

Your landlord is generally not allowed to use a section 21 notice to evict you if they don't protect your deposit using a tenancy deposit protection scheme, or do not give you the required information about the scheme and your deposit. If your landlord is asking you to leave, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

For more information about tenancy deposit protection, see Tenancy deposits [Adobe Acrobat Document 140 KB]

Right to stay: occupiers with basic protection

If you are a tenant with basic protection, and you do not move out when your landlord has given you notice to quit and the notice period has expired, your landlord has to go to court for a possession order. This will normally be granted. If the tenancy is for a specified fixed term (for example, it is agreed that it lasts for 6 months or a year), your landlord does not have to give you notice to quit at the end of that term. Your landlord still has, however, to apply for a possession order to evict you. They can only apply once the fixed term has ended.

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If a tenant wants to leave

If you want to end the tenancy, what you can do will depend on the type of tenancy you have and when exactly you want to leave.

More on if a tenant wants to end the tenancy.

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Shared accommodation

If you live in a certain type of shared accommodation in England, your landlord may need to hold a licence. This type of shared accommodation is known as a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

You are likely to be living in an HMO if you share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen with people who are not members of your family. Your landlord will need a licence if you live in an HMO which is three or more storeys high, you share it with four or more other people and you are not all members of the same family. Your landlord may also need a licence if your local authority has decided that smaller HMOs and/or other private landlords should also be licensed in the area you live in. You can find out if this is the case by contacting the department of your local authority that deals with private rented housing.

If you are living in a property which is licensed, this means that the property has to meet certain standards and the landlord has to abide by certain conditions. Before it grants a licence, the local authority will consider whether or not the landlord is fit to manage the property. It will also say how many people are allowed to live in the building. The local authority can prosecute landlords who let properties without the necessary licence or who break the conditions of their licence.

The rules of the licensing system are complicated and some kinds of property are not included.

In England, if you live in an HMO, you must cooperate with your landlord to help them carry out their legal responsibilities. For example, you must:

  • follow your landlord's arrangements for storing and getting rid of rubbish
  • follow any reasonable instructions about fire safety.

Landlords who rent out accommodation in HMOs are not allowed to discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation – see under heading Discrimination by private landlords. If a landlord who rents out accommodation in HMOs discriminates against you, you can report them to your local authority. Your local authority can take this information into account when they decide whether to grant the landlord a licence.

To find out more about HMOs and the licensing system, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Discrimination by private landlords

When renting accommodation, a private landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, This means that they are probably acting unlawfully if they:

  • refuse to let a property to you because of discrimination
  • rent a property to you on worse terms than other tenants
  • treat you differently from other tenants in the way you are allowed to use facilities such as a laundry or a garden
  • evict or harass you because of discrimination
  • charge you higher rent than other tenants
  • refuse to carry out repairs to your home, simply because of discrimination
  • refuse to make reasonable changes to a property or a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there.

These rules may not apply in some cases – for example, if your landlord lives in the same property as you.

I've found this flat that I would really like to rent because it's near where I work. I'm profoundly deaf and have a hearing dog but the landlord says he doesn't allow pets. Does this mean I can't take the flat?

If you're disabled, you can ask a landlord to make changes to their policies which would allow you to live in a property. This would include changing a term in the tenancy agreement which bans pets, so that you can have an assistance dog. By law, a landlord should agree to this unless he has a good reason for not doing so. What is reasonable depends on the circumstances of each case. If the landlord doesn't agree, this may be disability discrimination, and he could be breaking the law. Try explaining this to the landlord. If he still refuses to change the policy, you should get advice.

If you think your tenancy agreement discriminates against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

For more information on discrimination, see Discrimination in housing.

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Further information

You can find more information about your rights as a private tenant on the Shelter website at: www.shelter.org.uk.

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Citizens Advice

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