Tenant rights explained for landlords

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As a property expert, it is crucial to understand and respect the rights of your tenants. Failing to do so can not only result in legal consequences but also damage your reputation as a landlord.

Understanding a tenant’s rights

Tenants have certain rights that protect their privacy and ensure they are not subjected to harassment or illegal eviction.

Rights around eviction protection

One of the most important rights for tenants is protection from unlawful eviction. In England, there are two main types of eviction notices that landlords can serve: Section 21 and Section 8.

Section 21 notice: This is a ‘no-fault’ eviction notice that allows landlords to regain possession of their property once the fixed-term tenancy has ended. To serve a valid Section 21 notice, landlords must provide at least two months’ notice and follow specific procedures outlined in the Housing Act 1988.

Section 8 notice: This is a ‘fault-based’ eviction notice that can be served if the tenant has breached the terms of their tenancy agreement, such as failing to pay rent or causing damage to the property. The notice period for a Section 8 notice varies depending on the grounds for eviction, but it is typically two weeks or two months.

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It is essential for landlords to follow the correct procedures when serving these notices and not attempt to evict tenants without a valid court order. Failure to do so can result in legal action and potential fines.

How the renters reform bill will impact evictions

The UK government has proposed a Renters Reform Bill, which is expected to come into effect by the end of 2024. One of the key changes proposed in this bill is the abolition of Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions.

This means that landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants without providing a valid reason, such as breach of tenancy agreement or the need to sell the property.

Check out some more information on the renters reform bill

The Renters Reform Bill aims to provide greater security and stability for tenants, while also introducing measures to improve the quality of rented accommodation and strengthen enforcement against rogue landlords amonst many other changes.

Rights surrounding landlord visits

tenants have the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their rented property, which means that landlords cannot enter the premises without prior notice and the tenant’s consent. This right is known as ‘exclusive possession,’ and it applies even if the tenant does not have a written tenancy agreement or if their fixed-term tenancy has ended.

A tenant enjoying his home quietly as part of his rights

Landlords are required to provide at least 24 hours’ written notice before entering the property, except in cases of emergencies. They cannot simply turn up unannounced or let themselves in without the tenant’s permission.

If a landlord enters a tenant’s home illegally, they may be in breach of the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment and could face legal consequences.

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When it comes to viewings for potential new tenants, landlords cannot enter the property or bring others in for viewings without the current tenant’s consent. Even if the tenancy agreement includes a clause about allowing viewings, the landlord must still provide reasonable notice and obtain the tenant’s agreement on a suitable time.

Rights around protecting A tenancy deposit

One of the critical rights for tenants is the protection of their tenancy deposit. In the UK, it is a legal requirement for landlords to protect any deposit taken from a tenant in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme.

Landlords cannot hold onto a tenant’s deposit in their own bank account or use it for any other purpose.

a tenant holding their deposit

If a landlord wishes to make deductions from the deposit at the end of the tenancy, they must provide a valid reason to the deposit protection scheme, and the tenant has the opportunity to dispute any proposed deductions. This process ensures transparency and fairness for both parties.

However, holding deposits for let only agreements do not need to be kept in a tenancy deposit scheme.

What are the registered tenancy deposit protection schemes?

In England and Wales, there are three government-approved tenancy deposit protection schemes:

  • Deposit Protection Service (DPS)
  • MyDeposits
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)

Landlords must register the tenant’s deposit with one of these schemes within 30 days of receiving it. Failure to do so can result in penalties and potential legal action.

Rights around gas and electrical safety

Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of their tenants by maintaining gas and electrical installations in their properties.

This includes having an annual gas safety check carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer and ensuring that electrical installations are safe and meet the required standards.

A tenant with a safe boiler and gas stove

If a council determines that a landlord has failed to comply with gas or electrical safety regulations, they may prohibit the landlord from evicting the tenant until the necessary repairs or replacements are made and approved by the council.

In some cases, the council may even have to provide emergency housing for the tenant until the property is deemed safe.

Rights around energy performance

In addition to safety concerns, landlords must also consider the energy efficiency of their properties.

In the UK, it is a legal requirement for landlords to have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for any property they rent out. An EPC provides information about a property’s energy efficiency and includes recommendations for improving its energy performance.

A candle being used as there is poor epc rating

If a landlord fails to provide a valid EPC or rents out a property with an EPC rating below the minimum standard, they may face fines and other penalties from the local authority. Tenants have the right to request a copy of the EPC for their rented property, and landlords must comply with this request.

Changes to Energy Performance Certificates

The UK government has introduced changes to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) regulations to improve the energy efficiency of rented properties. From 2025, all new tenancies created will require an EPC rating of C or higher. Additionally, by 2028, all existing tenancies must have an EPC rating of C or above.

EPC rating changes

This change aims to reduce carbon emissions and ensure that tenants live in energy-efficient homes, which can also help lower their energy bills.

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Landlords who fail to comply with these regulations may face penalties and fines from local authorities.

Right to be in a well-maintained home

Tenants have the right to live in a well-maintained and habitable property. Some of the common issues that tenants may face include old or poorly built properties, lack of maintenance or updates, health threats such as mold or pest infestations, issues with neighbors or anti-social behavior, problems with doors or communal areas, and delays or lack of follow-through with repairs.

If tenants encounter any of these issues, they have the right to report them to the relevant authorities, such as the local council or the government’s housing complaint service.

Tenant in a clean well-maintained home

In severe cases, where the property poses a significant risk to the tenant’s health or safety, the council may have the authority to provide emergency housing or prohibit the landlord from evicting the tenant until the issues are resolved.

Rights when living in a house share

House shares, also known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), have their own set of regulations. Local councils are responsible for licensing HMOs and enforcing specific standards for safety, amenities, and living conditions.

Landlords who own or manage HMOs are generally subject to stricter regulations compared to single-family rentals.

These regulations may include requirements for adequate fire safety measures, proper management of communal areas, and maintaining minimum room sizes and amenities for each occupant.

Crowd of men in a hMO

It is important for landlords to familiarise themselves with the specific HMO regulations and licensing requirements in the council area where the property is located.

Right to know your landlord’s name and address

Tenants have the right to know the name and address of their landlord or the person managing the property.

This information should be provided at the start of the tenancy agreement alongside the How to Rent Guide. If the property ownership changes hands during the tenancy, the new landlord or managing agent is legally obligated to provide their details to the tenant.

how to rent guide

Failure to provide this information is a breach of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which could result in legal consequences for the landlord.

Right to fair rent increases

Under Section 13 of the Housing Act 1988, tenants have the right to challenge excessive rent increases proposed by their landlord. If a tenant believes that the proposed rent increase is not in line with market rates for similar properties in the area, they can apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for a rent assessment.

The tribunal will evaluate the proposed rent increase and determine if it is fair and reasonable based on market conditions. If the tribunal rules in favor of the tenant, the landlord will not be able to increase the rent beyond the level determined by the tribunal.

This right ensures that tenants are protected from unreasonable rent hikes and helps maintain affordability in the rental market.

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