Most private tenants are given assured shorthold tenancies, usually for 6 or 12 months. Your deposit must be protected and you must be given at least 2 months’ notice to leave.
Most landlords give you an assured shorthold tenancy contract to sign before your tenancy starts.
Your contract tells you how much rent to pay, who is responsible for repairs and how long the tenancy lasts.
You are committed to paying the agreed rent for at least the length of your contract. This is usually six months or a year.
At the start of an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord takes a sum of money as a deposit in case the property is damaged or you leave without paying all your rent.
Your landlord has to protect your tenancy deposit in a government approved scheme.
Your deposit should be returned at the end of your tenancy.
Your landlord can make reasonable deductions from your tenancy deposit if you cause damage or don't pay the rent.
Make an inventory
You and your landlord should agree an inventory of your rented home before you move in.
Take photos of the inside and outside of your home and any existing damage and repairs that are needed.
Having an inventory can help resolve any disputes about deductions from your tenancy deposit at the end of your tenancy.
Your landlord cannot increase your rent during the fixed term of an assured shorthold tenancy, unless:
- you agree to it
- there is a rent review clause in your contract
A rent review clause sets out when and by how much your landlord can increase the rent.
Once the fixed term ends, your landlord can give you one months’ notice to increase your rent.
Help to pay the rent
You may be able to claim housing benefit or universal credit to help pay some or all of the cost of your rent if you are working and have a low income or if you claim benefits.
Your landlord is responsible for most repairs. This includes repairs to:
- the roof and walls
- external windows and doors
- wiring and plumbing
Tell your landlord or letting agent if repairs are needed.
You must allow your landlord access to your home to carry out repairs. Your landlord must give you reasonable notice.
Every year your landlord must arrange for a gas safety inspection and give you a copy of the gas safety certificate.
Taking care of your home
Take care of the property and carry out day-to-day tasks. For example, you might need to unblock a sink, change lightbulbs and clean windows.
Check your contract for other responsibilities, for example maintaining the garden or communal areas.
Documents from your landlord
Your landlord should give you a copy of your tenancy agreement.
If you are not given a written agreement you can ask your landlord for certain information. Your landlord must write to tell you:
- the date your tenancy started
- the rent and when it is to be paid
- any provision for rent increases
- the length of your agreement
- their name and address
If you pay your rent weekly you must be given a rent book.
Your landlord must give you a copy of the latest:
- energy performance certification for the building
- gas safety certificate, if there are gas appliances
- the government guide How to rent (if your tenancy starts or is renewed on or after 1 October 2015)
At the end of a fixed term
You may have a number of options when your contract comes up for renewal.
- ask your landlord for a new fixed term contract if you want to stay longer – if you do this you may have to pay a renewal fee and pay a higher rent.
- leave at the end of the fixed term – if your contract says that you must give notice that you intend to leave, you should do this to avoid disputes
- stay beyond the fixed term even if you don't sign a new contract – your agreement becomes 'periodic' and rolls from month to month with the same rent.
- leave before the end of the fixed term – your contract may include a 'break clause' which gives you this option. If it doesn't you'll need to agree with your landlord that your tenancy can end early
You have some protection from eviction. You don't have to leave just because the landlord tells you to.
The landlord must give you notice and then get a court order to evict you.
Right to rent
From 1 February 2016 you can only become a private tenant in England if you have the right to rent.
A landlord or letting agent must carry out a right to rent immigration check before you start a private tenancy.
Find out more about the right to rent.
Ask an adviser if you have any questions or concerns about your tenancy or contract.
Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.