As a tenant moving into privately rented property, you have rights and responsibilities like your landlord does - but understanding what these are can be confusing if you’ve never rented before.
That’s why we’ve put together a quick, simple overview of the most essential rights and responsibilities you have as a tenant.
Your tenancy agreement
Before we jump right in, first, remember that you should be protected by your tenancy agreement. This sets out a contractual relationship between you and your landlord, where the rights and responsibilities of both parties should be included. You’ll most likely have an assured shorthold tenancy, typically either:
- Fixed-term - running for a set period of time, typically 6 or 12 months
- Periodic - running on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis
But no matter what kind of tenancy you’re in, your rights and responsibilities should be laid out in the tenancy agreement. It’s important to remember that your tenancy agreement can’t be changed unless you and your landlord agree to do so - landlords aren’t allowed to change any aspect of your agreement without permission. To learn more about what your tenancy agreement should include, read our blog.
Everything you need to know about your tenancy should be included in your agreement. However, it’s good to have an understanding of the rights and responsibilities you have before you find a place to rent, so that you’re aware of what is expected of you.
Your rights as a tenant
You have a number of basic rights when renting, regardless of the contract you have with your landlord or the type of property you’re looking to rent.
As a tenant, you have the right to:
Live in a property that is safe and in a good state of repair
Your landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property you’re renting in a good enough condition for you to live in comfortably. This means you have a right to live in accommodation that is:
- in a good state of repair
- maintained to a reasonable standard
When renting a property, you aren’t just living in an empty property, either - your landlord must also ensure that the systems for electricity, gas and water are also all kept in good working order.
Remain in the property during your fixed term
The terms laid out in your tenancy agreement will guarantee that you’re able to live in your chosen property until the end of your contract - providing that you respect the tenancy agreement and pay all of your rent.
Your landlord is not legally allowed to evict you, unless you have broken the terms of your tenancy agreement by:
- not paying rent for 8 weeks (2 months) or more
- disturbing neighbours or the area around your property through antisocial behaviour
- using the property for illegal activities.
Providing you meet the terms in your tenancy agreement, you have a right to remain in your property right up until the end of the tenancy. Then, you can decide to renew your contract or move on.
Know information about your property and landlord
No matter the kind of property you’re renting, you have a right to know who your landlord is, and have access to their contact details such as their address, phone number or email so that you can contact them if needed.
When you start a new tenancy, you must also be given:
- an energy performance certificate (EPC)
- a gas safety certificate
- a copy of the government guide How to Rent
You also have the right to request additional information about the property from your landlord - but they must provide the above information as a minimum requirement.
Have your deposit protected
Deposit protection is one of your landlords key responsibilities, and it’s important that you ensure it’s being done correctly.
Before moving into your chosen property, you’ll be asked to pay a deposit. Your landlord will then have to put your deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDP). Even when your deposit is protected within a scheme, it still legally belongs to you, which means that you’re entitled to get your full deposit back - that is, as long as you:
- leave the property in good condition
- pay all of your rent
- meet the terms of your tenancy agreement
Paying a deposit can be intimidating at first, but the process is actually straightforward! We’ve broken down how rental deposits work as a whole to help you out right here.
Not pay unnecessary fees
Depending on your landlord and rental application process, there’s a chance you might come across additional “fees”, such as a charge for viewing the property, or checking your credit score. However, the majority of these fees are actually banned under government regulations - so if you see these fees, don’t pay them.
There are certain fees that are legal, such as holding fees. But be careful, and make sure that you question your landlord (or letting agent) on any fees you aren’t comfortable with.
Live in your property without disturbance from your landlord
When you’re renting a private property, you have the right to live without unexpected disturbance from your landlord. What this means is that landlords aren’t supposed to turn up at your property unannounced - they must send you an official notice no less than 24 hours beforehand if they are planning to enter the property.
This doesn’t apply to general disturbances outside of a landlord’s control, such as maintenance works happening in or around the property.
These are the main rights you have as a tenant when living in a rented property. However, by moving into a rented property, you’re also entering into a contract with your landlord. This means that while you do have rights, you also have responsibilities.
Your responsibilities as a tenant
Just as the landlord has to ensure that your rights are protected, you also have a number of responsibilities to abide to. In order to live in your property for the full duration of your tenancy, you must:
Pay rent on time, throughout the whole tenancy
As a tenant renting a property, you’re expected to use, or at the very least pay rent for your chosen property throughout the tenancy. This means that you have to pay rent each month, even if you aren’t physically present in the property at the time. For example, if you go home for a month at Christmas, you’ll still have to pay rent.
You’re only able to end your tenancy or not pay rent where it is agreed with your landlord. If you do end your tenancy without getting permission from your landlord, you’ll likely be expected to pay rent until the end of the agreement, or until they find a new tenant.
To avoid this situation, make sure you’re certain your chosen property and the accompanying tenancy agreement is right, and that you’re aware of what is expected of you when renting.
Pay bills on time, throughout the tenancy
Much like paying your rent throughout the fixed term, you’ll also need to keep on top of your bill payments. This includes bills such as utilities and council tax, as well as any WiFi or TV licensing subscriptions. You do have a right to change bill suppliers should you wish to do so, but you’ll need to make sure your landlord is aware of any changes.
Learn more about the types of bills you’ll need to pay when renting a property for the first time.
Keep the property safe and in good condition
As a tenant in privately rented accommodation, you have a responsibility to stay on top of general maintenance and upkeep of the property. This means doing things like:
- keeping the property clean and tidy
- locking doors/windows when you leave the property
- avoiding damage to the property
If you do damage the property, you’ll be expected to pay for it. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be penalised for any damage that isn’t your fault - providing you tell your landlord about any issues when they happen so they can be fixed.
It’s recommended that you keep a record of any issues when they happen, perhaps by taking a photo of the damage or making a note. This way, you’ll have evidence in case there is a dispute with your landlord - but don’t worry too much about this happening.
You’ll also need to treat the property with respect - avoiding damage where you can, and not engaging in antisocial behaviour. If you don’t act reasonably you could risk losing your deposit.
All information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant should be included in your tenancy agreement. If you aren’t sure of anything, be sure to bring it up with your landlord.
The bottom line
In order to rent your first property smoothly, you need to make sure that you are not only aware of your rights, but are willing to take on the responsibilities. You need to be certain that you’re ready to rent in the first place.
To see how ready you are to rent, check out our complete guide to moving out for the first time.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be a quick overview guide of the rights and responsibilities you have as a tenant - it’s not a document to be used for legal purposes. For more information on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, see GOV UK’s resources on private renting.