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Renting a property from a private landlord - tenant's advice


There are more homes available to now rent privately. This gives you more choice and a quicker route into finding a home. If you are thinking about renting from a private landlord, make sure you know what's involved, your rights and responsibilities, and the rights and responsibilities of your landlord.

You may find yourself at risk of being homeless for many reasons. Do not wait until you become homeless tell us you are at risk of becoming homeless.

If you need somewhere to sleep tonight contact us on 08081 968 406 or email housingsolutions@durham.gov.uk.

If your landlord tries to remove you from your home, contact the police on 101.

Tenancy agreement

Your landlord should provide you with a tenancy agreement when you agree to rent their property. This will include:

  • details of the landlord and tenant(s)
  • details of the rental property
  • when the tenancy begins and how long it will last for
  • amount of rent, when it is payable and how often it is reviewed
  • whether property is furnished or unfurnished
  • who will pay for gas, water, electric and council tax
  • any rules relating to such things as pets, decorating etc
  • the amount of deposit and when payable

A tenancy agreement is a legal document. Make sure you read it thoroughly, understand it and are prepared to stick by its terms before you sign it.

Types of tenancy

Tenancies will either be 'fixed term' (assured short-hold) or 'periodic'.

  • fixed term: these normally last for a fixed term six or 12 months, but you may be able to get longer terms
  • periodic: these automatically renew at each rental period and have the same rights as a fixed term tenancy
  • assured: a landlord can only end the tenancy if they have a legal reason or ground for possession
  • joint: these make a group of people jointly responsible for a property. You should think very carefully before signing a joint tenancy as what one tenant does could affect the whole group.

Establishing the property's condition and an inventory of contents

The tenancy agreement should also include an inventory of all contents and their condition as well as the general condition of the decor and maintenance. It's important that you check and agree this when you view the property. It may have an impact on how much deposit you get back when the tenancy comes to an end.

Paying a deposit or bond

Any deposit you give to the landlord must be protected through a tenancy deposit protection scheme. You should receive proof of this within two weeks of providing the deposit. This is to ensure that, should the landlord suffer financial problems, you can still get your deposit back. There is a limit to the amount that can be asked for a new tenancy deposit - five weeks' rent for an annual rent below £50,000 and six weeks' rent for an annual rent of £50,000 or higher.

We provide a Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness so they can access private rental properties. Contact us for more information.

Paying fees

The law says what fees letting agents and landlords are and are not allowed to charge. Allowed fees:

  • rent
  • a refundable tenancy deposit of no more than five weeks' rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks' rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
  • a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) of no more than one week's rent
  • payments associated with ending the tenancy before the agreement, when you ask for it
  • a payment of no more than £50 (or higher if reasonable) for the changing a tenancy
  • payments for utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax
  • a default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key or security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement

No other fees are allowed, and this includes any charge for:

  • initially viewing the property
  • setting up the tenancy or contract
  • leaving the property eg check out fees
  • anything that is done by someone other than the landlord or tenant but that the landlord must pay for

Rent and benefits

Find out how the number of bedrooms you have affects your benefits and Universal Credit - what you need to know.

Responsibilities

Your responsibilities

You might not own your home, but that does not mean you do not have responsibilities. These include:

  • paying your rent on time
  • meeting the terms of the Tenancy Agreement
  • paying the bills you are responsible for on time
  • insuring any furniture or contents that belong to you
  • looking after the property and what is in it
  • reporting damage or the need for repairs as soon as possible
  • allowing reasonable access for repairs and inspection
  • making sure you and your visitors do not harass, annoy or cause a nuisance
  • giving proper notice when you plan to leave

Your landlord's responsibilities

Your landlord must do anything your tenancy agreement says they have to do. They are also generally responsible for keeping things repaired:

  • the structure and exterior of your home eg the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors
  • basins, sinks, baths, toilets and their pipework
  • water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters

Repair responsibilities can not be removed by anything your tenancy agreement says. Your landlord is not allowed to pass on the cost of any repair work to you if it is their responsibility. They only have to make repairs when they know there's a problem - so make sure you tell them about any repairs that are needed.

See also our housing management standards and Who is responsible for repairs on a property owned by a private landlord pages.

Ending your tenancy

Tenancies will either be 'fixed term' (assured short-hold) or 'periodic'.

  • fixed term: you cannot give up your tenancy before the end of the term unless you have a 'break clause' ie you are allowed to give notice earlier. You usually do not need to give notice once the term is up. After your first fixed term, your landlord may offer another fixed term, or a periodic tenancy.
  • periodic: if you do not live with your landlord, four weeks' notice for a weekly tenancy and one month for a monthly tenancy. If your rental period is longer than a month, it will be the length of the rental period. If you live with them, you can agree when to leave if it's not in an agreement.

If you do not follow your tenancy agreement, you may lose your deposit or have to carry on paying rent and bills after you have left.

Do not end your tenancy because your landlord is not doing what they should eg repair work. You have the right to rent a safe home and to be treated fairly.

If you rent your home privately, your landlord must give you notice for you to leave. Illegal eviction is a criminal offence.

Problems with your landlord or letting agent

Your landlord must fulfil their legal obligation to provide you with a safe and secure place to live. If you're in dispute over some aspect of your tenancy, they would be committing an offence if they harass or illegally evict you. You can complain about your landlord if they're doing something wrong or you're unhappy with their behaviour, for example if:

  • they are not doing repairs they're responsible for 
  • they're harassing you, eg by entering your home without your permission
  • they discriminate against you, eg by charging you a higher rent or deposit than other tenants because of your nationality, race, age or sex

It's best to speak to your landlord first to solve your problem.

If you're still having trouble, we may be able to advise or put you in touch with other agencies who can help. Please contact us with the details. All reports will be treated in confidence.

Contact us
Housing Solutions
03000 268 000