Permission to rent
Check that your landlord has the necessary permission to rent.
You should be careful about scams. Always make sure that anyone claiming to be a landlord or an agent is genuine. Unfortunately there have been many scams – for example when would-be tenants are tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property that in reality does not exist, or has already been rented out, or has been rented to multiple victims at the same time. There are also many cases of people renting out properties that they have no connection with.
Find out more from Action Fraud about rental fraud.
It is against the law for a tenant to rent out a council or housing association flat. Council or housing association tenants who sublet their flat can face up to two years in prison. If you are renting someone else’s council or housing association flat, there is also a very high risk that your landlord will be evicted, leaving you homeless and in many cases unable to recover 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 rather than rents it.
You can check who owns any property you are renting of thinking of renting for just £3 at the Land Registry.
Does your landlord have a licence?
If you live in a shared flat or a shared house – anywhere with three or more unrelated people sharing a bathroom, kitchen or living room – then your landlord must have a licence from the council.
This could be:
- a house split into separate bedsits
- a shared house or flat, where the sharers are not members of the same family
- a hostel or bed-and-breakfast hotel not just for holidays
- shared accommodation for students – although many halls of residence and other types of student accommodation owned by educational establishments are not classed as HMOs.
There are two licensing schemes for shared housing in the borough: the Mandatory HMO Licencing scheme for larger HMOs, and the Additional Licensing scheme for smaller HMOs.
If you live in Spitalfields & Banglatown, Weavers or Whitechapel, your landlord needs to have a licence from the council whether you live in shared housing or not.
Check if you live in the selective licensing areas.
If your landlord should have a licence but does not there are consequences:
- the council could prosecute them – resulting in a criminal conviction and unlimited fine
- the council could fine them up to £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 will also be unable to give you the ordinary section 21 notice – which means your tenancy is much more secure
The Housing Act 2004 requires the council to hold a register of licensed properties in the borough. Check Mandatory and Selective licensing registers.
Licences ensure that landlords meet basic standards, including:
- your home is not managed by someone with certain criminal convictions
- your bedroom is a reasonable size
- your home has fire safety precautions
- you have a written tenancy agreement.
Get further information on landlord licensing.
Check if yout landlord or agent has been convicted of housing offences. For more information on Houses in Multiple Occupation, please see Shelter.
2. Does your landlord have permission from their freeholder?
If you live in a block of flats, your landlord needs permission to let it out from the freeholder.
Almost all flats are owned on a leasehold basis – a kind of very long-term rental agreement. 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.
The freeholder will be responsible for managing the communal areas of the block, 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 find contact details for all housing associations in Tower Hamlets on
Tower Hamlets Homes manage the council’s housing estates.
3. Does your landlord have permission from their lender?
If your landlord is breaking the terms of their mortgage agreement by letting out their property without permission, 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.
Find out who owns the freehold for any property for just £3 at the Land Registry