Questions that a tenant may ask about rights and responsibilities when renting privately.
Who is responsible for repairs?
Landlords have a legal obligation to repair and maintain the property while it is being rented and ensure that it is fit to live in. Generally your landlord will be responsible for maintaining and repairing the structure and exterior of the property, making sure that hot water installations and the water supply are working and that the installations to provide gas and electricity to the property are safe and working.
Tenants usually have responsibility for minor repairs, decoration and furnishings and maintaining the garden areas. To learn more about this area of the law, please visit our repairs page.
Who is responsible for decoration and carpets?
This should be defined in the tenancy agreement for the property. The Council does not have the legal power to intervene in a dispute about decoration and / or carpets, as we can only deal with matters where there is a risk to health and safety. To learn more about tenancy agreements and what to do if there is a dispute, please visit our tenancy page.
What is a gas safety certificate and should I have one?
Your landlord is legally required to have all gas appliances in the property (including gas boilers, gas wall heaters, gas fires, gas cookers etc) checked for safety by a Gas Safe registered contractor once every 12 months. Your landlord should give you a copy of the certificate either when you move into the rented property or within 28 days of a new check being carried out.
If your landlord has not provided you with a copy then request one from him or her. If your landlord does not provide you with a copy on request then you should contact the Health and Safety Executive who enforce gas safety laws.
What is an electrical safety certificate and should I have one?
There have been recent legal changes meaning that most landlords (those granting assured shorthold tenancies) will need to have the electrical wiring at their property inspected by a competent electrician. Please visit our electrical safety page to find out more.
Does my landlord have to provide smoke alarms?
Yes. Your landlord must provide a smoke alarm on each level of your property where there is a habitable room. The requirements in HMO properties are likely to be more extensive. Please visit our fire safety page to find out more about what your landlord needs to do to keep you safe from fire.
Does my landlord have to provide a Carbon Monoxide alarm?
Not always. If your property has a solid fuel burning appliance, your landlord must fit a carbon monoxide alarm. Otherwise there is no requirement, but your landlord must fulfill their gas safety obligations (see above) to keep you safe from the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.
What is an energy performance certificate (EPC) and should I have one?
For most private tenancies, you should be provided with an EPC. This is a report which details how easy your home is to heat and estimates how much you should expect to spend on energy. If you haven't been given one, your landlord may not be able to use a Section 21 eviction notice to end your tenancy. Please see the advice on EPC from GOV.UK and tenancy management page to find out more.
My landlord has a key to my property. Is he/she allowed to enter my home?
No. Your landlord should only enter your home with prior permission from you. Some landlords like to keep a key in case the tenant loses their key or the property is abandoned, but he/she should not use it to enter when you are living there. If your landlord repeatedly enters your home without your permission, it could be classed as harassment which can be a criminal offence. To find out more regarding this, please visit our harassment and illegal evictions page.
Under certain circumstances, such as fire or flood, or if you have left the property unlocked, then the landlord is allowed to enter without permission in the interests of protecting their property.
Do I have to let my landlord or agent into my home?
Landlords do have a right of entry in law through the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) which allows them entry at any reasonable time provided they have given you notice. However, this right does not give the landlord permission to enter against your will and not by using force. We recommend co-operating with your landlord if they are making reasonable requests to enter your property for maintenance and given you notice, for example to carry out repairs or inspections. Failure to allow your landlord entry for reasonable requests could be a breach of your tenancy and your landlord could evict you.
If you have told your landlord that they cannot come in and they force entry regardless, please contact the police by calling 999. If it is a non-emergency contact the police by calling 101.
If your landlord repeatedly enters your home without your permission, it could be classed as harassment which can be a criminal offence. To find out more regarding this, please visit our harassment and illegal evictions page.
Should I be given a tenancy agreement?
There is no legal obligation for your landlord to provide you with a tenancy agreement unless you live in a licensed property (HMO or selective licensing ).
However, it is good practice and in the interest of both parties for the landlord to provide a written tenancy agreement. By law if the tenant requests one the landlord must provide at the minimum a written statement showing some basic details such as the start date of the tenancy and the rent.
Note that housing benefit will not process a claim without a written agreement. Remember a tenancy agreement is a legally binding agreement and by signing it, a tenant is agreeing to the terms set out (so long as the terms are not deemed to be unfair). To learn more about tenancy agreements, please visit our pages concerning tenancy management.
Can my landlord evict me if I make a complaint?
There is no law to stop a landlord seeking to repossess in response to a complaint, but he/she would still have to give you two months written notice (a section 21 notice) or have legal grounds for evicting you such as non payment of rent (a section 8 notice). Assured shorthold tenants can be evicted under Section 21 at any point after the secure period of the tenancy has expired (usually 6 or 12 months) and the landlord does not need to provide a reason (this is sometimes called a "no fault eviction"). Section 21 is currently under review by the Government and could be changed. To find out more on eviction processes please visit our tenancy management page.
If the Council team are involved in your complaint and have served certain types of legal notices, your landlord may be unable to use a Section 21 notice. You can learn more about this by going to our retaliatory eviction page.
Does my landlord have to give me rent book?
Yes, if you pay your rent on a weekly basis. No, if you pay monthly. However, it is always a good idea to get a receipt each time you pay your rent and keep these in a safe place. We strongly recommend using electronic payments for your rent so there is a record of payments made and received. This can make disputes about rent easier to resolve.
My landlord is not doing repairs. Can I stop paying the rent?
We would never recommend that you stop paying your rent. This is because your landlord could use this as a reason to evict you from the property.
If your landlord will not do repairs then write to your landlord advising him of the repairs needed. If this does not resolve the problems or the repairs are of an urgent nature and arrangements are not made to carry out the works, contact us. We can enforce that your landlord carries out any necessary works to bring the property up to a good standard. Please visit our repairs page.
I want a council house. How do I get one?
Depending on your circumstances you may qualify for social housing via the Housing Register. However, please bear in mind there can be long waiting times before you are even invited for a viewing. For example, in the last year, the average time a Band 3 family had to wait before moving into
a 2 bed home was 7 years. You can register and bid for social housing. Use our Housing Options Finder tool for more ideas and practical advice on solving your housing problem.
Can my landlord increase the rent?
Rent increases are only lawful after the initial fixed term contract period has expired or where there is a clause within your tenancy agreement allowing for rent increases. Sometimes, a landlord or agent will increase the rent after you complain to them about conditions in your home. Or, they may carry out repairs, and then increase the rent. Or a landlord or agent may not do the repairs but increase the rent in order to force you to move out. A landlord will usually need to serve notice of a rent increase under Section 13 of the Housing Act 1988. Citizens Advice have information on how to challenge a rent increase.
I'm in rent arrears. What should I do?
The most important thing is not to ignore this. Speak to your landlord or letting agency and ask to meet with them in person. See if you can come to some arrangement about paying back the arrears based on what you can afford. Please visit our tenancy management page and help with paying your rent page for more details on what to do.
I've been made homeless / I am at risk of being made homeless. What should I do?
The Council has a duty to provide all residents in Tower Hamlets with information and advice and support if they are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless. The Council will work with you to either prevent you from becoming homeless or to support you to find alternate accommodation if you have been made homeless. Please see our homeless page for more details.