The rights of tenants living in private rental properties have faced much scrutiny lately. Rising rents, inadequate living conditions and contested evictions are all issues that have come under the spotlight and have contributed to thrusting renters’ rights into the spotlight.

The government announced in June that it was introducing new legislation to protect renter’s rights in its Renters’ Reform Bill. However, progress is slow, and the Bill is yet to come into force. To read our previous blog on this new law, click here.

It comes at a time when more people than ever are reliant on housing in the private rented sector (PRS). According to the latest figures, 4.6 million households rented their home from a private landlord in 2021/22, representing 19% of all households in England. 

Average rents in the private sector housing market have reached a record high. According to online referencing agency HomeLet, in June 2023, the average rental price for a new tenancy in the UK was £1,229 per calendar month, up 10.4% from last year.

Every region in the country has followed this trend, with the average rental value for new tenancies in the South East now standing at £1,294 a month, an increase of 9.6% compared to last year.

In light of this shift, tenants are increasingly questioning what they get for their money.

In this blog, Larcomes’ Landlord and Tenant Solicitors look at some common issues that can cause problems between a landlord and tenant and answer some questions you might have as a renter.

What rights do tenants have?

Tenants in privately rented property have certain legal rights and responsibilities.

As a tenant, under the law, you have the right to:

  • Live in a property that is safe and in a good state of repair.
  • Have your deposit returned when the tenancy ends.
  • Challenge excessively high charges.
  • Know who your landlord is.
  • Live in the property undisturbed.
  • See an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property.
  • Be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent.
  • Have a written agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy of more than three years.

If you have a tenancy agreement, it should be “fair” and comply with the law.

What is a tenancy agreement?

There are different types of tenancy agreements that govern the relationship between a landlord and tenant. These vary according to certain criteria, such as whether your tenancy is for a fixed term or runs on an ongoing basis.

The most common form of tenancy agreement is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, which you have if:

  • The property you rent is private.
  • Your tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989.
  • The property is your main accommodation.
  • Your landlord does not live in the property.

There is standard information that should be incorporated in any tenancy agreement, including:

  • The names of all people involved.
  • The rental price and how it is paid.
  • Information on how and when the rent will be reviewed.
  • The deposit amount and how it will be protected.
  • Details of when the deposit can be fully or partly withheld.
  • The address of the property.
  • The start and end date of the tenancy.
  • Any tenant or landlord obligations.
  • An outline of bills you’re responsible for.

Tenancy agreements can also include other information and terms, for example, if and how a tenancy can be ended early and whether the property can be sublet.

A tenancy agreement is the vital first step in any successful rental. Anyone looking to enter into a tenancy agreement should seek specialist legal advice before signing a rental contract to ensure it is clear, well-drafted and fits your needs. Our experienced landlord and tenant solicitors at Larcomes will be able to flag any issues with a tenancy agreement that might become a problem further down the line, and ensure you are protected.

Can a landlord increase my rent whenever they want?

No, there are rules about rental increases that landlords need to follow.

In England, a landlord:

  • Can usually only put up the rent once a year.
  • Must give at least one month’s notice.

Rent increases must be “fair and realistic” and a landlord must get your permission to increase the rent by more than previously agreed.

A landlord must also follow set procedures for any proposed rental increase unless otherwise specified in your tenancy agreement.

My rented property is damp. What do I do?

All rented accommodation must meet certain standards, which means the property has adequate conditions for people to live in. A landlord is responsible for ensuring a property they rent out is fit for human habitation.

If your property is damp, you should report the issue to your landlord immediately. Damp is a common cause of disputes between landlords and tenants as it is not always obvious what the source of the problem is, and therefore it is often not clear whose responsibility it is to resolve.

If your landlord refuses to act, you should contact your local authority’s Environmental Health department. Ask a solicitor who will be able to advise on the most appropriate course of action.

What can I do if my landlord is refusing to return my deposit?

You have the right to get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy if you have:

  • Met the terms of your tenancy agreement.
  • Not damaged the property.
  • Paid your rent and bills.

A landlord must return your deposit within ten days of agreeing how much you will receive.

Landlords have the right to make certain deductions from your deposit, such as for any:

  • Broken or missing items.
  • Cleaning costs.
  • Unpaid rent or bills.

They must give you a list of these deductions and the costs.

If you dispute any deductions, or a landlord refuses to return your deposit, a specialist tenancy disputes solicitor can help advise on the best course of action. Landlords are legally required to protect deposits for assured shorthold tenancies in a tenancy deposit scheme (TDS). There is a set process to follow if you need to attempt to recoup your deposit held in such a scheme.

Specialist Landlord and Tenant Solicitors

If you have any questions about renters’ rights, or are about to sign a lease on a rental property and need legal advice, please contact Larcomes today. Our solicitors in Portsmouth and Waterlooville have the knowledge and expertise to help.

Our friendly team can also help with any housing issue you may be facing. So, whether you are simply seeking advice regarding a tenancy lease, or if you are engaged in a dispute with your landlord or tenant, please contact Larcomes today.

Depending on the nature of your situation, your solicitor will discuss all the costs involved with you at the start of your case and ensure you are fully aware of what these costs will be.

In certain cases, we can provide a range of fixed and staged fee processes with monthly direct debit arrangements available to help you manage costs.

Get in Touch

To speak with one of our specialist landlord and tenant team, please call on 023 9244 8100 or make an online enquiry.

Please note that this article is not intended as legal or professional advice. It is for general guidance only, and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.