In 2014, around 670,000 London households are currently renting in the private sector. Only 51.1% of people own their own home. As the property market continues to rise, so too will the number of people wishing to rent a flat in London. It is, therefore, more important than ever for renters to be able to protect themselves against any issues which may arise during their rental period.
Most tenancy agreements will be Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST’s) which all give the tenant certain rights.
The right to pay the same rent
There are two different AST contracts which you could be on:
Fixed:With a fixed term contract, the landlord cannot increase your rent without asking you first. If you say no, he has no legal right to change the rent until the end of your contract. If you decide to stay after the end of your contract, however, then he does have the right to raise your rent.
Periodic: With a periodic tenancy (meaning that the contract runs on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis (usually used if staying on after a fixed term contract)) the landlord does have the right to put the rent up without asking you, but may only do so once per year.
The right to live in a safe property
As a tenant, you have a right to rent a flat which feels safe.
This includes having running water, heating, bathroom facilities, electricity, ventilation and drainage.
If any of these fail to work, then the landlord is legally obliged to fix them.
He is only required to fix any issues if he is told about them, so on discovering an issue inform your landlord immediately.
If he refuses to sort out the issue, then you can contact the housing authority in your local council, who have the power to force your landlord to repair the property.
Not every problem must be fixed by the landlord, this article explains all the issues you are responsible for.
The right not to be disturbed
The landlord must give you 24 hours notice before entering your household (unless it is a necessary emergency).
The landlord cannot stop your friends from visiting.
The right to have your deposit protected
When you first decide to rent a flat, your landlord may ask you to pay a deposit.
Your landlord must protect the deposit you pay for your property, he may not simply keep it himself.
If you are having any further issues with your landlord, then contact one of the helplines listed at the bottom of the article.
It is recommended that before you decide to rent a flat that you try and do some research on your landlord. Find out if he has a bad history with tenants. Review sites like Yelp can be particularly helpful for this.
However, if you are living as a lodger, there are some significant differences to your rights.
Your rights as a lodger
As a lodger (renting the spare room of a landlords property while the landlord is living in the same property) you have significantly fewer rights.
The terms vary widely depending on what you have previously agreed with your landlord, but he doesn’t need a court order to evict you, and he can give you as little as 7 days notice.
Many people become lodgers when they move into the spare room of a friends house. However, despite this, if you would like to properly protect yourself, it is strongly advisable to sign an agreement which covers these criteria.
How much rent is owed and when it is due.
How much notice must be given if they wish to increase the rent.
How much notice you must give them before moving out.
Exactly which services (electricity, water, etc.) you have to pay for.
Whether you can have friends in your room and how long they can stay for.
If your room is yours alone and if you have the right to lock it.
If you pay a deposit for your room and if/how you get it back when you leave.
It is always important that, as a tenant, you know the rights you have when you rent a flat. If you are having any further issues, please seek legal advice. If you would like to talk to somebody about the issues you are facing, these are a good place to start.
Shelter – The leading UK housing charity 0808 800 4444.
Citizens Advice Bureau – They offer free advice regarding your rights. Contact your nearest centre or call 08444 111 444 (England), 08444 77 2020 in Wales, and 0808 800 9060 in Scotland.
Mediation Service – Not a free service, but they offer impartial advice and it is cheaper than court. Find your nearest centre here
Local Council – They have the power to ensure your landlord upholds his duty as a landlord.