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How your rights and responsibilities as a tenant could cost you money

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

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If you rent your home, sometimes there can be a bit of grey area around your rights and responsibilities and your landlord’s – especially when it comes to who pays for what.

In this blog, we run through the ins and outs, to help you avoid ending up out of pocket.

The information here applies to people who rent their homes from a private landlord, usually with an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. This is the most common tenancy if you rent privately. Different rules may apply if you rent your home through a housing association, your local council, or under a different type of tenancy agreement.

Your rights as a tenant

As a tenant, you have the right to:

  • live in a home that’s safe and in good condition
  • get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy (and in most cases have it protected, too)
  • know who your landlord is, even if you deal with a letting agent day-to-day
  • live in the property undisturbed
  • see the property’s energy performance certificate (EPC)
  • challenge excessively high charges
  • be protected from being unfairly evicted, or charged unfair rent
  • have a written tenancy agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy of more than 3 years

In exchange, you will have some responsibilities to meet. These are to:

  • give your landlord access to the property to inspect it or carry out repairs
  • take good care of the property
  • pay the agreed rent, even if you’re disputing something with your landlord
  • pay other charges as agreed with your landlord, such as Council Tax or utility bills
  • arrange and pay for repairs for any damage caused by you, your family and your friends
  • only sublet a property, or a room in it, if this is allowed under your tenancy agreement or if your landlord gives you permission

Not all of your rights and responsibilities will affect you financially – or at least not directly. So, let’s take a look at some of the ones that could, so you know where you stand and can make the best choices to protect your money when you need to.

Paying referencing and other fees

You might think that if you’re asked to pay fees before you sign a tenancy agreement, then you don’t have a leg to stand on to challenge it if you think they’re expensive. After all, you’re technically not the tenant yet.

But, there is a piece of legislation - The Tenant Fees Act – which protects you from hidden costs and excessively high charges, even before you’ve signed on the dotted line.

The Tenant Fees Act came into force on 1st June 2019 and bans most fees that landlords and letting agents could charge tenants. Now, the only payments they can charge you are:

  • rent
  • a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than 5 weeks’ rent (or 6 weeks’ rent if the total you’ll pay in rent annually is £50,000 or more)
  • a refundable holding deposit or property reservation fee capped at no more than 1 week's rent
  • payments associated with the early termination of the tenancy, as and when requested by the tenant
  • admin fees capped at £50 for the creation of a tenancy agreement, or to make any changes required to it later
  • payments for utilities (including broadband and phone), Council Tax and TV licence
  • a default fee should you miss rent payments, or pay late
  • fees for the replacement of lost keys or security fobs that you need to gain entry to the property

If you’re asked to pay more for any of these things, or for something that isn’t on this list, then you can challenge the fees. If the fees are being charged by a letting or estate agent, you can also complain using this procedure.

Your home’s energy efficiency

As a tenant, you have the right to see a copy of a property’s energy performance certificate, or EPC. Landlords must provide tenants with an EPC by law – if they don’t, they can be fined. If you live in a rented property and haven’t seen your home’s EPC, you can request it from your landlord at any time. Or, you can look up your address on the government's website.

EPC ratings go from A to G, with A being the best. As well as the rating, the certificate will show you the property’s estimated gas and electricity costs, and any recommendations on how to make the property more energy efficient.

Seeing a property’s EPC could be extremely useful when deciding whether to rent a property or not. It can also be helpful to have during negotiations if your landlord wants to increase your rent. If a property has a low energy efficiency rating, then you may be able to negotiate a discount on the rent, or avoid any increases, until the landlord has completed work to improve the property’s energy performance rating and had it reassessed.

If a property is rated F or G, then legally, your landlord cannot rent it to new tenants until the EPC has been improved. From 2025, the property you’re hoping to rent must have a minimum EPC rating of C. So, if you live in or are looking at a property that’s relatively inefficient, you could use this as a bargaining chip when negotiating your rent!

Paying for repairs to your home

Who pays for repairs to a home you rent depends on what repairs are needed and why.

As a rule, it’s your landlord’s responsibility to organise and pay for any major repairs needed to the structure of the property or to fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by them. This is part of your right to live in a home that’s safe and kept in good condition. Repairs your landlord is responsible for could include:

  • repairing or replacing a garden fence that blows down in a storm
  • organising an engineer to fix a boiler that’s developed a gas leak
  • replacing an appliance they’ve provided, like a washing machine
  • fixing damage caused during a break-in

Meanwhile, you’ll cover any minor repairs that are part and parcel of living in a property, like changing lightbulbs. You’re also responsible for paying to repair any damage caused by you, or someone visiting you. If a visitor of yours damages your home, you may be able to get the money back from them, but ultimately, it’s your responsibility to pay.

Before you stump up for any repairs, it’s worth checking whether this is something your landlord should be covering. If you’re not sure, or if your landlord is reluctant to pay, then you can speak to Citizen’s Advice for guidance.

When you report an issue to your landlord, then your right to live in a home that’s safe and in good condition kicks in, and means that the repair work should be completed in a timely manner. What is considered timely depends on how urgently the repair needs doing – a broken boiler in the middle of winter needs fixing sooner than a tap that keeps dripping!

However, when repairs need doing, your responsibility to grant your landlord access to your property as needed kicks in, too.

Unless it’s an emergency, your landlord should give you at least 24 hours’ notice before they or a professional repairperson come round, and they should visit at a reasonable time of day. This is part of your right to live in your property undisturbed.

If your landlord or their appointed repairperson arrives unannounced, then you’re within your rights to turn them away. This may not always be in your best interests, though, especially if sending them away could delay the completion of repairs. So, wield this right wisely!

Getting your deposit back at the end of your tenancy

When it comes to deposits, a couple of your rights as a tenant come into play. These are:

  • your right to get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy
  • your right to challenge excessively high charges

Let’s look at how each of these play out.

Your right to get your deposit back

Under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, your landlord must place your deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme by law. These schemes are designed to make sure that as long as you’ve met the terms of your tenancy agreement, you’ll get your deposit back when it ends. This usually means you must have paid your rent and bills throughout your tenancy, and have taken good care of the property, too.

If you haven’t met all the terms of your tenancy agreement, then your landlord may deduct money from your deposit to cover their costs. This is where your right to challenge excessively high charges could apply if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly.

Challenging deductions from your deposit

If your landlord wants to deduct money from your deposit and you feel that it’s unjustified or excessive, then you can challenge them. One way to do this is by using your tenancy deposit scheme’s free dispute resolution service. If you want to go down this route, then your landlord will need to agree to use the dispute service, too.

If you raise a dispute, then you’ll both be asked to provide evidence to make your case. For example, if your landlord wanted to deduct money from your deposit to repair damage that was already in the property before you moved in, then you could challenge them. You’d need to provide proof that the damage wasn’t caused by you, such as inventory documents provided when you moved in, or copies of emails sent between you advising the landlord of the damage.

If you raise a dispute through your tenancy deposit scheme, then their decision on how much of your deposit you’ll get back will be final.

Renting with pets? Find out how new legislation could make it easier for you to find a new, pet-friendly home!

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

Happy family in new home sitting together on the floor Happy family in new home sitting together on the floor