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Tenants' rights

This information only applies in England and Wales.

Tenants who rent a privately-owned property have responsibilities to their landlord, but they’re also entitled to several rights. Make sure you know your rights when moving into a new property or entering into a new Tenancy agreement with a landlord.

For the avoidance of doubt, references to ‘tenants’ also apply to ‘contract holders’ unless otherwise specified.

Last updated 15 November 2022.

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As a tenant, you have the right to live in a property that’s safe and secure. This right is upheld by imposing safety obligations on landlords, including obligations to ensure:

  • gas safety. If the property uses gas:

    • all gas equipment supplied at the property must be installed and maintained by a competent engineer who is Gas Safe registered

    • the landlord must carry out gas safety checks every year and must list any defects found and remedial actions taken in the gas safety certificate

    • landlords should keep copies of the gas safety record of each relevant appliance for at least 2 years

    • all tenants must be given an up-to-date copy of a gas safety certificate whenever a safety check is done

  • electrical safety:

    • all electrical appliances (eg cookers, washing machines, and heaters) and equipment must meet safety standards and carry the British Safety Standard sign

    • the landlord is responsible for removing or replacing any faulty items

    • electrical installations must be regularly inspected and tested by a registered electrician, usually at least once every 5 years

  • fire safety

    • furnishings supplied in the property must meet fire safety standards (eg beds and mattresses, sofas, garden furniture, pillows, duvets, etc). The landlord must remove non-compliant items before the tenant moves into the property

    • working smoke alarms must be installed in the property 

      • in Wales: at least one smoke alarm must be installed on every floor of a property, which must be connected to the main electrical supply and linked to the other main smoke alarms in the property (ie to at least one other alarm per floor)

      • in England: at least one smoke alarm must be installed on every floor that is used partially or fully as living accommodation (ie space that’s primarily used for living or which people spend a significant amount of time in)

Tenants have a right to be provided with certain information related to their tenancy. This includes: 

  • an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property

  • a current gas safety certificate if the property uses gas

  • an electrical condition report

  • information about the tenancy deposit scheme being used to protect the tenant’s deposit

  • certain basic information about the landlord (eg their name and address)

  • a copy of the Government's free How to Rent guide, for properties in England

If the tenant is not given these documents, some eviction notices cannot be validly served by the landlord. This includes a Section 21 (Form 6A) notice in England or a Section 173 notice in Wales (ie ‘no fault’ eviction notices).

Tenants have a right to live in a property that is fit for human habitation. This means that the property must be safe, healthy, and free from things that could cause serious harm. For more information, read Fitness for human habitation.

Landlords have an obligation to keep the property in a good state of repair. This includes repairing and keeping in good working condition:

  • the common areas

  • the property’s structure and exterior (eg gutters or drains)

  • sanitary fittings

  • appliances and fittings related to the supply of gas, electricity, and water (eg pipes and wires)

As a tenant, you are entitled to have the complete benefit of the property without being disturbed by the landlord or by anyone else acting on the landlord’s behalf. This means that your landlord must let you live in your home without unnecessary interference.

A breach of the right to quiet enjoyment could include:

  • preventing the tenant from accessing the property

  • damaging the property

  • accessing the premises without the tenant’s permission

Landlords have the right to enter the property to carry out inspections and repairs, but unless it is an emergency, in England they must give the tenant at least 24 hours notice of an inspection, or reasonable notice of repairs, before entering the premises. In Wales, 24 hours’ notice is required in both situations. In England, notice of an inspection must be in writing.

Tenants may have to pay a deposit to the landlord before moving into a property. If the tenancy is an assured tenancy or assured shorthold tenancy (in England) or an occupation contract (in Wales), the landlord must put the deposit in a Government-approved scheme within 30 days from the date it was paid. For more information, read Deposit protection schemes.

Landlords must also provide their tenants with certain required information  about the deposit’s handling. For more information, read Prescribed information for tenancy deposits.

Failure to protect the deposit or to give the prescribed information within 30 days may make the landlord liable for a fine of up to 3 times the amount of the deposit. It also makes some eviction notices (eg a Section 21 (Form 6A) notice for England or a Section 173 notice for Wales) invalid.

When the tenancy ends, tenants must have their deposit returned. This should usually be done within 10 days of reaching an agreement.

If you believe your rights have been violated, you should first contact your landlord to discuss the situation and try to find an amicable way to resolve the issue. However, if you can’t resolve the problem directly with your landlord, specific actions can be taken depending on the type of breach concerned.

If the house isn’t safe

If you think your home is unsafe and your landlord is not respecting their safety obligations, you should contact the housing department at your local council. The housing department will carry out a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment and will be able to take action in the event of serious health and safety hazards.

If repairs aren’t done

If your landlord does not carry out the repairs needed, you should contact the environmental health department of your local council, which will take further action if they think the problems could harm you or cause a nuisance to others.

If the deposit is not protected

Failure to protect a deposit entitles the tenant to make a claim for compensation in court amounting to 1 to 3 times the deposit. This applies to tenants in England and contract holders in Wales. For further information, read Deposit protection schemes.

Breach of quiet enjoyment

In case of breach by the landlord of their quiet enjoyment obligation, tenants may be able to take court action against the landlord and ask for damages, in particular, if there was a quiet enjoyment covenant in the tenancy agreement. However, depending on the level of nuisance caused, it is always better to try to solve the issue amicably or to contact your local council first.

On 1 December 2022, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and associated laws, including The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022, overhauled rented residential property regulation in Wales. For converted occupation contracts (ie tenancies that existed before 1 December 2022), landlords have 12 months (ie until 1 December 2023) to make sure that they comply with some of the new obligations, including: 

  • the requirement to provide an electrical condition report

  • the new laws on smoke alarms (until 1 December 2023 they only need to be compliant with the previously applicable standards, ie those stated for England above)

For more information on precise transitional provisions, read the Welsh Government’s guidance or Ask a lawyer for advice.   

Ask a lawyer for more information about your rights as a tenant or if you think your rights have been infringed upon and you’re not sure what to do.

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