Tenants - your rights and responsibilities

Tenants - your rights and responsibilities

Most landlords will give you a written agreement when you rent property from them, but even if they don’t you still have rights. There are different types of tenancy agreements and the type you have is not determined by your landlord, but by how the property is occupied. The agreement you have with your landlord can give you extra rights but cannot take away any rights that the law gives you. Shelter have an online tenancy checker to enable you to check what type of tenancy you have and more information about tenants’ rights and responsibilities under that agreement.

The most common tenancy type since 1988 is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, further details on this type of tenancy are given on the GOV.UK website.

For tenancies that commenced on or after the 1st October 2015 your landlord is obligated to provide you with the Local Government’s publication ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’ at the start of the tenancy or as soon as possible thereafter. This document also provides information on what to look out for when letting through an agent.

A landlord will not be able to gain possession of their property using section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 where a tenant should have been issued with the ‘How to Rent’ guide but was not.

If you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy then your landlord must put your deposit in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDS), even if the deposit has been paid by someone else. The landlord must provide the tenant and the person who paid the deposit (if different) with the prescribed information relating to your deposit and how it is held. In England your deposit can be registered with one of the following:

These schemes will make sure your get your deposit back if you have met the terms of your tenancy agreement, haven’t damaged the property and paid your rent and bills. Your landlord or letting agent must put your deposit in the scheme within 30 days of receipt and provide you with the correct documentation to let you know which scheme your deposit is registered with. More information regarding deposit protection and how to get your deposit back can be found on the Gov.uk website.

A landlord will not be able to gain possession of their property using section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 where a tenant’s surety deposit has not been protected with one of the Government approved deposit protection schemes.

Energy advice for tenants

Saving energy means saving money. Insulating and increasing the energy efficiency of your home can save you money on energy bills and can also help reduce condensation and mould.

You can view an Ofgem guide to see useful information about energy rights as a tenant.

Even in a rented property you can take steps to save even more money such as:

  • Switching off lights and appliances
  • Using heating controls effectively 
  • Washing at lower temperatures 
  • Switching energy tariffs or suppliers 
  • Fitting radiator panels, thick curtains and draught excluders 

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

EPCs are required whenever a building is rented out (with some exemptions including listed buildings and HMOs; for further information please read the government guidelines for when an EPC is required at Gov.uk information on EPC requirements). The certificate provides 'A' to 'G' ratings for the building, with 'A' being the most energy efficient. You should look at EPCs to decide whether or not to rent a property as it indicates how high energy bills are likely to be. An EPC with an F or G rating may indicate an excessively cold home which could be expensive to heat.

The Government’s Energy Act 2011

Tenants have the right to request reasonable energy improvements to improve their property, which landlords will not be able to refuse. Funding must have been sourced for this by tenants.

Making these improvements can be beneficial to both tenants and landlords, saving on costs and having a positive impact on the environment. For more details go to Gov.uk website or download our advice sheet or more details regarding the request procedure.

From April 2018 the government will make it unlawful to rent out a house which has less than an "E" energy efficiency rating so landlords will be legally obliged to make energy efficiency improvements from this date.

There are exemptions, but landlords will need to register an exempt property on the national Private Rented Sector Exemptions Register managed by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). 

For full details on the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) Regulations 2015 please go to the legislation.gov.uk website.

Making a property more energy efficient

Further information regarding making energy efficiency improvements, available grants and funding and relevant trade accreditation schemes can be found in our Keeping warm and saving energy section. Top tips are also available on staying warm in Winter from the Energy Saving Trust.

The Council has a new Financial Assistance Policy available to help those, including landlords, who need to improve their property but have limited financial options. Please see the Financial Assistance page for more details.

In all privately rented residential accommodation the landlord has specific legal responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations that require your landlord to:

  • Maintain pipework, appliances and flues provided for your use in a safe condition.
  • Carry out a 12 monthly gas safety check on each gas appliance/flue. A gas safety check will make sure gas fittings and appliances are safe to use.
  • Provide you with a record of the annual gas safety check within 28 days of the check being completed or when you move in. If a property or room is hired out for less than 28 days at a time, it is also permissible for your landlord to display a copy of the current Landlords Gas Safety Record in a prominent position within the property.

These safety checks can only be completed by a gas safe registered engineer. More information and what to do if your landlord will not provide you with a copy of the gas safety record can be found on the Gas Safe website.

A landlord will not be able to gain possession of their property using section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 where a tenant should have been issued with a gas safety record but was not. Read more in our HSE gas appliances guide.

An inventory is a list of everything the landlord provides with the rented property and it should also record the condition everything is in, especially anything that was already damaged, marked or worn before the tenancy commenced.

When a tenant moves into their new home it is recommended that the inventory is checked and agreed between the tenant and landlord or agent, as this could help avoid any disputes when the tenancy ends and with the return or retention of the deposit. A tenant could make their own inventory (including photos if possible) if one is not supplied by the landlord, a copy of which should be sent to the landlord or agent at the start of the tenancy. Remember to include any meter readings on the inventory for future reference.

Check that the agent is a member of one of the Government approved redress schemes. New legislation has been introduced which means that from 1 October 2014 it is a legal requirement for lettings agents and property managers in England to join 1 of 3 government approved redress schemes.

The three schemes are:

Look for the SAFE kitemark. All SAFE agents have client money protection and your money will be protected if the agent goes out of business.

Ask whether the agent is a member of a professional body such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Association of Residential Letting Agents, the National Approved Lettings Scheme or the Property Ombudsman - agents who belong to such organisations have to sign up to certain standards of practice and you will have access to an independent complaints procedure should things go wrong.

Have a written agreement with your agent so it is clear what responsibilities the agent is carrying out on your behalf.

In majority of circumstances it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the laws relating to the letting of their property are being complied with, these are not deferred to the letting agent. It is for this reason it is important to ensure you choose your managing agent carefully.

A landlord is required by law to make sure that the wiring in the property they rent is safe and that any appliances provided for the tenants use are safe.

The landlord should carry out regular basic safety checks to make sure the mains electrics and any appliances provided by them, such as cookers, washing machines, fridges and freezers, remain in good working order. If you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) the landlord must have the electrical installation inspected every five years by a suitably qualified person who will provide a certificate to the landlord.

If a tenant has any concerns about the safety of any electrical installations or appliances provided by the landlord they must report them immediately to the landlord. For further advice on reporting repairs go to the disrepair in your rented accommodation page.

For tips on electrical safety in your home read the electrical safety tips advice sheet.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms (England) Regulations 2015 came into force on the 1st October 2015 requiring all landlords to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their property and a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (eg. a wood burning stove, coal fire) and thereafter at the start of a new tenancy to ensure they are in proper working order. This is a minimum requirement and additional or upgraded fire detection may be required under the Housing Act 2004 regulations if for example there are more than two storeys or the escape route is not suitably fire protected. The DCLG have produced an explanatory booklet on these requirements and any exemptions which may apply Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: explanatory booklet.

For tips on improving fire safety in your home please read Fire safety in private rented property. Read more in our fire safety guide.

Any furniture and equipment supplied by your landlord should be of reasonable quality and suitable for the purpose it’s provided for. It does not need to be new but it should work and not be dangerous. All upholstered furniture provided by your landlord (for example, sofas, armchairs, mattresses, head boards and cushions) must be fire-resistant and have a symbol on the label to show that it meets fire safety standards.

Ask your landlord to replace any new furniture does not meet fire safety standards or seems in any way unsafe. Read more in our furniture and furnishings guide.

Is your property in disrepair?

Your landlord is responsible for keeping your home in a good state of repair and ensuring that it is safe to occupy. If there is a problem with the repair or maintenance of your rented home then in the first instance you should contact your landlord, in writing. Our deregulation Act 14 day tenant letter can be used as a template. If after 14 days your landlord or their representative has:

  • Not responded to your initial request;
  • Given an inadequate response; or
  • Given inadequate timescales in which the works will be completed,

Then report the disrepair to us.

After receiving your request you will be contacted within 7 days in the first instance. We may visit your home to inspect the problem(s) and assess the hazards using the Health and Safety Rating System which allows us to determine the health effects on those living in or visiting the property.
If you think that the disrepair poses an immediate risk to health then contact your landlord straight away and also contact North Kesteven District Council so that appropriate, timely action can be taken.

Hazards found - what next:

If there are hazards found at the property we will contact your landlord to explain what work should be done to avoid one of the following notices being served:

  • Hazard awareness notice - used for relatively minor hazards and is intended to make persons aware of a problem
  • Improvement notice - specifies the defects, what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. This notice can also be suspended to become active when a certain event occurs
  • Prohibition order - used for the most serious hazards and will stop the landlord renting out all or parts of the property or prevent certain groups from occupying
  • Emergency remedial action - used for serious hazards which need to be resolved relatively quickly
  • Emergency prohibition order - these are used in extreme circumstances. An emergency order can immediately stop the use of all or part of the property as living accommodation.

If on receipt of one of the above notices (with the exception of a hazard awareness notice) your landlord is not co-operative, the local authority would then consider whether it would be appropriate to prosecute.

Retaliatory eviction

Retaliatory eviction is when a landlord tries to evict the tenant after they have asked for repairs or complained about conditions in their home. New legislation which came into effect on the 1st October 2015 could make it harder for some landlords to do this. The change affects assured shorthold tenancies that started or were renewed on or after 1 October 2015.

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy which started before 1st October 2015 there is no special protection that prevents your landlord evicting you if you complain about repairs. This new legislation will apply to these older tenancies from 1st October 2018. However, any actions by the landlord to remove you from the property would be subject to The Protection from Eviction Act 1977. More details of this new legislation is available on the Shelter website and in the retaliatory eviction guidance note booklet.

Check the rent amount before deciding to view the property. There may be some room for negotiations with the landlord on the rent, but do not rely on this being the case. Consider how you will be paying your rent and if it is affordable for you. Alternatively if you are going to be claiming Housing Benefit to assist with your rent payments you need to check your entitlement.

Ensure you pay your rent on time. Your landlord could seek possession of the property if you fall behind with your rent payments. If you are having problems paying your rent or other bills seek advice as soon as possible as this help could prevent you from losing your home. We can help if you’re worried about losing your home or alternatively contact the Citizens advice.

If you receive a notice from your landlord proposing a rent increase and you wish to consider disputing the new rent being proposed, please read the information within the following link Private renting - GOV.UK regarding rent disputes.

Your landlord must follow strict procedures if they want you to leave their property, depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have and the terms of it. More information can be found on the GOV.UK web pages.

If you wish to vacate your rented accommodation there are processes to follow depending on what type of tenancy you have. It is important to follow the correct procedure otherwise you may still be charged rent even though you are no longer living at the property. Take a look at the information on Shelter's (England) web site about renewing or ending a tenancy.

If your landlord does something which interferes with your ability to enjoy your home or with the intention of making you leave your property or take away your rights, then these actions could be classed as harassment.

Harassment can take many forms and it is always advisable to talk to someone if you have any concerns about the actions of your landlord. Harassment and illegal eviction by a landlord are criminal offences.

The following guide produced by Shelter gives further information on harassment and illegal eviction and what to do if you are affected by it. Email our Housing Needs Team if you need more advice on this topic or if you have been adversely affected by the actions of your landlord.

During cold weather condensation becomes a problem in many homes.  It is caused when warm moist air hits a cold surface, such as a window or external wall and condenses and runs down the cold surface as water droplets.  If left this can develop into black mould which looks and smells bad and can cause damage to decorations, furniture, clothes and shoes as well as causing health problems.

There are 4 things to consider when dealing with a condensation problem:

  • Heating: Try to keep temperatures in all rooms above 15°C as this will reduce condensation forming on external walls.   
  • Insulation: Improving the insulation within a property will help tackle the problem by increasing the surface temperature of walls, ceilings and windows and generally increases the temperature of the home.
  • Ventilation: Condensation will occur less if you allow air to circulate freely and moisture laden air is removed from the property during peak production ie. having the extractor on whilst showering and cooking.
  • Moisture reduction: Condensation in the home can be reduced by taking steps to lessen the amount of moisture in the air. Download the Dealing with Damp and Condensation booklet for ways to help deal with damp and condensation.   

There are two ways to calculate if rented accommodation is overcrowded (section 234 of the Housing Act 1985), one is by the number of rooms for people to sleep in, this is called the room standard. The other is by the amount of space in the home and the number of people living in it, this is called the space standard.

Statutory overcrowding is when there are too many people living in the property using either of these calculations. The Shelter website gives further information on calculating whether or not the property is overcrowded. A tenant of a property may be committing a summary offence if they cause or permit a property to become overcrowded.

Avoid upsetting or annoying your neighbours by behaving in an antisocial way or allowing anyone in your household (including children) to do so. You should also not behave in an antisocial or aggressive way towards your landlord, or anyone employed by your landlord, as your landlord may be able to evict you for antisocial behaviour, regardless of what kind of tenancy you have.

You should also note that not only are you responsible for the behaviour of everyone in your household but also of anyone visiting or staying with you and could be held responsible (and possibly evicted) if family members or visitors cause damage or are antisocial.

We have further advice on ASB available online.

You are responsible for disposing of your rubbish properly. Failure to do this could result in action being taken on you by either your landlord or the local authority. Ask your landlord or agent about rubbish collection days or find them online.

If requested by an Embassy or High Commission, the Council will carry out a property inspection of premises where a person or persons from abroad are to reside in the UK. This involves checking safety features such as whether the gas installation is tested and ensuring there is adequate space and amenities. The Council will provide a letter to the Embassy or High Commission if this criteria is met, as part of the immigration application.

Should you require an inspection of your premises for immigration purposes please download the application form complete and return to us. It can be found in the downloads section.