Vetting tenants and landlords

If you have a problem with your rented home you may need to contact us if the landlord or agent do nothing to resolve it. Make sure that you have all the details to hand. That includes the landlord's / agent's full name, address and telephone number.

It is likely that your landlord will take steps to check whether you are creditworthy and seek references and even guarantees before renting you a home.

Try to resolve issues offline

Increasingly, landlords are using the internet and social media to vet their potential tenants; reasons for doing so include making sure that tenants are responsible, and that they're not covering up any information.

All landlords should remember, though, that potential tenants can just as easily vet them by using rating sites and reviews:  Consumer Focus was recently involved in setting up a rental review service, while sites like  AllAgents.co.uk can be searched by tenants.

In this context, remember that any malicious reviews or disputes with tenants could get uncomfortably personal if not handled properly. If unsure, always get legal advice if you're concerned about putting the wrong things online, or about breaching privacy laws. If possible, ask other tenants in the house if the landlord or managing agent is responsive and responsible.

However, tenants should be aware that at any time, in the periodical phase of their tenancy, they can be evicted by landlords - tenants should bear this in mind when standing up for their rights.

Your landlord should ask before entering

When you rent a property, your landlord may well need to come in from time to time for repairs, as well as to inspect the property. They should give you notice and arrange a time with you first. There isn't a standard amount of notice they have to give but 48 hours should be the minimum unless there is an emergency. Do not unreasonably refuse access.

Repairs

Landlords are responsible for repairs and maintenance to the following features (though may seek costs if damaged by tenants):

  • 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 caused by attempting repairs
  • communal areas
  • Tenants should only carry out repairs if the tenancy agreement permits this, and tenants can't be forced to do repairs that are the landlord's responsibility

If a tenant damages another tenant's flat, eg if water leaks into another flat from an overflowing bath, the tenant is responsible for paying for the repairs, and also responsible for paying to put right any damage caused by family and friends.

If a property needs repairs, tenants should contact their landlord, and immediately for faults that could damage health, like faulty electrical wiring.

Rent should continue to be paid by tenants while waiting for repairs to be done, and landlords should inform tenants of when repairs will be carried out.

If landlords do not carry out repairs, we can make them do so, particularly if the property contains health and safety hazards: Please contact us for more information. Shelter also has information about health and safety standards and repairs in rented properties, including what to do if you're in dispute with your landlord.

Remember, tenants should be aware that at any time, in the periodical phase of their tenancy, they can be evicted by landlords - tenants should bear this in mind when standing up for their rights.

Tenants' responsibilities

When tenants live in a privately-rented home, they also have responsibilities towards it, including:

  • taking care of the property - eg by turning off the water at the mains if you're away in cold weather
  • paying the agreed rent, even if repairs are needed or tenants are in dispute with the landlord
  • to pay other charges as agreed with the landlord, including Council Tax or utility bills
  • to repair or pay for any damage caused by tenants, or family and friends
  • to only sublet a property if the tenancy agreement or landlord allows it 

Rent increases

A tenancy agreement should include how and when rent will be reviewed and increased. For a periodic tenancy, rolling on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis, landlords can't normally increase the rent more than once a year without tenants' agreement.

For a fixed-term tenancy, running for a set period, landlords can only increase the rent if tenants agree. If they don't agree, the rent can only be increased when the fixed term ends.

Landlords must get tenants' permission if they want to increase the rent by more than previously agreed, and the rent increase must be fair and realistic, ie in line with average local rents. If a tenancy agreement lays down a procedure for increasing rent, landlords must stick to this. Otherwise, landlords can:

  • renew tenancy agreements at the end of the fixed term, but with an increased rent
  • agree a rent increase with tenants and produce a written record of the agreement that for both parties to sign
  • use a 'Landlord's notice proposing a new rent' form, which increases the rent after the fixed term has ended

Landlords must give a minimum of one month's notice, if tenants pay rent weekly or monthly.

For a yearly tenancy, landlords must give six months' notice.

Tenants who consider a rent increase to be unfair can apply to a rent assessment committee which will decide the rent amount.

However, tenants should be aware that at any time, in the periodical phase of their tenancy, they can be evicted by landlords - tenants should bear this in mind when standing up for their rights.

Always get your landlord's permission if planning home improvements

When you rent a property, you generally need to return it in the same condition as you found it, though some unavoidable wear and tear should be allowed.

Bear this in mind if you want to redecorate, as any changes will need to be put back. It sounds obvious, but the key point to remember is the property isn't yours. So you can't just put up shelves, for example, without permission. If you want to make permanent changes, the best thing to do is get it written in the contract from the outset.

If you plan to repaint the walls a different colour or make any other changes, first get your landlord's permission in writing. Otherwise it's likely you'll need to paint them back to the original colour before you move.

Double-check the inventory and report any defects

If you're given an inventory when you arrive, ensure you fill it in and carefully check for any existing damage in the property or its contents. Don't worry about being too specific - note down anything you can see, be it a cracked tile, damaged paintwork or a chipped mirror. If you can, take photos as evidence too.

Even if they don't give you an inventory to fill in, list any defects in writing to the landlord as soon as you can; Shelter has a printable inventory template.

Ensure it's signed and dated, and keep a copy so you can see what's on it when you move out.

This way, if the landlord tries to keep part of your deposit for any of these defects when you leave, you'll have hard proof the damage was already there when you moved in. Similarly, take photos when you move out so you've proof the property is in good order.

Page updated: 16/03/2016 12:02:18