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Overview of rights and responsibilities

Whatever kind of tenancy you have and whoever you rent property from, you and your landlord have certain rights and responsibilities. This page gives an overview of what these are.

Your rights from the law

The law gives you certain rights depending on the kind of tenancy you have. For example, people renting from a private landlord or letting agent have different rights to people renting from the council or a housing association. If you live with your landlord or in supported accommodation you will have different rights again. You can check your tenancy type if you're not sure what kind of tenancy you have.

Tenancy agreements

You may have agreed extra rights with your landlord. These might be in the form of a written or verbal tenancy agreement. These can only add to the automatic rights you have that come from the law. Regardless of what your tenancy agreement says, your landlord cannot take away your basic legal rights.

The Letting Agent Code of Practice

From 31 January 2018 any person working for or as a letting agent has to adhere to the Letting Agent Code of Practice. The code practice should help tenants and landlords understand what they should expect if they rent a property through a letting agent.

Under the code a letting agent must:

  • Carry out their business in a way that complies with all appropriate legislation.
  • Be honest, open, transparent and fair in their dealing.
  • Provide information in a clear and accessible way.
  • Apply all procedures and policies consistently and reasonably.
  • Carry out services provided using reasonable care and skill.
  • Make sure all staff and any subcontractors comply with the code and any other legal requirements
  • Keep records to show that a they have met the requirements of the code.
  • Make sure that all private information is handled sensitively and in line with legal requirements.
  • Respond to all enquiries and complaints within reasonable timescales and in line with any written agreements.
  • Inform the appropriate person promptly of any important issues or obligations in the use of the property..
  • Not unlawfully discriminate against a landlord, tenant or prospective tenant on the basis of age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
  • Not to provide information that is deliberately or negligently misleading or false
  • Not communicate in any way that is abusive, intimidating or threatening

If you think your letting agent is not complying with the code, you should complain, in writing, to the letting agent. The complaint must be dealt with inline with the letting agent’s complaints procedure. If you are still unhappy after the letting agent has responded to the complaint you can apply to the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber.

Find out more about the Letting Agent Code of Practice.

What are my rights?

Although your rights and responsibilities can vary depending on the sort of tenancy you have and the agreement you have with your landlord, there are several main areas where you have rights.

Living in your accommodation

Most tenants have the right to live in their accommodation and stop other people from entering without permission.

Landlords are not entitled to breeze in and out of your home whenever they like without giving you notice. However, they are entitled to have access to the property if they have good reason for this, for example if they need to carry out repairs. Your landlord must give you reasonable written notice before they do this. Your tenancy agreement might state the amount of notice your landlord has to give - usually it's at least 24 hours (48 hours if you have a private residential tenancy).

Right to repair

All landlords have a responsibility to keep the structure and outside of the accommodation in good condition and free from disrepair so that your home is wind and watertight. The property itself must also be reasonably fit for you to live in, for example, it must have an indoor toilet and an adequate water supply. Landlords must also keep the equipment for the supply of water, gas and electricity in good repair, and supply you with suitable smoke detectors.

Any fixtures, fittings or appliances provided by the landlord (such as carpets, light fittings, white goods and household equipment) must be in a reasonable state of repair and in good working order.

Remember, any agreement you have with your landlord over repairs can only add to your landlord's responsibilities, not take them away.

Find out more about getting repairs done.

Gas and fire safety

Landlords must have a valid gas safety certificate from a Gas Safe Register engineer for each appliance in a property. In addition, your landlord must provide fire detection equipment for your home, such as a smoke alarm, and should ensure that there are no fire hazards in your home, such as loose wiring or dangerous stairs. Any furniture provided by your landlord should be fire resistant.

If you live in a building that is split up into accommodation for more than one family (a house in multiple occupation or HMO), your landlord may have extra obligations to provide:

  • adequate means of escape from fire
  • fire precautions (such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets).

Find out more about home safety.

What are my responsibilities?

Paying rent

All tenants have to pay rent to their landlord. Rent is usually paid weekly or monthly in advance. If you pay your rent weekly you are entitled to a rent book.

Landlords have to accept rent from tenants. If your landlord refuses to accept rent, put the money aside (for example, pay it into a separate bank account) and keep records of your attempts to pay it.

The rent can usually be increased if landlords follow specific procedures, which vary depending on the type of tenancy you have.

Find out more in the section on paying rent.

If you rent from a private landlord, you may also need to pay a deposit.

Taking good care of the property

It's up to you to keep the property in good condition. This can include:

  • keeping your home reasonably clean
  • keeping the furniture in good condition (allowing for normal wear and tear)
  • not causing any damage to the property
  • carrying out minor maintenance (for example, checking smoke alarm batteries, changing light bulbs and getting the chimney swept)
  • reporting any problems to your landlord for repair (for example, a blocked drain or chimney or broken boiler)
  • doing your bit to keep communal areas such as the stairwell or garden clean and tidy
  • not making any alterations to the property without your landlord's permission.

How can a tenancy be ended?

Both landlords and tenants have to give the correct notice in order to end a tenancy. Your landlord can't throw you out on the street overnight, just as you can't walk away if you don't want to live there any more. The length of the notice and the form it must take varies depending on the type of tenancy you have. You can find out more about ending a tenancy properly.

Once they have given you the correct notice, landlords usually have to get a court order in order to evict you. In some cases landlords have to have a reason (such as rent arrears or antisocial behaviour) before they can force a tenant to leave. Further information can be found in the section on eviction.

Can I pass my tenancy onto someone else?

If you rent from the council or a housing association you may be able to pass on (or 'assign') your tenancy to someone else. However, most private tenants are only allowed to assign their tenancy in very specific circumstances. You usually need your landlord's agreement to do so. Again, this will depend on the kind of tenancy you have, so you'll need to read the information about your tenancy type.

What happens if my landlord sells my home?

If your landlord decides to sell the property you're renting, they may want to end your tenancy first. However, they will need to follow the correct procedure in order to do this - these procedures are explained in the section on eviction, and will differ depending on the kind of tenancy you have.

Your landlord may need to show estate agents, valuers or surveyors and prospective buyers around your home. Your tenancy agreement may say that they are allowed to do this, provided they give you a certain amount of notice (for example, 24 hours), in which case you can't object, as long as they give you enough warning. If your tenancy agreement doesn't say they can do this, they must ask your permission first, and you have the right to say no. Bear in mind, though, that if you're thinking of renting in the future, you may need to get a reference from your current landlord, so it may be wise to stay on their good side.

If your landlord sells the property to a new owner without evicting you, the new owner will have to honour the terms of your lease. This means they won't be able to evict you without a good reason (for example, because you haven't been paying your rent or because your lease has expired), and they won't be able to raise the rent without going through the proper procedures.

What if my landlord dies?

If your landlord dies and the property you're renting is passed onto someone else (for example, because your landlord has left the property to them in their will), the new owner will have to honour the terms of your lease. This means they won't be able to evict you without a good reason (for example, because you haven't been paying your rent or because your lease has expired), and they won't be able to raise the rent without going through the proper procedures.

What happens if the bank repossesses the property?

If your landlord is having money problems and cannot pay the mortgage on the property you're renting, their mortgage lender may repossess the property. This may also happen if your landlord has taken out other secured loans on the property and cannot pay them back. This means the bank, building society or lender will become your landlord. You will still have tenancy rights, and the lender will not be able to throw you out overnight. However, it's likely that they will begin eviction proceedings as soon as possible, so talk to an adviser at a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice if you're in this situation.

What if my landlord breaks the terms of my tenancy agreement?

Your landlord may break the terms of your tenancy agreement by:

  • failing to carry out necessary repairs
  • restricting your use of the property (for example, stopping you from using a garage or garden your agreement says you can use)
  • harassing you in some way.

If they do, you have several options open to you:

Moving out

Although your landlord has the right to end your tenancy if you break a term of the tenancy agreement, this doesn't work both ways, unless your tenancy agreement specifically states that it does. Therefore you must end your tenancy properly, otherwise you could end up owing your landlord money.

Withholding rent

Withholding rent can be an effective way of forcing your landlord to put right a breach of contract. However, you must follow the correct procedures, or your landlord may try to evict you for non-payment of rent.

Complaining to the council

Depending on the kind of problem you are dealing with, you may be able to get help from the council. For example, if your landlord is harassing you, the council's private renting team, landlord registration team or housing advice centre may be able to help you. If your landlord is refusing to carry out repairs, the environmental health department may be able to take action against them.

Find out more about how to complain to the council about your landlord.

Taking court action

In extreme cases, you may be able to take your landlord to court to force them to put right the breach of contract or offer you a rent abatement to compensate for the problems. Get advice from a solicitor at a law centre or independent firm if you're considering this. An adviser at Citizens Advice may be able to put you in touch with a solicitor who can offer you an initial free interview.

Can my landlord change the terms of my tenancy?

Your landlord can't change the terms and conditions in your tenancy agreement or add in new terms and conditions without your permission. This may be the case if, for example:

  • your landlord wants the property you rent to become non-smoking, but this is not in your tenancy agreement (remember, the smoking ban only covers public places, so your landlord cannot use this as a reason)
  • your landlord tells you that you can no longer use a facility (such as the garden or laundry room) that your tenancy agreement states you have access to (unless you've been misusing the facility, or the facility is only temporarily out of bounds due to repair work)
  • your tenancy agreement says that you can keep a pet, but your landlord tells you that you can't (unless your pet is causing problems, for example, is causing lots of damage or terrorising the neighbours).

In situations like this, your landlord will not be able to evict you if you continue to smoke in the property, use the facility or keep a pet.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

The important points

  • You have the right to live in your accommodation in peace, your landlord has a responsibility to keep the property fit for habitation and it must be safe.
  • You must pay the rent and keep the property in good condition.
  • Correct notice must be given in order to end a tenancy, and landlords usually have to seek a court order to evict.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us