Landlords' and tenants' rights
Landlord and tenant rights are likely to be detailed within a tenancy agreement, but some conditions may vary from one property and landlord to the next.
Here is a general guide of what is expected, whether you are a landlord or tenant. You should seek the advice of a solicitor if you are in any doubt about your legal position when either letting or renting a property.
Paying rent and damage
Tenants have numerous responsibilities, with perhaps the most important being to pay the agreed rent in full and on time.
The date the rent is due will be outlined in the contract that you’ve signed with the landlord. This contract will most commonly be an assured shorthold tenancy agreement where the rent due falls on the same date every month. The agreed rent must be paid even if there are any outstanding repairs needed or if you are in dispute with your landlord.
You must also make sure no damage is caused to the property or its contents, whether by yourself, members of the household or visitors. Contents insurance taken out on moving into a property will help cover you if any damage is done. However, it may not cover you if you have behaved negligently. For example, you will need to turn off the water at the mains if you’re away in cold weather.
Your landlord must be asked in writing for their permission if you’re thinking about making any alterations to the property. There may already be clauses in your contract outlining what you can or cannot do - for example, your contract may prohibit any additional picture hooks being added to the walls.
You are required to report any damage or need for repairs to the landlord. Your landlord is unable to fix any damage unless they know about it. And depending on the wording of your contract, you may be liable for the costs involved if you fail to keep your landlord fully informed. As such, it is worth keeping your landlord in the loop as best as you can.
It is also your responsibility not to cause disturbance, nuisance or annoyance to neighbours.
Access and notice
A tenant must provide the landlord with access to the property for the purpose of inspection, or to carry out repairs, as long as sufficient notice has been provided. Again, it will depend on your contract, but generally, a landlord will be required to give you 24 hours notice before entering the property.
And if you’re thinking about taking in a lodger or want to sub-let the property, you’ll need to obtain written permission from your landlord. Most contracts do not allow sub-letting or taking in a lodger and so you will need an amendment before pursuing this route or it may invalidate your initial agreement.
If you wish to terminate the agreement and leave the property, you must give the agreed amount of notice to your landlord. You will need to check your contract to see what notice you have agreed to provide. But generally, this can be one or two months from the date of your next rental payment date.
You will also be required not to leave the property unoccupied for longer than 14 days without informing the landlord or managing agent. Leaving a property unattended for such a period of time can lead to a number of issues, not least invalidating any insurance your landlord may have.
Contract and contact
You need to know and be aware of the full terms of the tenancy agreement. Some tenants may be tempted to sign the contract without reading it fully. But there may be clauses that affect you, such as banning smokers or not allowing pets or children.
The name and address of the landlord will normally be outlined within the first few pages of a tenancy agreement.
A tenant also has rights, which include being able to live in a property that is in adequate condition for rental purposes and free from defects.
You also have a right to know who your landlord is. This will usually be outlined at the start of your tenancy agreement, if you have one. And if you don’t know who your landlord is, write to the individuals or company that you pay your rent to as they can be fined if they fail to provide these details within 21 days.
Tenant rights concerning prompt repairs
If something has been damaged at the property, a tenant has the right to receive reasonably prompt repairs and maintenance.
And it is their right to live in safe accommodation, with all equipment, gas and electrical systems meeting the required safety standards. This includes having a gas inspection certificate produced annually and at the start of each tenancy. Your landlord must give you a copy of the gas safety record either before you move into the property or within 28 days of the check being carried out. All electrics must also be checked, including cookers and kettles.
Quiet enjoyment of the property and unfair rent increases
A tenant has the right to what is defined in their contract as "peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the property". It means being able to enjoy the property, free from demands for access without prior notification, or interference with utilities or other supplies to the property.
Other rights include having to have a rent book (if the rent is payable on a weekly basis) and to be able to challenge excessively high charges.
Tenants are protected from being unfairly evicted or being charged unfair rent. A landlord must provide a reasonable - statutory - period of notice if the landlord wants the agreement to end.
Return of the deposit
Your security deposit must be returned within a reasonable period of time - within 30 days - subject to the necessary checks on the property and up-to-date rental payments.
Your tenants must be allowed to reside in the property without disturbance. It means giving tenants adequate notice if you decide to enter the premises. This tends to be at least 24 hours notice, although access may be allowed in an emergency.
Maintenance and repairs
Reasonably prompt repairs must be made, along with any maintenance to the property if required. Local authorities have powers to take action against the owners of a property if it contains serious health and safety hazards.
The structure and exterior of the property needs to be maintained, including hot water installations and water supply, electrical wiring, basins, baths, sinks and toilets. A landlord is also responsible for ensuring the building complies with building regulations.
You are obliged to order an energy performance certificate before the property is marketed for rent. The certificate must include information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs, along with recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money. It will rate a property on a scale from A being the most efficient to G the least efficient, and it is valid for a decade.
All gas appliances must be safely maintained by registered engineers, and a copy of the gas safety record needs to be given to the tenant.
All electrical equipment must be safe to use - including sockets and light fittings - and furniture (if the property is furnished) must meet the necessary fire-resistant regulations. Fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, fire escapes and smoke or heat alarms must be provided and maintained.
If your property is seriously damaged by a fire, flood or similar incident, it is not a landlord’s responsibility to rebuild or renovate it. But if you do, you do not have the right to charge your tenants for any repairs carried out.
If you own a block of flats, any repairs to the common areas - such as staircases - will normally be your responsibility. Councils can ask landlords to fix problems in common areas, or to repair a tenant’s flat that’s been damaged by another tenant.
Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)
If you own a HMO - houses in multiple occupation - you have additional legal responsibilities regarding fire and general safety, water supply, drainage, gas and electricity, waste disposal, and general upkeep of the HMO. A HMO includes houses divided into bedsits with shared facilities, shared houses and flats, and hostels, as well as bed and breakfast hotels that accommodate more than one household. The rules governing HMOs state a limit to the number of people who can live in the property. You may need a license from your local authority to operate a HMO and so you will need to contact your local authority’s housing department for more information about whether this is required.
A landlord must register the tenants’ deposit with a Government-backed deposit schemes within 30 days of receiving the money. Most estate agents will do this on behalf of the landlord if they have been assigned to find the tenants. These deposit schemes became mandatory in 2007 amid concerns that tenants were not protected against rogue landlords. Landlords must return the deposit at the end of the tenancy in line with the rules governing the scheme. If the amount to be return is in dispute, the amount will stay in the scheme until an agreement is reached. In some cases, this will be decided by the scheme’s adjudicator.
You will need to pay income tax on your rental income. Landlords are required to report any such income if it reaches £2,500 a year or more on their tax return. Landlords have the advantage of being able to offset their day-to-day running costs against tax, which can reduce the final amount of tax that they pay. Such costs include fees charged by a lettings agent, interest on property loans and repairs to the property.
However, the amount of tax relief that those investing in property can claim has been reduced from up to 45 per cent to just 20 per cent. The Chancellor George Osborne announced the changes, saying they would be introduced during a four year period from April 2017.
Before the announcement was made, it was feared that the relief would be cut altogether. Adrian Anderson, director of Mayfair-based mortgage brokers Anderson Harris, said: "There had been fears among landlords that relief on mortgage interest payments for buy-to-let landlords would be completely abolished so while the changes will hit higher-rate taxpayers, it is not as bad as it might have been."
A landlord also has rights. These include being able to repossess the property if the rent remains unpaid for 14 days or more, where the tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy or becomes bankrupt, or enters into an arrangement with creditors.
You can also dispose of any property left at the premises unclaimed within a specified period of time.
If the tenancy contains a break clause, either the landlord or the tenant can exercise this after the first six months of the tenancy.
Landlord access to the property
A landlord only has the right to enter the property after providing the tenant with reasonable notice of doing so, which in most cases is usually at least 24 hours. And they must be given the agreed amount of notice by the tenant if they decide to no longer to live at the property. Depending on the contract, this is usually one or two months.
A landlord can seek possession of the property if the tenant has damaged it.
You have a right to receive rent when it is due - with the due date being outlined in the contract - and to collect overdue rent payments from the tenant.
To collect rent due for the term of the contract if the tenant vacates the property during this time.
To take legal action to evict a tenant if they fail to meet their responsibilities.
- Renter's guide - tenant advice
- Guide to being a landlord
- How to rent a house
- Guide to letting a property
- How to deal with problem tenants
Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.