Guide to being a tenant

Find out your rights and responsibilities when living at a rented property with our tenants' guide.

Once upon a time buying a property was seen as a normal stepping stone into adulthood.How-to-be-a-tenant

Owning your own bricks and mortar was simply the 'thing to do', and choosing not to was something of a controversy.

Now, though, changing social norms, a struggling economy and rising prices means that home ownership is an elusive concept for much of the population, and more people are renting than ever before.

For many, renting affords a flexibility and convenience that home ownership does not, but remember that there are still important considerations to bear in mind as a tenant.

To make sure your tenancy is as stress-free as possible you need to be well informed and aware of your rights and responsibilities.

Your responsibilities as a tenant

At the heart of the renting process is the understanding that, when you move out, the property is left in the same condition as it was when you moved in (excepting things such as 'reasonable wear and tear').

As a tenant you have the right to 'quiet enjoyment' of the property

As such, it's your responsibility to make sure the house is kept in a good condition, and is treated with respect.

If breakages or damages occur as a result of your actions they must be put right, and the landlord informed straight away.

At the beginning of the tenancy you should make sure a thorough inventory is carried out with the landlord or letting agent.

This is where both parties agree on the condition of the property and its furnishings, and it can help prevent or remedy disputes at the end of the contract.

It's your responsibility to adhere to the terms and conditions of your contract, usually known as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST), so it's vital that you read this document thoroughly before signing it - and flag anything you're unsure of.

The contract will stipulate terms regarding deposits, notice periods, specific responsibilities and actions to be taken in the event of a change of circumstance or issue with the property.

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As a tenant, you're also liable for the conduct of anyone else you invite into the property, and - if they cause damage - you'll be responsible for it.

Note that persistently inviting troublemakers into your home, or using it for illegal activity, can result in a swift eviction!

Tenants' insurance

When you sign your contract, make sure you're clear on tenants' insurance requirements. Many contracts will stipulate as a condition of tenancy that you take out an insurance policy.

The policies on offer vary, and can provide cover for your possessions only, or for damage to the property as well.

Your landlord needs to have specific landlord insurance in place, too, or at least buildings insurance. It's worth asking to make sure this is in order.

Your deposit

When you hand over your deposit, the landlord has a legal obligation to put it into a tenancy deposit protection scheme.

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This means that a third party has control of the deposit and ensures you don't lose out in the event of a dispute with your landlord.

By a maximum of 30 days after signing the contract, your landlord must provide written information about where the money is being held, how you can release it and what to do in the event of a dispute.

Our comprehensive tenancy deposit protection scheme guide gives a full run-down of the schemes and how to use them.

Landlord responsibilities

Your landlord has a number of responsibilities to you as a tenant. These will be clarified in your contract, but will usually include:

  • Proper and timely repairs and maintenance for external and structural issues, plus internal elements such as pipes, radiators, boilers and toilets/showers in the event of a breakdown
  • Regular safety checks on gas, electricity and related appliances
  • The provision of an energy performance certificate, which gives details on the property's energy rating and costs
  • The provision of a rent book, if rent is paid weekly

Your rights as a tenant

As a tenant you have the right to 'quiet enjoyment' of the property. This means that your landlord is not allowed to harass you or come around unannounced.

Rents can be increased upon contract renewal, or at any time if your contract becomes periodic

Most contracts will stipulate the need for occasional inspections, or, if you're moving out, the requirement to show prospective tenants around, but you must be given at least 24 hours' notice of a visit.

You also have the right to properly fulfil any notice periods stipulated in your contract.

If there is a clause that says the landlord must give you two months' notice of the end of the tenancy then they must uphold that and cannot make you leave any earlier (which would constitute an illegal eviction).

Equally, as a tenant you must uphold the same values and give proper notice in accordance with your contract.

Tenants entering into a fixed-term contract are also entitled to fixed rent, meaning that landlords cannot increase the cost of rent unless you have signed a contract agreeing to this.

Bear in mind that rents can be increased upon contract renewal, or at any time if your contract becomes periodic (a 'rolling' basis).

By Rachel England