Whether you are letting for the first time, or are moving into a new rented property, understanding your rights as a tenant helps you to understand what you can expect from your landlord, and what your obligations may be.
While it’s always important that you thoroughly read through and check your individual tenancy agreement, there are certain obligations required by law which rest with your landlord.
What rights do I have under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement?
An assured shorthold tenancy is a tenancy that gives a tenant the legal right to live in a property for a specific period of time. A tenancy might be for a set period such as six months (this is known as a fixed term tenancy) or it might roll on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis (this is known as a periodic tenancy).
There are certain basic rights that a tenant has in an assured shorthold tenancy.
- The right to live in the accommodation undisturbed
- The right to live in a property in good repair
- The right to information about the tenancy
- Protection from eviction
So what do these rights mean in practice?
The right to live in accommodation undisturbed
Also known as the right to quiet possession, this means that you have the right to live in your rented property without interference from your landlord – they cannot enter your property without your permission except in certain emergency situations.
The right to live in a property in good repair
Your landlord has a legal responsibility to maintain your property so that it is reasonably fit for human habitation. In practice this means keeping the structure and exterior of the property in good repair which includes keeping the roof, guttering, external walls and windows and doors in a watertight and safe condition.
Additionally your landlord must keep the equipment for the supply of gas, electricity, heating and water in good and safe condition – and a gas safety certificate must be valid.
However, as a tenant you are responsible for taking care of the property, so items such as unblocking a plug or changing a fuse will likely be your responsibility. Check your tenancy agreement if you are unsure.
The right the information about the tenancy
If your tenancy started after March 1997 a tenant the right to ask their landlord to provide a statement of the terms of their tenancy. The information that must be provided is as follows.
- The start date of the tenancy
- The amount of rent and the date it must be paid
- How and when the rent may be changed
- If the rent is charged weekly a rent book must be provided
- The length of any fixed term
This information must be provided within 28 days of a request being made in writing by a tenant.
Protection from Eviction
Throughout a fixed term tenancy a landlord must have specific reasons to evict a tenant. Situations where this could occur are where
- The tenant is in rent arrears
- The tenant is regularly late with paying the rent
- The terms of the tenancy have been broken
- The tenant has allowed the condition of the property to decline
- The property is being repossessed
- The tenant has caused nuisance or anti social behaviour
If a landlord wants to evict a tenant before the end of the fixed term, they will need to apply to the court for a possession order, providing the tenant with a Section 8 notice specifying the grounds under which they wish to apply for early possession.
The court will not give a possession order unless it is satisfied that a valid reason exists. In some cases the court must also consider whether it is reasonable for the tenant to be evicted.
Once the fixed term has ended, or if your tenancy has rolled onto a periodic tenant, the landlord can give 2 months’ notice without a reason – however this can not run out before the end of the fixed term.
Always read your AST carefully to understand your responsibilities as a tenant, and make sure to ask questions about repairs and your terms. Remember, it is your obligation to look after the property and do hand it back in the same condition as it was let to you.