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Key rights of private tenants

This content applies to England

Private tenants have rights in addition to those that are a consequence of their security of tenure, regardless of the type of their tenancy.

Name and address of the landlord

Private tenants have a legal right to know the name and address of their landlord. A letter, requesting a written statement of the landlord's name and address, can be sent to the landlord's agent, pointing out that the tenant has a right to this information under section 1 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Tenants also have a right to obtain the names and addresses of directors if the landlord is a company, and a right to be informed of any sale or transfer to a new landlord.[1]

Details of a landlord can also be obtained from the Land Registry. Finding out information about the landlord could be important if there is any dispute over repairs or the return of the deposit.

If the landlord does not provide an address in England or Wales for services of notices by the tenant, rent is not lawfully due from the tenant.[2] However, as soon as an address is provided, rent then becomes due from the start of the tenancy.

See the page Information about a landlord's identity for more information.

Rent book

It is good practice for all tenants to be issued with a rent book in order to keep a record of payments made. For tenants who pay rent weekly, this is a legal requirement.[3] There is no obligation upon the landlord to provide receipts unless rent is payable weekly, so if possible it is advisable to avoid paying in cash so that records can be kept of payments made.

Repairs

Landlords are responsible for keeping the structure and exterior of the property free from disrepair and to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the property for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and heating water.[4] Tenants' responsibilities will generally only extend to the decorative and interior parts of the premises.

Please see the section on Housing conditions for more detail about housing conditions and possible remedies for disrepair.

Safety

Private landlords must ensure that all gas appliances and flues are in a safe condition, an annual check by a Gas Safe registered engineer has been carried out and they have a valid gas safety certificate (for more information, please see the page on Gas safety checks).[5]

Furniture provided in private rented accommodation, that has been let since 1 March 1993, must comply with fire safety requirements.[6] Houses in multiple occupation are covered by extra rules concerning fire safety and provision of facilities.[7] Please see the sections on Houses in multiple occupation and Hazards for more information.

Harassment and illegal eviction

Some landlords try to make life difficult for tenants because they want them to leave, perhaps by withdrawing services such as gas and electricity, denying access to part of the accommodation or by threatening violence. This is known as harassment. If the landlord actually throws a tenant out, changes the locks while they are out, or otherwise gets a tenant to leave without serving the correct notice or going through the proper legal procedure, this is illegal eviction.

Harassment and illegal eviction are criminal offences. Landlords can be prosecuted under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and/or the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Clients in this situation should be advised to contact the tenancy relations officer (or equivalent) at their local authority, who can take action on their behalf; or they could take action themselves: see Taking action and Practical steps in the section on harassment and antisocial behaviour.

Unlawful discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits, amongst other things, unlawful discrimination when selling, renting or managing residential accommodation. Such discrimination can take the form of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation of tenants, or prospective tenants.

Please see the section on Equality law for more information about the 2010 Act, its key concepts and what constitutes discrimination in relation to premises.

See also the page on Disability discrimination for information about reasonable adjustments to buildings under Part 4 of the 2010 Act.

Fees

With effect from 1 June 2019, private landlords and letting agents are prohibited from charging a tenant, licensee or other 'relevant person' a fee, other than a 'permitted payment', in connection with:[8]

  • an assured shorthold tenancy
  • a licence to occupy housing (including to a lodger)
  • a tenancy granted to a student by a specified educational institution.

The prohibition does not apply where :

  • the tenant/licensee signed the tenancy/licence agreement (or agreed to it) before 1 June 2019
  • a statutory periodic tenancy arises during the year after 1 June 2019.

In these situations, the prohibition on fees does not apply until 1 June 2020.

For further information about the Tenant Fees Act 2019 and the sanctions against a landlord or agent who has charged a prohibited payment see Tenant Fees.

Permitted payments

The permitted payments are:[9]

  • rent
  • tenancy deposit (up to maximum of five or six weeks’ rent)
  • holding deposit (up to maximum of one week’s rent)
  • a fee in the event of a ‘relevant default’
  • damages for breach of agreement
  • in connection with tenant’s request for a variation, assignment, or surrender of a tenancy
  • in respect of council tax, utilities, communication services and TV licence.

[1] ss.2-3 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

[2] s.48 Landlord and Tenant Act 1987.

[3] s.5 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

[4] s.11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

[5] Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 SI 1998/2451.

[6] Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations SI 1988/1324, as amended by Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations SI 1993/207.

[7] Part 11 Housing Act 1985 as amended by Housing Act 1996; Housing (Management of HMOs) Regulations 1990 and Housing Act 2004.

[8] ss.1, 2, 3 and 28 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

[9] Sch.1 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

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