Permission to rent
Check that your landlord has the necessary permission to rent.
You should be very 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.
If you live in Spitalfields & Banglatown, Weavers or Whitechapel, your landlord needs to have a licence from the council.
Check if you live in the selective licensing areas
If you live in these areas but your landlord does not have a licence, the council could prosecute them or fine them. You may also be able to 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.
Check if your landlord has a licence
Get more information on selective licensing.
If you live in a three storey House in Multiple Occupation, your landlord must have a HMO licence from the council.
Your landlord must get a licence from the council if you are renting in a HMO that:
- is at least 3 storeys high (including a 2 storey flat over a shop or pub)
- has 5 or more unrelated people live in it
- has 2 or more separate households living there
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 HMO has 3 storeys (including the basement), there are 5 households and 5 unrelated people living in it.
Tom’s landlord does need a HMO licence. The HMO 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.
If you live in a HMO that needs a licence but your landlord does not have one, the council could prosecute them or fine them. You may also be able to 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.
For more information, please visit the Shelter website.
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 our website
Tower Hamlets Homes manage the council’s housing estates. You can also check who owns the freehold for any property for just £3 at the Land Registry.
If your landlord has a mortgage, the mortgage provider must know that they are renting.
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.
If you would like help or advice in relation to any of this, get advice from one of the agencies signed up to the Tower Hamlets Private Renters’ Charter: we all promise to find the best way to improve your situation - and the most effective action to take against landlords or agents who break the rules.