Important Questions to ask on Viewings!
We’re here to provide you with a checklist of questions so that you can make informed decisions so you can move into your property with complete peace of mind.
Here are the important questions to ask before viewing a rental property.
Tips for Being Referenced!
Our aim is to make the process as quick as we can, to help get you moving as soon as possible. So, we’ve put together a guide to shed some light on the tenant referencing process and how you could help to speed things up.
Please see our guide for being Reference Check Ready here.
Moving Out Check List!
There can be a lot things to do when moving home but moving doesn’t have to be a stressful!! We have a helpful checklist that can guide you every step of the way through the moving process.
You can view it here.
Tenants’ Rights and Responsibilities
You have certain rights and responsibilities if you’re a tenant in privately rented property.
As a tenant, you have the right to:
- live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair
- have your deposit returned when the tenancy ends – and in some circumstances have it protected
- challenge excessively high charges
- know who your landlord is
- live in the property undisturbed
- see an Energy Performance Certificate for the property
- be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent
- have a written agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy of more than 3 years
If you have a tenancy agreement, it should be fair and comply with the law.
If you do not know who your landlord is, write to the person or company you pay rent to. Your landlord can be fined If they do not give you this information within 21 days.
When you start a new tenancy
When you start a new assured or short assured tenancy, your landlord must give you:
- a copy of the How to rent guide if you live in England
You should give your landlord access to the property to inspect it or carry out repairs. Your landlord has to give you at least 24 hours’ notice and visit at a reasonable time of day, unless it’s an emergency and they need immediate access.
Coronavirus has not changed these rules, so you should work with your landlord to make sure that any visits are for an urgent reason (for example, you do not have hot water, heating or toilet facilities). Follow NHS guidelines if the visit must happen.
You can read the coronavirus and renting guidance for tenants and landlords.
You must also:
- take good care of the property, for example turn off the water at the mains if you’re away in cold weather
- pay the agreed rent, even if repairs are needed or you’re in dispute with your landlord
- pay other charges as agreed with the landlord, for example Council Tax or utility bills
- repair or pay for any damage caused by you, your family or friends
- only sublet a property if the tenancy agreement or your landlord allows it
Coronavirus has not changed your responsibilities – continue to pay rent to the best of your ability and speak to your landlord if you cannot.
Your landlord has the right to take legal action to evict you if you do not meet your responsibilities.
If your landlord lives outside the UK
Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if your landlord lives outside the UK and you pay £100 or more a week in rent directly to them.
You may have to deduct tax from your rent under HMRC’s ‘non-resident landlord scheme’.
You must prove that you have a right to rent property in England if you’re:
- starting a tenancy on or after 1 February 2016.
- renting it as your main home.
You will not have to prove your right to rent if you live in:
- student accommodation, for example halls of residence
- accommodation provided by your employer as part of your job or training
- social housing
- accommodation provided by the council
- hostels and refuges
- a care home, hospital or hospice
- accommodation with a lease of 7 or more years
Check the full list of exemptions from the right to rent property checks.
What your landlord must do
Your landlord (or letting agent) must:
- check your documents to make sure you have the right to rent a property in England
- check the documents of any other adults living in the property
- make copies of your documents and keep them until you leave the property
- return your original documents to you once they’ve finished the check.
Because of coronavirus (COVID-19) there are temporary changes to the way your landlord can check documents. They might ask you to share your documents digitally and do the checks on a video call
Read the list of acceptable documents.
Your landlord must not discriminate against you, for example because of your nationality.
If you cannot prove your right to rent
You will not be able to rent property if you cannot provide the acceptable documents.
If the Home Office has your documents
If the Home Office has your documents because of an outstanding case or appeal, ask your landlord to check with the Home Office.
Give your landlord your Home Office reference number to do the check.
If your circumstances mean you can still rent in the UK
In some circumstances, you can still rent even if you are not allowed to stay in the UK, for example if you’re:
- a victim of slavery
- using the Home Office’s voluntary departure scheme
Check with the Home Office team that’s dealing with your case.
Your landlord will have to check with the Home Office.
You will not have a further check if you stay in the same property and one of the following applies:
- you’re British
- you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen
- you have no time limit on your right to stay in the UK
Your landlord will have to make a repeat check if there’s a time limit on your right to stay in the UK.
Your landlord will ask to see your documents again just before your permission to stay runs out, or after 12 months, whichever is longer.
Your landlord’s safety responsibilities
Your landlord must keep the property you live in safe and free from health hazards.
Coronavirus has not changed these rules, so you should work with your landlord to make sure that any necessary checks happen safely. Follow NHS guidelines if a visit must happen in person.
Your landlord must:
- make sure gas equipment they supply is safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer
- have a registered engineer do an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue
- give you a copy of the gas safety check record before you move in, or within 28 days of the check
Your landlord must make sure:
- the electrical system is safe, for example sockets and light fittings
- all appliances they supply are safe, for example cookers and kettles
Your landlord must:
- follow safety regulations
- provide a smoke alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (for example a coal fire or wood burning stove)
- check you have access to escape routes at all times
- make sure the furniture and furnishings they supply are fire safe
- provide fire alarms and extinguishers if the property is a large house in multiple occupation (HMO)
What your landlord must do
Your landlord is always responsible for repairs to:
- the property’s structure and exterior
- basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
- heating and hot water
- gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- electrical wiring
- any damage they cause by attempting repairs
Your landlord is usually responsible for repairing common areas, for example staircases in blocks of flats. Check your tenancy agreement if you’re unsure.
You should only carry out repairs if the tenancy agreement says you can.
You cannot be forced to do repairs that are your landlord’s responsibility.
If you damage another tenant’s flat, for example if water leaks into another flat from an overflowing bath, you’re responsible for paying for the repairs. You’re also responsible for paying to put right any damage caused by your family and friends.
If your property needs repairs
Contact your landlord if you think repairs are needed. Do this straight away for faults that could damage health, for example faulty electrical wiring.
Your landlord should tell you when you can expect the repairs to be done. You should carry on paying rent while you’re waiting.
Coronavirus has not changed these rules, so you should work with your landlord to make sure that any urgent repairs happen safely. Follow NHS guidelines if the repair must happen.
If repairs are not done
Contact the environmental health department at your local council for help. They must take action if they think the problems could harm you or cause a nuisance to others.
If your house is not fit to live in
If you think your home’s unsafe, contact housing department at your local council. They’ll do a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment and must take action if they think your home has serious health and safety hazards.
Your tenancy agreement should include how and when the rent will be reviewed.
There are special rules for increasing protected (sometimes known as ‘regulated’) tenancy rents.
When your landlord can increase rent
For a periodic tenancy (rolling on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis) your landlord cannot normally increase the rent more than once a year without your agreement.
For a fixed-term tenancy (running for a set period) your landlord can only increase the rent if you agree. If you do not agree, the rent can only be increased when the fixed term ends.
General rules around rent increases
For any tenancy:
- your landlord must get your permission if they want to increase the rent by more than previously agreed
- the rent increase must be fair and realistic, which means in line with average local rents
How your landlord must propose a rent increase
If the tenancy agreement lays down a procedure for increasing rent, your landlord must stick to this. Otherwise, your landlord can:
- renew your tenancy agreement at the end of the fixed term, but with an increased rent
- agree a rent increase with you and produce a written record of the agreement that you both sign
- use a ‘Landlord’s notice proposing a new rent’ form, which increases the rent after the fixed term has ended
Your landlord must give you a minimum of one month’s notice (if you pay rent weekly or monthly). If you have a yearly tenancy, they must give you 6 months’ notice.
You can apply to a tribunal to decide on certain rent disputes in England.
You can only apply to the tribunal if:
- you have an assured or assured shorthold tenancy
- your rent’s been increased as part of a ‘section 13 procedure’ – the letter from your landlord will say if it has, and will tell you more about applying to the tribunal
You must apply before the new rent is due to start.
New rental terms
You can ask the tribunal to decide new rental terms when you renew your tenancy.
Rent set by rent officer
Contact the Valuation Office Agency if you have a regulated or protected tenancy.
If a rent officer has set your rent before, the only way to increase it is to have a rent officer set a new rent. If a rent officer has not set your rent before, they can set a rent limit. The landlord cannot charge more.
You can appeal against a rent officer’s decision. They may pass your case to a tribunal, which can make a final decision on the rent.
If you think your rent is high when you start a tenancy
You may be able to apply to the tribunal. Contact Citizens Advice for advice.
You must apply within 6 weeks of moving in.
Your landlord can evict you if you fall behind with your rent – you could lose your home.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has not changed this, but there are new rules that mean your landlord must give you at least 6 months’ notice if they plan to evict you, unless you owe at least 6 months’ rent. Read the coronavirus and renting guidance for tenants and landlords.
If you are unable to pay your rent due to coronavirus, speak to your landlord as soon as possible.
You can get advice if you’re in rent arrears or having difficulty paying your rent from:
You may have to pay a deposit before you move in. Contact your local council about possible rent or deposit guarantee schemes if you’re having difficulty paying the deposit.
Your landlord must put your deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme if you have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) that started after 6 April 2007 (in England and Wales).
Contact the deposit protection scheme your landlord used if you cannot get your deposit back.
Houses in multiple occupation
Your home is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if both of the following apply:
- at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household
- you share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants
Your home is a large HMO if both of the following apply:
- at least 5 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household
- you share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants
A household is either a single person or members of the same family who live together. A family includes people who are:
- married or living together – including people in same-sex relationships
- relatives or half-relatives, for example grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings
- step-parents and step-children
Standards, obligations and how to complain
If you live in a large HMO, your landlord must meet certain standards and obligations. Find out more about HMOs from Shelter.
Contact your local council to report hazards in your HMO. The council is responsible for enforcing HMO standards and can make a landlord take action to correct any problems.
All large HMOs need a licence from the local council.
You may be able to apply to a tribunal to reclaim some of your rent if your landlord has been prosecuted by the council for running an unlicensed HMO.
HMOs and coronavirus (COVID-19)
If you live in an HMO, you and all the other residents should:
- follow the general guidance about staying at home and social distancing
- behave in the same way as a single household if one of you has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- make sure all shared areas are cleaned regularly and kept well ventilated
If you’re shielding because you have a high risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus, spend as little time as possible in the shared areas. Speak to your local council about finding new accommodation if you cannot effectively shield in your current home.
Report anti-social behaviour to your local council.
Your council can take over the management of a property to stop anti-social behaviour.
It can also create a ‘selective licensing scheme’ if people in several houses in an area are behaving anti-socially. All landlords of properties in that area must then have a licence to show they’re meeting minimum standards.
Changes to a regulated tenancy
There are special rules for changing rents and terms for regulated tenancies (usually starting before 15 January 1989).
When your landlord can increase rent
Your landlord can only increase the rent up to the registered rent, which is the legal maximum set by a rent officer from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). This is sometimes called ‘fair rent’.
Check the register of rents to find out if the rent is registered and how much it is.
You or your landlord can ask the VOA to review the rent so that it remains fair, usually every 2 years. You can request it sooner if there’s a major change to the home (for example, repairs or improvements).
Fill in the fair rent review form and send it to the address on the form.
If your rent increases
Your landlord must serve you a notice of increase of rent in writing. It must include details of the changes, for example how much the rent will increase by and when it will start.
Your landlord can do this with an official notice of increase form, which they can get from legal stationers.
An increase in rent may be backdated to the date of the notice, but it cannot be backdated by more than 4 weeks or to earlier than the date it’s registered.
If you think a registered rent increase is too high
You can appeal against the VOA’s decision to increase a registered rent by writing to the rent officer within 28 days of receiving it. You can appeal later but only if you have a good reason for the delay, for example if you’ve been in hospital.
The registered rent may be reconsidered by a tribunal – it will make a final decision on the rent limit for the property.
Cancel a registered rent
Download and fill in an application form to cancel a registered rent and send it to the address on the form (for example, if the tenancy stops being regulated, or you and your landlord agree to cancel it).
It may take up to 6 weeks to cancel a registered rent.
Follow these steps if you have a problem with your landlord:
- Complain to your landlord – they should have a complaints policy that you can follow.
- Make a complaint to a ‘designated person’ (your MP, a local councillor or a tenant panel) if you cannot resolve the problem with your landlord.
- Contact your council or local authority if you and your landlord still cannot resolve the problem.