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Permission to rent

Check that your landlord has the necessary permission to rent. 


Warning

You should be very careful about scams.  Always make sure that anyone claiming to be a landlord or an agent is genuine.   Many fraudsters pretend to be a landlord or an agent so that they can take money from people looking for a home.  For example, would-be tenants are often tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property that in reality does not exist, or has already been rented out.  There are  many cases where fraudsters rent out properties that are not theirs to rent.   

 

Permission requirements

If you live on an estate or in a flat that used to be a council or a housing association flat

Many council and housing association flats have been bought by private landlords.  If you are renting one of these flats, your landlord should get permission from the council or the housing association before they let it out. 

However, It is against the law for a council or housing association tenant  to let their flat out to other people.  . Any council or housing association tenant doing this is very likely to be evicted and can also be sent to prison for up to two years. 

If you are renting someone else’s council or housing association flat and they are evicted, you could find yourself homeless and, in many cases, unable to recover the rent you have paid.

If you are renting on an estate or in a former council or housing association flat, please confirm that your landlord owns the property. You can check who owns any property you are renting of thinking of renting for just £3 at the Land Registry.

You can find contact details for housing associations in Tower Hamlets here

If you live in Spitalfields & Banglatown, Weavers or Whitechapel 

If you rent in Spitalfields & Banglatown, Weavers or Whitechapel  your landlord must have a licence from the council.  The council can also take away a licence from your landlord if they do not keep your home in a decent condition.  If your landlord does not have a licence, or if they are not keeping to the terms of their licence, there are serious consequences:

Check here whether your landlord needs a licence, and get more information on selective licensing.

If you live in a three storey house in multiple occupation (HMO)

Your landlord must have a licence from the council if you are renting a room in a house that has at least 3 floors  (including a 2 storey flat over a shop or pub) and has 5 or more people live in it who are not related to each other

When deciding whether to issue or renew a licence, the council checks that:

  • the property meets an acceptable standard. For example, it looks at whether the property is large enough for the occupants and if it is well managed 
  • the landlord is a 'fit and proper' person

If your landlord does not have a HMO licence, or if they are not keeping to the terms of their licence, there are serious consequences:

  • The council could prosecute your landlord or fine them £30,000. 
  • You could apply for up to one year’s rent to be returned to you by the landlord through a Rent Repayment Order. 
  • Your  landlord is not allowed to give you notice to leave in the normal way - check here for details.   

Examples

  • Abul rents a room in a house with 3 floors.  There are 4 bedrooms including Abul’s, and each one is rented by a single person. 
  • Abul’s landlord does not need a HMO licence. The HMO has 3 floors and there are 4 separate households – but there are not 5 or more people living in it.
  • Philmore rents a room in a 2 floor flat over a shop. There are three bedsit rooms in total.   Philmore rents one room, and the other two rooms are each rented by a couple.
  • Philmore’s landlord does need a HMO licence.  The HMO has 3 floors (including the shop), there are 3 separate households, and there are 5 people in total living in it. 
  • Tom and 4 friends have a joint tenancy on a house.  Tom’s bedroom is in the basement.  On the ground floor, the living room is used as a bedroom.  The other 3 have the bedrooms on the first floor. 
  • Tom’s landlord does need a HMO licence.  The house has 3 storeys (including the basement), there are 5 households and 5 unrelated people living in it.

For more information, please visit the licensing of multiple occupation page.

HMO landlords also have additional responsibilities in comparison to other landlords. For more information and to check your rights, please visit the Shelter website.

If you believe that your landlord doesn’t have the license they need, you can contact the council’s Landlord Licensing team on  020 7364 5008 or by email at housinglicensing@towerhamlets.gov.uk

If you live in a block of flats

Almost all flats are bought on a leasehold basis – a kind of very long-term rental agreement.  While the leaseholder owns the flat, the freeholder owns the block itself. 

Leaseholders must have permission from the freeholder to rent out their flats.  If your landlord does not have permission from the freeholder, they will almost certainly have broken the contract terms of their lease.  This would mean that the freeholder could take legal action to repossess the flat from the leaseholder. If this happens, you could find that you have nowhere to live at very short notice. 

The freeholder will be responsible for managing the communal areas of the block, such as stairwells, and in some cases for managing the estate itself. 

In many cases, freeholders are housing associations or the council’s housing management organisation Tower Hamlets Homes – for example if you are renting an ex-council flat.

If you live in a housing association on council estate, there will be signs on the blocks indicating who the main landlord is. 

You can check who owns the freehold for any property for just £3 at the Land Registry. You can also find contact details for all housing associations in Tower Hamlets on our website  

Tower Hamlets Homes manage the council’s housing estates

If your landlord has a mortgage on the property

If your landlord has a mortgage, they most let their mortgage provide know that they are renting in out, as this can be against the terms of their agreement. If they are breaking the terms, they may be at risk of having it repossessed by the mortgage lender. This could make your own tenancy less secure. 

You can check who owns any property and who is their mortgage provider for just £3 at the Land Registry.

Take action

If you believe that your landlord doesn’t have the license they need, you can contact the council’s Landlord Licensing team on 020 7364 5008 or by email at housinglicensing@towerhamlets.gov.uk


 All of the agencies signed up to the Tower Hamlets Private Renters’ Charter promise to find the best way to improve your situation and the most effective action to take against landlords who break the rules.