Private tenants

Rights and responsibilities of the tenantrow of small houses

Tenants have a right to:

  • live in a habitable property;
  • quietly enjoy their tenancy without undue interference from anyone;
  • know their landlord's identity with an address for service of notices;
  • expect professional management.

Tenants are expected to:

  • look after the property and not to cause any damage (fair wear and tear excepted);
  • report all repairs to the landlord and nominated agent;
  • pay rent on time;
  • live as a member of the local community and not to cause any nuisance or harassment to neighbours or take part in any anti-social activity.

Finding a property

A good place to start is to look in the local newspaper or shop windows for adverts. Ask friends and family if they know of any private landlords or properties.

You could sign up with a letting agent. Make sure you can afford the letting agent's fees if you choose this method.

Checklist for starting your tenancy

  • Check the property for disrepair and signs of dampness.
  • Ask to see the Energy Performance Certificate, which provides details regarding the energy efficiency of the property.
  • Ask for a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate, showing all appliances have been tested within the last 12 months by a Gas Safe Register engineer and are safe.
  • You should inspect the property and check the condition of any furniture / furnishings provided. Ideally your landlord and you both should check and sign an inventory.
  • If it is a furnished letting then the furniture provided by the landlord must comply with current fire safety regulations. Sofas, mattresses etc. should have a label indicating they comply. West Yorkshire Trading Standards Office will provide further advice should you need it.
  • Ask the landlord or agent to provide you with written instructions or show you how to operate the heating system, washing machine, burglar alarm, etc.
  • Check that smoke detectors and fire alarm systems are working.
  • Check that you have enough keys for the doors and window locks.
  • If necessary seek advice before signing the tenancy agreement.

Repairs and maintenance

If any repairs need doing get an agreement in writing with time scales for completion of these repairs.

You will need your landlord's permission to decorate any rooms, put up shelves, or make any other alterations. If permission is given, get it confirmed in writing.

Ask to see a periodic inspection certificate for the electrics. Electrics should be checked every five years.

For further information about housing standards, see Repair and maintenance of houses .

Bills and insurance

  • You are likely to be responsible for telephone, gas, electricity, council tax and possibly water charges from the start date of the tenancy. If you are responsible, check the meter readings and contact the service providers to register and get services connected to your name.
  • In shared homes, all occupants are jointly liable for the bills. If you decide to change supplier, you should obtain permission from your landlord and provide him with details.
  • You will need a TV licence to cover your property. A shared house requires one licence, bedsits a licence each. You may be liable to a fine of up to £1,000 if you do not not have a licence. Phone the 08705 246246 hotline to transfer an existing license to your new home.
  • Normally, as a tenant, you do not pay for building or any other risks insurance but it it is advisable to cover your own contents and possessions with a contents insurance policy.

Your tenancy

The tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract setting out the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenants. As a general rule most new tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies. couple with house keysTenants who moved in before February 1997 may have greater security of tenure. If you are unsure about the status of your tenancy you should seek further advice.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy

There is no minimum or maximum term (most landlords offer a fixed term of minimum six months but a landlord may offer a much longer period).

It is good practice for your landlord to give a written tenancy agreement to be signed by all parties at the start of the tenancy. If this is not given you can ask for a statement of the terms of the tenancy which must include the following:

  • Tenancy commencement date
  • How much rent is payable
  • Rent due date
  • Rent review date
  • Length of tenancy.

Notice seeking possession

Can my landlord simply tell me to move out?

No, your landlord must serve you a legally valid notice in writing. The type of notice and time scale depend on why they are asking you to move out. You do not have to leave the property until the landlord has got a court order to evict you, otherwise they may be evicting you illegally.

If you receive anything from your landlord, for further advice contact:

  • Username Housing Options Service
  • Email doorways@calderdale.gov.uk
  • Telephone 01422 392460
  • Address
    Customer First
    19 Horton Street
    Halifax
    HX1 1QE

Joint tenancies

If you sign a joint tenancy agreement then you will have joint and several liabilities for the rent and other charges. If one tenant leaves the tenancy then the remaining joint tenants will become liable for that tenant's share of the rent.

Rents

Once the rent has been agreed between you and your landlord it cannot be increased during the fixed term unless there is a provision in the agreement. Assured Shorthold Tenants have the right to apply to the Rent Assessment Committee but only during the first six months of the tenancy.

Rent book

If you pay your rent weekly you are entitled to a rent book. You could always get a receipt for any monies paid to the landlord or agent.

Local housing allowance and Council tax benefit

Local housing allowance and Council tax benefit are means tested benefits to help people on low incomes pay their rent and Council Tax.

To find out if you are eligible to claim, how to claim and current rates, contact Revenues and Benefits Service on 01422 288003.

Deposits and bonds

Many landlords require payment of a bond or deposit. The amount charged by landlords varies but it is often equivalent to one months' rent. All bonds paid after 6 April 2007 must be paid in to a Government authorised tenancy deposit protection scheme. The landlord must put the bond in one of the schemes within 30 days of receiving it. The aim of the scheme is to protect a tenant's money and to ensure that any money deducted at the end of the year is done fairly.

If your landlord does not use one of these schemes to protect your bond, you can ask the County Court to order your landlord to do so. The County Court may also order the landlord to pay three times the bond back to you in way of compensation and punishment.

Protection from harassment

Under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 harassment and eviction of tenants without following the proper process is a criminal offence. The act makes it an offence for the landlord or their agent to:

  • act so that they are likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of the tenant;
  • withdraw necessary services from people living in the accommodation (necessary services include water, gas and electricity, or lifts in a block of flats);
  • act in a way that they know or have reasonable cause to believe that these actions are likely to cause the tenant to leave their home or refrain from exercising their rights.

Moving out

Can I give notice to my landlord?

Generally you cannot give notice to quit the tenancy before the end of the fixed term unless there is a clause in the agreement allowing you to do so, or your landlord agrees to you breaking the agreement. You can give one months' notice to expire at the end of the fixed term. Once the fixed term expires and no new fixed term has been agreed you can give one months' notice.

What should I do if I want to move out?

  • give your landlord your notice if necessary;
  • check and sign the inventory with your landlord;
  • contact your electricity and gas suppliers to get the services disconnected;
  • if you claim benefits you must notify them of your change in circumstances;
  • clean the property;
  • contact the landlord to hand back the keys;
  • reclaim your deposit once your landlord is satisfied that the bills have been paid and no damage has been done to the property.
Either the landlord, agent or tenant should inform the Council when tenants move into or leave a property. A tenant can inform the Council by completing the online form: Report a change of address .

For further information and advice on private renting, contact:

  • Username Housing Options Service
  • Email doorways@calderdale.gov.uk
  • Telephone 01422 392460
  • Address
    Customer First
    19 Horton Street
    Halifax
    HX1 1QE