Tessa's Ten Top Tips for tenants
- Don't sign the tenancy agreement unless you are absolutely certain you want to rent the property. You will not normally be entitled to any 'cooling off' period, and the landlord may not be prepared to canel the agreement if you change your mind. For example you do not have the right to get out of the agreement if you find that the property is not as nice as you thought it was, or because something important to you is not provided. It is up to you to ask all the relevant questions before you sign. Don't allow yourself to be hustled into signing against your better judgement, and before you have fully thought it through.
- Be very careful who you share the property with, particularly if you are all signing the same tenancy agreement - by doing this you are making yourself liable for their share of the rent as well as your own, and also for the cost of any damage which they may do to the property. You should only sign a tenancy agreement with people you can trust.
- If your landlord takes a tenancy deposit (after 6 April 2007 or your tenancy is renewed after this date), the deposit will normally need to be protected by one of the government authorised tenancy deposit schemes (this only applies to assured shorthold tenancies but most tenancies will be assured shortholds). Your landlord or agent should also serve a notice on you within 14 days giving information about the company used to protect your deposit. If no notice is served on you, or if you are suspicious, make sure that the deposit is actually protected by checking with the scheme administrators.
- When you first go into the property, check the contents and condition of the property carefully against the inventory (if there is one). If anything is damaged or in poor condition, make sure you notify this to the landlord immediately in writing and keep a copy of the letter. This will help you if you have any dispute regarding the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
- If there are any gas appliances in the property, your landlord must have these inspected by an engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register every year and give you a certificate confirming this, both when you go into the property and annually after that. Make sure he does this. If not, you can complain to your local Health and Safety Executive.
- Your landlord is required by law to keep in proper repair the exterior and structure of the property; the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation; basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary installations; and heating and hot water installations. If this is not done you can complain to either your local environmental heath department or the tenancy relations office at your local authority.
- Once you are in the property, you are entitled to live there without any interference from the landlord. For example he is not entitled to enter the property without your permission.
- It is a criminal offence for your landlord to evict you other than by getting a possession order through the courts or to harass you or do anything likely to make you vacate the property. You may also be entitled to an injunction and/or damages to compensate you if this happens.
- If you have children or are disabled or are vulnerable in some other way, you will be entitled to be re-housed by the local authority if you are evicted by your landlord from your home. Speak to the Homelessness Officer (or equivalent) at your local Authority. However take note that you may lose this right if you move out voluntarily, or if the eviction could have been avoided e.g. if you are evicted for rent arrears when you could have paid the rent.
- When you leave the property, make an appointment with the landlord or his agent to check over the property and its condition. If there is any dispute regarding the repayment of the deposit, for example if you consider your landlord's proposed deductions are unfair and your landlord will not negotiate, contact the scheme administrators of the tenancy deposit scheme used by your landlord and let them know. You are entitled to ask that the dispute be referred to arbitration. Do not delay in dealing with this as there may be a time limit.
Members can read FAQ and articles on all the points covered here.
If you have moved out and discover that your landlord has failed to protect your deposit, click here.