The Rights of Renters
Many people rent their houses or flats, either from a private landlord or from the council. But whoever you rent your property from, you have rights that have to be observed.
Private TenantsMost private tenants have what's called an assured shorthold tenancy. This allows you to live in your house or flat, either for a set period (a fixed term tenancy), or on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis (a periodic tenancy). Under this, your landlord can't just come into your dwelling at will (for an assured shorthold tenancy, he can't live in the same building). You pay him the rent and you can live there until he gets an eviction order from the court (weekly tenants should have a rent book).
RepairsThe landlord has to keep the exterior and the structure of the building in good repair, as well as making sure gas, electricity, water, heating and sanitation work properly. Depending on your tenancy agreement, he might also be responsible for other things. If he's provided any furniture, it must be fire-resistant. He must also make sure that any gas appliances have an annual valid gas certificate. Whenever the dwelling needs repairs, tell him. If he doesn't do them, there are legal methods of forcing him to do the work.
Ending a TenancyYou and your landlord can mutually agree to end the tenancy - this is known as surrender. That can be done at any time, but it's best to get your landlord's agreement in writing. The other ways to end a tenancy are by you serving notice of leaving, or eviction. If you have a periodic tenancy, you'll need to give one month's notice that you're leaving. You can simply leave on the day your lease ends, but you'll most likely lose your deposit.
EvictionIf you're an assured shorthold tenant and in arrears on your rent, or you challenge a rent increase, it's quite easy for your landlord to evict you. Actually, unless you're a fixed term tenant, he doesn't even need to give a reason, as long as he follows the proper procedure.
He needs to give you notice to leave (which can be as little as two weeks, depending on the circumstances). However, if he doesn't have a reason for the eviction, the notice must be at least two calendar months. With periodic tenants, the last day of the rental period would be your eviction day. In all cases, if you don't leave when you're supposed to, your landlord can apply to court for an eviction order.
The good news is that you can't be evicted until your landlord actually has the eviction order from court and you have a chance to have your say there. Be warned though, that as long as your landlord does everything by the book, the chances are that he'll get the order. The maximum delay you can request is six weeks and then you'll need to prove hardship. If you refuse to leave, the landlord can have the bailiffs remove you.
However, that court order is vital. If you landlord doesn't have one and tries to evict you, that may well be illegal and your local council should be able to help.
Council TenantsThere are two types of council tenants - introductory and secure. An introductory tenancy generally runs for 12 months from the time you move in, after which you automatically become a secure tenant.
Your tenancy agreement, which should be in writing, explains your responsibilities and rights, including details on your rent (if you pay weekly, you should have a rent book).
EvictionIf you're an introductory tenant, the council can evict you without a reason, as long as they follow proper procedure. That said, it probably won't happen unless you're a nuisance or don't pay your rent.
If you're a secure tenant and they want to evict you, they must give you four weeks' written notice with the reasons for eviction. You can request a review of the decision, but you need to do it within 14 days. As long as the council followed proper procedure, even if you go to court, the judge will allow the eviction to stand.
Rent And RepairsYour rent is set by the council and they can increase it, although normally they'll give you written notice first (weekly rent payers should be given four weeks' notice).
The council is generally responsible for all outside work on your property - you only have to worry about inside decorations. They're also responsible for the gas, electricity and plumbing. Report any problems immediately (there should be a 24-hour service to handle emergencies).