Tenants – Know Your Rights

Having recently moved to a new flat and a new city, I’ve found myself more concerned with my rights as a tenant than ever. Whether dealing with a private landlord or one of the major high street letting agencies, it’s important to know what these rights are and how to use them to ensure fair treatment under the terms of a tenancy agreement – otherwise you may find yourself cleaning, fixing, replacing or paying for items and services that should, by law, fall under the responsibilities of your landlord or letting agent. With more than 3 million people now living in rented accommodation in the UK, we thought it would be helpful to highlight a few of the broader and more important rights you hold as a tenant, which are worth remembering throughout your tenancy, and which will hopefully help you get the most not only from your landlord, but also your home.
Adequate notice to quit.
A rather depressing start to the list, and hopefully something you’ll never have to exercise, but all tenants have the right to a minimum of 28 days’ notice to leave rented accommodation, before any court action to evict can be taken.
To live in a property that’s safe and in a good state or repair.
Fairly self-explanatory, but it’s important to remember this and highlight any concerns you have with the property early on in your tenancy, before any damage can be attributed to you.
To challenge excessively high charges.
Worth remembering when moving out – the cleaner you leave your rented accommodation, the less likely you are to be charged for any further work required, but this is a concern for most tenants, so if you do have any concerns about any charges imposed on you by a landlord or letting agent, you have the right to ask for copies of invoices, to check market prices and challenge any cost you feel is unreasonable. Some of these costs may be covered by any tenants insurance you have in place, but always check when addressing an issue who is responsible for what.
To live in a property undisturbed.
Meaning permission should be asked and prior warning given before any landlord or agent tries to enter the property i.e. for inspections or viewings.
To receive reasonably prompt repairs and maintenance to damaged items.
As it says on the tin, though this will depend on how prompt and flexible you are in informing your landlord and allowing them access to the property.
It is also important to understand what responsibilities fall to the landlord, as costs incurred under these conditions should not be carried by you. Landlords are responsible for maintenance of the structure and exterior of the property, including any electrical supply, water supply, basins, baths, sinks and toilets. This also covers meeting safety standards for the accommodation, both inside and out and many other areas that are worth getting clued-upon.
All of this information should be detailed in your rental agreement, which again, you are entitled to a copy of, but the fact is that the concerns people have about relationships with landlords have not just sprung up out of nowhere. It is the few rather than the majority of landlords and letting agents that have caused these concerns with tenants across the UK, and many of the issues that arise between them and their landlords can be avoided with an understanding of your rights as a tenant before signing any rental agreement. Problems often arise when issues are not reported immediately by the tenant and disputes begin over who is responsible for any damage or problems caused, so it’s worth staying in touch with your landlord, discussing any and all issues you have with the property as soon as they are apparent, and investigating where responsibility for each issue lies.
In the increasingly rare (thanks to regularly reviewed government legislation) cases where disputes do arise, you can always contact your local council for help. Most have a tenancy relations officer – an expert council worker who specialises in settling disputes between landlords and tenants, but remember, the key to avoiding many of the issues you may encounter during your tenancy is being aware not only of the rights of the tenant, but also the rights of your landlord, and the responsibilities of each to abide by both the rental agreement and the government guidelines regulating it. Forewarned is forearmed, and is essential to getting the most out of any new or long term home.
This article was written by David Rendell, tenants insurance correspondent at Confused.com.