Private renting pitfalls

What to watch out for if you are renting from a private landlord.

If you can't or don't pay the rent

If you get into rent arrears, you could be evicted and lose your tenancy deposit too.

Your landlord could get a court order to make you pay. You could also have to pay court costs.

Claim housing benefit or universal credit to help with your rent if you can. 

Cost of being evicted

Your landlord can apply to the courts to have you evicted if you have rent arrears or have broken the terms of your tenancy agreement

You may have to pay court costs for this.

Most tenants with private landlords have an assured shorthold tenancy.

Find out about the eviction of assured shorthold tenants.

If you leave owing your landlord money

If you leave owing your landlord money, they can take legal action against you.

Your landlord could apply to the court for a money judgment (known as a county court judgment or CCJ). This sets out how much you owe and how you should pay it back.

You have 14 days to respond to the claim. If you lose, you may have to pay court costs.

Having a CCJ against you affects your ability to take out loans and get credit. It could also make it difficult for you to rent privately in the future .

If you leave a fixed term contract early

A fixed contract means a fixed commitment. You are usually asked to sign a contract that commits you for a minimum of six months or a year. 

If you leave before the tenancy ends you still have to pay the rent.

Some contracts include a 'break clause' which gives you the option of giving notice to leave before the end of the fixed term. If you don't have a break clause, you'll need your landlord's agreement to end the tenancy early.

Your landlord can only take court action to evict you within the fixed term if you have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement, for example, by having rent arrears.

If your housemate leaves

When you sign a joint tenancy agreement with housemates you're all responsible for paying all of the rent.

If one of you can't pay, the rest of you have to find the extra money or risk being evicted.

Find out about paying gas and electricity bills if you are living in shared accommodation.

If one person leaves a joint tenancy early, yours and their responsibilities don't end. The landlord has a legal right to pursue any one or all of the joint tenants for the whole rent payment, including the person who has left. If the rent isn't paid, everyone left in the property could be evicted.

It's best to talk about the situation if anyone wants to leave. If some of you don't want to move out, you can try to negotiate a new agreement with the landlord. Or you may be able to find someone to take on the share of the person who wants to leave, although the landlord would have to agree to this.

A fixed-term tenancy can only be ended early if all the joint tenants agree. And your landlord must also agree the tenancy can end early (unless there is a 'break' clause in your tenancy agreement that allows it).

Find out more about ending a joint tenancy.

If you split up

If you both sign a joint tenancy, you each have the right to live in the home, even if you break up. You can’t stop your partner living in the home, unless you get a court order.

See the Citizens Advice online guide to housing rights in rented homes when a relationship ends.

A joint tenancy means you are both responsible for paying the rent. If one of you leaves, the landlord can ask either one or both of you for the money. Whoever is left behind risks being evicted if the rent isn't paid.

Find out how and when you can end a joint tenancy.

When your guarantor must pay 

You may need a guarantor if you are a student or young person renting for the first time or you can't prove that you can pay the rent. Your guarantor usually needs to be a UK resident and own a property.

Your guarantor has to pay the rent if you don't.  The guarantor agreement is legally binding.

Your guarantor should check carefully what they are agreeing to cover. In shared houses, the agreement may cover a joint tenants rent arrears as well as your own.

Last updated 08 Feb 2017 | © Shelter

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