Types of tenancy
The majority of tenants comprising the buy-to-let market have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). This means paying rent to a private landlord who lives in a separate building. If you have an AST, you’ll fall into one of two categories: a fixed-term tenancy that typically lasts for a minimum of six months or a periodic tenancy that rolls on a week-to-week or month-to-month contract. Regardless of which type of AST you have, it’s important to be aware of your rights – i.e. the responsibilities that your landlord has towards your tenancy which are as follows:
Protecting your deposit
If your AST started after 6 April 2007, your landlord is legally required to protect your deposit in a government-authorised tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) within 30 days of receiving it, as well as providing you with the following prescribed information in written form:
- the details of the scheme used;
- a signed copy of a deposit protection certificate;
- how to get back your deposit when your tenancy naturally ends or is ended by you;
- what to do in the case of a dispute surrounding its return;
- their personal details including name, address, and contact number or the contact details of the letting agent acting on their behalf.
At the end of the tenancy, your landlord needs to return your deposit except in the instance of unpaid rent or damage to the property caused by you. The latter doesn’t apply to normal wear and tear such as carpet that’s walked on regularly.
Note: if your landlord can use his/her pre-agreed inventory and photographs to prove you’re at fault for either or both of the above broken terms, s/he will be able to make deductions from your deposit. But they will need to notify you of the money they’re keeping and the reasons for doing so.
Allowing you to live in the property undisturbed
There will be instances when landlords will require access to their property to carry out inspections or repairs. However, they can’t turn up unannounced. They must give you reasonable notice, usually 24 hours, to arrange a time most convenient for both parties. This notice can be set out in your written tenancy agreement.
Note: if your landlord, or anyone acting on their behalf, continuously disturbs you (i.e. entering the property without your prior permission, visiting at inappropriate times, or preventing you from using all of the property’s rooms as well as water and electricity supplies) it can be deemed as harassment which would result in fines or, worse, imprisonment.
Ensuring the property is both safe and in good condition
Your landlord is legally liable for the majority of repairs required for the property and these can’t be avoided by adding clauses to your tenancy agreement holding you responsible for them. Repairs apply to the following:
- the property’s exterior and structure including the roof, chimneys, pipes, walls, external doors, windows, and drains and guttering;
- central heating, ventilation, and lighting equipment (ensuring they’re all updated);
- gas, water, and electricity (ensuring every gas appliance has a gas safety certificate and furniture is fire resistant);
- sinks, baths, and toilets.
Note: your landlord is neither responsible for repairing any problems unknown to them nor any damage caused by anybody from your household or guests. You’re responsible for minor maintenance repairs relating to changing light bulbs and plugs, internal decorations, and gardens.
Raising the rent only at certain times
Your type of tenancy agreement determines certain times at which your landlord is allowed to raise your rent. In regard to periodic tenancies, your rent can’t be increased more than once on an annual basis without your permission. If you have a fixed-term tenancy, your rent is only allowed to be increased if you agree. If you don’t, it can’t be increased until the end of the term.
Note: your landlord can only increase if it’s fairly justified by reflecting other rent rates in the immediate area.
Following the right legal procedure when wanting you to leave
Depending on circumstances, your landlord can serve you two types of notices if they want you to vacate the property. These are a Section 8 Notice (i.e. a Notice to Quit) and a Section 21 Notice (i.e. a Notice of Possession). The latter is only permitted to be enforced once your AST has expired, whereas the former can be served at any time during the length of your tenancy because you’ve breached the contract (for example, rent arrears, late payments, causing nuisance etc.).
Note: any attempt by your landlord to enter the property without your permission in order to force you to leave will be treated as an illegal eviction – which can also result in fines or imprisonment.
If you require any clarification on your rights as a tenant, feel free to call +44(0)20 7078 0214 to talk to one of our expert letting agents at Kingsley Hamilton Estates – the name you can trust to provide you the wealth of knowledge needed to update you about the private rental market.