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Your rights and responsibilities

What to expect from your landlord

If you are a tenant, your landlord has certain obligations. The rules and procedures vary depending on the type of tenancy you have but certain basic rules are always the same.

Not disturbing tenants

Landlords may need access to the accommodation to inspect it and do repairs but they must let you live in your home without unnecessary interference. The landlord should give proper notice and arrange a suitable time if they need to visit. The amount of notice they have to give may be set out in your agreement. You can ask your landlord to stop entering your home without your permission. It may be classed as harassment if he/she persists.

Following the correct procedure

If they want the tenant to leave most landlords will have to give a written notice and, if necessary, get a court order to evict tenants. If a landlord tries to force a tenant to leave without following the correct procedure it may be illegal and could lead to fines or imprisonment.

Carrying out certain kinds of repairs

Landlords are responsible for repairs to the exterior or structure of a property. Problems with the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains are the responsibility of the landlord. The landlord/agent cannot pass on responsibility for these legal obligations by putting clauses in your contract. For example, making you responsible for maintenance of drains or gas fires where central heating has been installed. Landlords are also responsible for keeping the equipment which supplies water, gas and electricity in safe working order. Check your agreement to see what it says.

Meeting safety standards

Landlords have legal obligations to ensure the safety of tenants. They must:

  • obtain a gas safety certificate for every appliance in the property issued by a registered gas engineer and renew it every year;
  • ensure that any necessary work identified by gas engineers is carried out;
  • ensure furniture meets fire safety standards; and               
  • ensure electrical equipment provided is safe to use.

Please see the safety information.

Following the rules on rent

Landlords have to inform tenants when the rent is to be paid and they should tell you how they want it paid. They can't refuse to accept the rent from their tenants. If a landlord does so, the tenants should keep trying to pay it or keep the money separate (for example, in a separate bank account).

Rent can be increased but only at certain times during the tenancy and only in certain circumstances. These depend on the type of tenancy you have and what your agreement says about when the rent can be increased.

If the rent is paid weekly, private landlords have to provide a rent book.

Giving the tenant certain information

All landlords have to give their tenants their name and a UK contact address. If the property is managed by a letting or property agent, they must also provide you with the landlord's full name and address. Normally this information should be written on your contract.

If you have not been given this information you should request it in writing. You should keep a copy of the letter and send it by recorded delivery so you have proof of postage. If you don't get a reply in writing within 21 days of them receiving your letter, the landlord is committing a criminal offence. You should be able to get your landlord's details from the Land Registry. You can do this online by filling in a form and paying a small fee of £4.

Resident landlord/family home

If you live with an owner you have fewer rights to repair, unless your licence is specific about what repairs the owner has agreed to cover. If your licence is not specific, but the disrepair is likely to endanger the health and safety of the household or members of the public, Environmental Health can request essential works are carried out. This could cover gas safety and damage to the structure of the building.

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Reporting repairs

If there is something within your home which needs repairing consider the following points:

  • Make a note of the problem
  • Identify when the problem started
  • Note down any damage to your personal property
  • Take photographs of the problem and any damage caused, labelling them and using the time and date setting if possible. 
  • Re-read your contract to check what falls under your responsibility and what falls under the landlords/agents.
  • Telephone your landlord/agent straight away

It is always best to follow this up in writing, even if you have already reported it over the phone. Send the letter by recorded delivery so that you have proof of postage and keep a copy for your records.

See our example letter for reporting repairs (PDF).

This may seem very formal but getting into the habit of doing this at an early stage should help you to avoid problems developing later on. This is especially important for repair issues since the landlord is only obliged to start remedial action within a reasonable time of being informed of the problem. If you have only been calling the landlord, they can try to deny that you contacted them until much later than you did. Beware of letting emotion cloud your judgement. Writing very angry letters or emails may make you feel better but they are almost always going to be unhelpful in finding a solution.

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Getting repairs done

How would I go about trying to get compensation from an owner failing to carry out a repair?

Do not be afraid to approach your landlord regarding problems with the property.

Always give the landlord/agent a reasonable timescale to work to. The following set of priorities represents what we consider to be good practice, but it is not an exhaustive list:

  • Priority one: emergency repairs – within 24 hours. Any repairs required in order to avoid a danger to health, risk to the safety of residents or serious damage to buildings or residents' belongings. For example: gas appliances, no hot water, broken WC, external door locks.
  • Priority two: urgent repairs – within five working days. Repairs to defects that materially affect the comfort or convenience of the residents. For example: leaking roofs, minor mice infestation or minor cracks in windows.
  • Priority three: non-urgent day-to-day repairs – within 28 days. Repairs that are not covered by the above two categories, for example, guttering, replacing window frames.

If you found your property on the Daily Vacancy List, the Recommended Code of Standards gives the minimum standards you should expect of your accommodation. Properties on the Daily Vacancy List should meet them. If your house is on the list but does not meet these standards, please notify the accommodation team in the Student Life Centre.

Ideally the landlord/agent should arrange a suitable time and date with you for the repair to take place. Access should not be given to workmen without your prior consent unless the repair is an emergency. Workmen should always secure the property when leaving and should clean up after they have finished. If you have any problems whilst work is being carried out raise them with the landlord/agent.

If problems persist visit the accommodation team in the Student Life Centre for advice. If you decide to pay for the repairs yourself and deduct the money from your rent you must warn the landlord in writing first, giving them an opportunity to fix the problem before you make your own arrangements. You must also ask at least three companies for written quotes and use the cheapest company, sending copies of the quotes to your landlord. The aim is to create a paper trail documenting all the opportunities the landlord was given to fix the problem. Photographs showing evidence of damage and receipts for repairs will be vital.

Houses with very serious faults can be investigated by the Environmental Health Office. They will look at your house and force the landlord to get the repairs done, if necessary.

If you wish to move out because of disrepair, you are strongly advised to seek advice first as you could still be liable for the rent.

How would I go about trying to get compensation from an owner failing to carry out a repair?

If you have suffered financial loss, inconvenience or damage to your property because of disrepair, you may have a case to claim a rent rebate from the landlord/agent. Examples could be having to move out of your bedroom, losing the use of the lounge due to serious or extensive disrepair, loss of facilities such as a shower, bath or hot water.

Discuss the issue of a rent rebate with the landlord/agent first. You need to clearly state why you feel compensation is warranted, giving specific examples. If an agreement cannot be reached, you could deduct the money from your rent (although this is a breach of your contract in most cases). However, you must be aware that if the landlord/agent disagrees with your claim, they could take the money from your deposit, or take action in the small claims court to recover any shortfall in rent. Seek advice before taking the step of deducting rent.

See sample letters dealing with the initial enquiry and follow-up (PDF).

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Common maintenance issues

Condensation and mould 

Condensation is caused when moisture meets a cold surface (such as a window) or a surface that gets little air (eg behind a wardrobe) and water droplets are formed. The water then seeps into windows and/or runs down the walls, which in turn can cause wallpaper/paint to peel and create mould patches. Every year some students have very serious problems with black mould growth on walls and round window frames. It can affect your health and ruin possessions. It is your responsibility to prevent it. This can be done by:

  • Not drying clothes on the radiators or the banisters in the house. Dry clothes outside or in a room with a window open. 
  • Ensuring your tumble dryer is ventilated correctly.
  • Ensuring that the house is evenly heated on a low constant temperature, increasing the heat as and when required. This will eliminate the cold surfaces. This would not necessarily increase your bills because a room is more expensive to heat from cold.
  • In the bathroom, keep a window open, doors shut and use an extractor fan if you have one.
  • In the kitchen, close the door and cover pans when cooking and open a window to release the steam.

Pest control

Most pest control companies charge for dealing with all pests (rats, cockroaches, mice, squirrels, wasps and bees, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches, pharaoh ants and other insects). Mice can be attracted to a property because of overflowing bins and food scraps and fleas can be brought into the house if you have pets. If this is the case any charge incurred by the landlord/agent can be passed on to you.
To prevent pests keep the garden and bin areas clean and tidy. All rubbish should be carefully bagged and put in the rubbish bins provided. Environmental Health have the power to fine residents for untidy garden/bin areas.

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Intrusive landlords

The landlord keeps coming round and letting himself in, what can we do?

Whilst you are paying rent for a house or flat which you do not share with the landlord, it is considered to be your home. The landlord cannot come into your home without your permission.

They are entitled to inspect the property every few months to check on the state of repair. The tenancy agreement may also oblige you to give them access for other reasons (eg to show a prospective tenant round if you are moving out).

Usually you can insist on being given 24 hours' notice of any visits and you can insist on knowing the reason for the visit (these conditions are normally stated in your contract).

If the landlord is not keeping to these basic rules, you should put your complaint in writing to them.

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Noisy neighbours

Unfortunately, if your neighbour has no connection with the landlord it is not the landlord's responsibility to deal with the problem.

You do not have the right to move out of the property because this would cause financial loss to the landlord. Since they are not the cause of the problem, the law does not accept that they should suffer any loss for the actions of a third party.

Unfortunately, your remedy is the same as that of anyone else. You will need to contact the local authority's environmental health or noise pollution team. They have a range of powers which include the confiscation of stereos and other noise making equipment.

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Eviction

Can our landlord/agent evict us if he wants to?

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy all landlords must comply with the Protection from Eviction Act. Court action must be taken to remove you from the property. Under no circumstances can the locks be changed, access refused or your possessions removed. This would amount to an illegal eviction and you could sue for damages.

If the landlord/agent wants you to leave early you must look at the terms of your contract.

If you are in a resident landlord/family home property the landlord can give you 'reasonable' notice at any time. Please see the Contracts section for further information.

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Tenant responsibilities

A tenancy doesn't just give you rights it also brings responsibilities. It's important you stick to the rules and don't break any of the terms of your contract. Most tenants can be evicted (providing the correct procedure is followed) if they don't follow certain basic rules. These include:

  • Not leaving your home empty
    In order to keep your tenancy, you must live in the property and use it as your main home. Let your landlord know if you will be leaving it empty for a while, or they might think you've abandoned the property.
  • Keeping up to date with your rent
    Rent is usually paid in advance, normally on a monthly or weekly basis. Check your agreement or ask your landlord to clarify how much rent you have to pay and the day of the week/month that it is due. If you fall behind with your rent, the landlord may be able to evict you through the courts and enforce rent payment.
  • Paying the bills
    Most tenants have to pay the bills for electricity, gas, water and telephone, as well as TV licence. Your tenancy agreement will say whether you are responsible for paying the bills or not. If you are responsible and you don't pay them, the services could be cut off and you may have to pay extra to be reconnected.
  • Taking care of the place
    Most tenants have some responsibilities regarding the upkeep of their homes. You should always look after the property as best you can and avoid causing damage to it or to your neighbours' property. In general, landlords are responsible for repairs and maintenance of the exterior and the structure of the property, as well as the plumbing, wiring and central heating. They are also required to ensure that gas and electrical installations comply with safety standards (please view the safety information). As a tenant, you are responsible for:
    • Looking after internal decorations, furniture and equipment. This doesn't include 'fair wear and tear'. If the carpet becomes a little thin, it's fair wear and tear; if you burn a hole in it, you'll probably have pay for it.
    • Contacting the landlord if you think if you think any of the appliances are unsafe.
    • Report all disrepair promptly. If further damage is caused because a repair was not reported ie leak from the roof that damages the ceiling and/or walls, the landlord/agent may charge the household for any excess damage.
    • Minor maintenance (such as checking smoke alarms are working, changing light bulbs, etc).
    • If you cause any damage or break anything, you'll need to repair or replace it (replacements are on a like for like basis, not new for old).
    • Dealing with your rubbish. Make sure it's bagged up properly, and only put it out when and where it's supposed to be. Make use of council recycling.
      sticking to any terms in your tenancy agreement regarding pets, parking, gardening, etc.
    • Heating the property adequately and making sure it's kept well ventilated. If you go away during the winter leaving the property unoccupied, you will need to ensure the heating is left on a timer to keep the place warm. A burst water pipe may be your landlord's responsibility to fix but it's still your home that will be flooded. In addition you will have to pay for alternative accommodation while the property is restored to a habitable condition and continue paying full rent/bills.
  • Not causing a nuisance
    You should take care not to behave in an anti-social way that could upset or annoy your neighbours, or to allow anyone in your household to do so. Anti-social behaviour is a legal reason for eviction, regardless of what kind of tenancy you have. It can include things like:
    • having the stereo or TV on too loudly
    • leaving rubbish piled up everywhere
    • making lots of noise outside your home or when you come in
    • using the house for illegal activities, such as drug dealing.

    As well as respecting your neighbours, you should not behave in an anti-social or aggressive way towards your landlord, or anyone employed by your landlord.
  • Being responsible for your household and visitors
    As well as not breaking any of the terms of your tenancy agreement yourself, you are also responsible for the behaviour of everyone in your household and of visitors.
  • Asking permission when it's needed
    Most tenants have to ask permission from the landlord if they want to make improvements to the property. Always put your request in writing and make sure you get your landlord's written permission before you go ahead.
  • Giving your landlord access when necessary
    Most tenancy agreements contain information about how and when your landlord can access the property, for example, if repairs are needed. You should be given at least 24 hours' notice (except in the case of emergencies). However, you also have the right to live in your home without unnecessary interference from the landlord. Most tenants have the right to stop the landlord from coming in unless they want him/her to. If your landlord or someone acting on his/her behalf harasses you or tries to make life difficult for you in your home, they may be committing a criminal offence.

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Rubbish collection and recycling

Local residents care about the way their street looks – dilapidated properties have a knock-on effect on house prices. Furthermore, if your house is easily identifiable as a student house, it will be an easy target for burglars. There are simple ways to keep things neat and tidy:

  • Don't pile rubbish around the bin or let it overflow. If your bin is not big enough, ask your landlord to provide a second one, or contact the local authority directly.
  • Recycle appropriately in the boxes provided by the council.
  • The council can be contacted to remove unwanted pieces of furniture – do not leave rubbish outside the house or in the garden.
  • Do your best to keep the garden under control. If your contract requires your landlord to keep the outside of the house tidy, hold them to it.
  • You can find details on local recycling/refuse tip, etc on the sustainability website.

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Living in the community – advice for students

A large number of students will live in private sector housing in the local community. We understand that it will be your first time living independently. Do try to fully integrate into your local community and for tips on how to do this please see below:

  • Introduce yourself to your neighbours and try to develop a good relationship with them. They will then be more prepared to keep an eye on your property for you, hold your spare keys, tell you which day the bins are collected or help you out in an emergency. Take an interest and pride in where you live it's your neighbourhood too.
  • Noise – let your neighbours know in advance if you're planning a party – agree a mutually acceptable time for it to end (and stick to it!). Friday and Saturday nights may be more acceptable party nights, but you should still be considerate of those with children or those who have to get up for work at weekends. If your neighbours do complain about you to the council and/or the Environmental Health Protection Agency, they can take action against your household.

Other useful advice:

  • Keep the noise down as far as possible, both inside and outside the house. People generally do not expect any noise at all after 11.00pm on weekdays.
  • Keep windows and doors shut and music at a reasonable level. Be particularly considerate when coming back late in the evening.
  • Banging doors and shouting from room to room can often be heard next-door, especially where walls are thin. Remember, if you can hear your neighbours, they can hear you!
  • Double check you have your keys when you go out so you won't wake anyone when you get back.
  • Speak to guests who are staying with you so that they behave sensitively – you don't want to get the blame for others' behaviour.
  • Consider the position of stereos and televisions within your property; try to avoid placing them against walls adjacent to neighbouring houses and raise them off the floor if possible.

Please see the full guidance drawn up in partnership with Kingston Council on how to be a considerate neighbour in the community (PDF).

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