Your guide to renting a warm, safe and secure home.
Homes can be bad for our health. Your rented home should be safe, dry and warm to live in.
Things to consider when you find the property you want to rent
- How long is the contract? How much notice will you need to give before you move out?
- Work out the rent for the whole contract period to find the best deal.
- Read the contract before you sign it and insist on a copy once it has been agreed. Don't allow yourself to be pressurised to sign the contract, request a blank copy to read through. Remember verbal contracts are still legally binding.
- Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) where 5 or more unrelated people are sharing some of the facilities must be licensed by the council.
- Check there are adequate locks on the doors and windows. If you are renting a room in a house shared with others, there should be a lock on your bedroom door.
- Check there are sufficient smoke/fire detectors in the house for the type of household.
- Check the heating and hot water system works throughout the property.
- Make sure there are no patches of mould in the rooms - this may need action by the landlord.
- Shared properties may require additional facilities or fire protection.
- All rented properties must have an up to date gas safety certificate. Ask to see the current gas safety certificate, and any current electrical safety certificates for the property.
- Ask about the insulation standards of the property and if there is an Energy Performance Certificate. Is there cavity wall and/or loft insulation? If this work has not been done your fuel bills may be higher than expected.
The paperwork - what you sign
Deposits and Fees
You may be asked for a deposit, returnable at the end of your tenancy. Any deposit must be protected through one of the three government approved tenancy deposit protection schemes:
If this is not done, you may be entitled to compensation of up to three times the original deposit, plus the deposit itself.
The law on tenant fees means that there are only specified charges that a landlord or agent cannot require you, or anyone acting on your behalf or guaranteeing your rent, to make in connection with a tenancy. They cannot require you to enter a contract with a third party for the provision for a service or for insurance or make a loan in connection with a tenancy.
The only payments in connection with a tenancy that you can be asked to make are:
- The rent.
- A refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks' rent where your total annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks' rent where your total annual rent is £50,000 or above.
- A refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week's rent.
- Payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant, capped at £50, or reasonable costs incurred if higher.
- Payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant.
- Payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax.
- A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement.
If the payment a landlord or agent is charging is not on this list it is not lawful, and a landlord or agent should not ask you to pay it. If a landlord or agent has charged a prohibited payment you should follow the advice on page 10 of the Guidance for Tenants Document.
A landlord cannot evict you using the section 21 eviction procedure until they have repaid any unlawfully charged fees or returned an unlawfully retained holding deposit. All other rules around the application of the section 21 evictions procedure will continue to apply.
You will be given an inventory of the house contents and condition to check and sign. Check the condition of decoration and fittings etc and that the list of items supplied by the landlord is accurate before you agree it.
If there are already stains on carpets, or other damage etc. take a photo, and include it with the inventory, otherwise you may lose your deposit when you leave.
Inform your landlord in writing immediately there is a problem.
You should consider carefully the need to arrange insurance for your possessions. You need to check if the insurers require locks on bedroom doors.
Renting and the law
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is a risk assessment tool used to assess potential risks to the health and safety of occupants in residential properties in England and Wales.
If you think you are living in poor or unhealthy conditions in your privately rented accommodation, complain in writing to the landlord or letting agent first, but if nothing is done, we may be able to help you.
If you are renting a room/flat/house and believe any of the following conditions exist, you may need to contact us for further advice and/or an inspection of your property:
- Inadequate or no heating
- Inadequate or no fire protection
- Safety issues (e.g. low level glazing or dangerous steps)
- Inadequate or no natural light or ventilation
- Dangerous electrics or gas
- Poor security
- Inadequate facilities (e.g. kitchen and bathroom)
The new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 also recently came in to force, you can read more about this here and find out what it means for tenants.