Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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Useful guide for tenants

private tenants

You may find information available on this page useful if you are considering renting a property direct from a private landlord.

 

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

The new Act was introduced on 20th March 2019 and amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that any property let by a landlord (private or social) is fit for human habitation when a tenancy is granted and remains so for its duration. More information can be found at Guidance for Tenants.

 

Finding a property you can afford

Before searching for a property, it is important to be realistic about what you can afford. Remember that rent is not the only cost - travel costs, utility bills, council tax, insurance and TV/phone bills should all be considered. Are there transport links or shops nearby? You may find this Budget Ready Reckoner a useful way of calculating what you can afford to pay in rent.

If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for Local Housing Allowance (a new way of calculating Housing benefit) to help with the rent.

Find out more about Local Housing Allowance to see if you qualify for help with rent.

 

Finding rented accommodation from a private landlord

Many people rent direct from private landlords through adverts on the internet, in newsagents and local papers. If you choose this method, make a viewing appointment, take a copy of this guidance with you and take a friend (or tell friends where you are) – and don’t forget ask questions and make notes.

Local councils also work closely with private landlords, through accreditation schemes, to help them manage their properties well.

High street letting and managing agents also provide accommodation. Before using an agent, check if they are members of organisations that provide independent redress schemes (listed below) if a dispute arises.

  • To find out if a landlord has received accreditation from Stockton Council telephone our Private Sector Housing Team on 01642 527797.

 

References

Most landlords will ask you for a character reference from an employer, education college, bank and/or other responsible person. They may also want a copy of your wage slip. Be honest when giving information as debt history can be traced and your application rejected.

 

Tenancy Agreements

Having a signed tenancy agreement, stating terms and conditions of rental, will make it easier to deal with any disputes. Read the agreement thoroughly before signing (seek advice if you wish), and ensure you keep a copy in a safe place. Assured short hold tenancies are the most common type.

 

Deposits and rent in advance

Remember you may be asked for a deposit and a month’s rent in advance. If you have difficulties, local private sector access schemes may help you to secure accommodation.

Your landlord is required by law to protect your deposit under one of the following government approved protection schemes, introduced to stop unfair withholding of deposits.

They are:

If a landlord does not follow the rules they can be ordered by the Courts to compensate you with three times your original deposit, plus the deposit itself.

To avoid disputes at the end of your tenancy, ask for a room by room inventory check of the property, with photographs and agree this with your landlord before moving in.

For further advice contact the Council's Private Sector Housing team on 01642 527797.

 

Save money on your fuel bills

If you rent a whole house or flat, your landlord must show you an Energy Performance Certificate before you move in.

With all properties now rated from A to G, finding a more energy efficient property could help save you money on your fuel bills.

If you do not have an Energy Performance Certicate for your home or a property you are considering to rent, you can search for the Energy Performance Certificate with your property postcode.

 

Does the property need a licence?

If the property accommodates five or more people who are not related, the landlord must obtain a licence from the local council.

If the landlord fails to get a licence they can be taken to court and, on conviction, fined up to £20,000.

 

Check that gas appliances are safe

Carbon monoxide leaks, from faulty gas appliances, can kill. Your landlord must show you a valid Gas Safety Certificate before you move in.

He/she must have an annual check of all appliances in the house, from a registered Gas Engineer.

All gas engineers must be registered with the Gas Safe Register which has replaced Corgi.

Any repairs should be done before you move in. If these are delayed without explanation after you have moved in, contact the council.

Contact the Council's Private Sector Housing team on 01642 527797 to report a gas appliance that has not been checked and/or repaired.

 

Ensure the property is free from hazards

Avoid problems by visually checking that the properties you view are in reasonable condition before agreeing to rent.

Ask the landlord what fire precautions have been provided. Apart from gas, electrical and fire safety you should be able to move around your home safely. Staircases must be well lit with a firm handrail, it should not have gaps small children can slip through and floors must be level to avoid trips or falls.

Check that there are enough bolts and locks on doors and windows for security. Find out who holds the keys to the property and whether anyone else will have a key to your room.

Ensure the kitchen has sufficient storage, preparation and cooking space.

 

Ask for advice when you need it

Recent laws have introduced better protection from bad housing and most people find good landlords. However, a few will have bad experiences and need expert advice.

Contact the Council's Private Sector Housing team on 01642 527797 for advice and information about renting a home from a private landlord.

Visit the Shelter website for further housing advice.