Common law rights in a property

This page explains your common law property rights. These rights can be added to by your tenancy agreement, but not if any of the terms make the agreement unfair.

Your right to live in the property

As a tenant, you have a right to 'possession' of the property. This means that you have the right to live there and to stop other people from entering without permission. This means having the right to:

  • prevent other people from entering your home

  • be left alone by other people.

Landlords are not entitled to breeze in and out of your home whenever they like without giving you notice. Likewise, if you rent a room in your landlord's home, your landlord is not entitled to enter your room without permission.

However, landlords are entitled to have access to the property if they have a good reason, for example if they need to carry out repairs. Your landlord must give you reasonable 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' notice.

Who can live with me?

If you want your husband, wife, partner or other family member to move in with you, you'll probably need your landlord's permission. As a common law tenant, you don't have an automatic right to move them in.

What happens when the lease runs out?

Once the term of the lease has run out, it will automatically repeat itself with the same terms and conditions unless:

  • you want to move out and give the correct notice to leave

  • your landlord wants you to move out and gives you the correct notice to leave.

This is called 'tacit relocation'. So, for example, if your lease lasts for a year, it will automatically repeat itself for another year; if it lasts six months, it will repeat itself for six months. However, if your original lease was for more than a year, it can only renew itself for a year. During that time, your landlord won't be able to change the terms of the lease, including the amount of rent they charge you.

Some tenancy agreements may state that the lease will last for a year and then renew itself on a monthly basis. This means your landlord won't have to wait another year before they can ask you to leave. However, they will still have to give you 40 days' notice to leave.

What if I want to move out?

Most common law tenants can end their tenancies before the term of the lease runs out. Your tenancy agreement may state that you need to give four weeks' notice if you want to move out, or that your landlord must give you four weeks' notice if they want you to leave.

Even if there is no mention of this in your tenancy agreement, you can still leave before the end of your lease, provided you and your landlord can agree on a suitable notice period.

If you can't come to an agreement with your landlord, you will have to wait until the term of your lease has expired, as you will still be liable for rent until that date. If you don't have a written lease and you're not sure when your term comes to an end, you can usually assume it's a year from the date you moved in or the date you first started paying rent. Check this with your landlord to be sure.

You will need to give your landlord a notice to quit in writing at least four weeks before the term expires. If your lease is for a year or more, you should give your landlord at least 40 days' notice.

If you don't give enough notice, your lease will automatically repeat itself (see 'what happens when the lease runs out' above).

What if my landlord asks me to leave?

Your landlord can only ask you to leave under certain circumstances, and they cannot evict you without a court order (this does not include resident landlords). The page on eviction of common law tenants explains your rights in more detail.

Safety requirements

In any accommodation they rent out, landlords must have a valid gas safety certificate from a registered gas engineer for each appliance. Furniture provided by your landlord should be fire resistant. Find out more about home safety.

Your landlord's responsibility for repairs

Before you move in, your landlord must ensure that the property:

  • is safe and fit for you to live in

  • doesn't let in wind or rain

  • has adequate ventilation and insulation

  • has heating that allows you to keep your home free of damp and condensation without running up huge gas or electricity bills.

Your landlord should also be responsible for fixing installations, for example:

  • appliances for space heating or heating water

  • pipes and flues for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, including basins, sinks, and baths. This includes water pipes, gas pipes, flues and ventilation but does not include fixtures, fittings and appliances for using the water, gas or electricity, such as cookers.

If any of the installations break or stop working (for example, the heating or hot water system, the toilet or shower) it's up to you to report this to your landlord. Your landlord should then get the problem fixed within a reasonable amount of time.

Problems getting repairs carried out

If you are a common law tenant you only have limited rights and can be evicted fairly easily, so it's best to think carefully and get advice before taking drastic action over repairs. You can find out more about getting repairs done in our repairs section. Bear in mind that, as a common law tenant, you can't apply to the first tier tribunal.

Passing your tenancy on to someone else

As a common law tenant, you have the right to assign (or pass on) your tenancy to someone else if the property you have rented is unfurnished. Otherwise you will have to ask your landlord's permission and they are under no obligation to say yes. Likewise, you can leave the lease of an unfurnished property to someone in your will, but not a furnished property.

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Last updated: 6 March 2018

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England