Help for private tenants

To let sign on a property

For Coronavirus information including the current restrictions, any disruptions to Council services, how to book a COVID-19 test and the support available for residents and businesses visit www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus

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

 

Safety in rented property

Your landlord must keep the property that you live in safe and free from health hazards. The How to rent a safe home guide contains some useful information on what you can expect when renting a safe home and information about important landlord responsibilities such as gas safety, electrical safety, fire safety and carbon monoxide alarms.

 

Reporting a repair to a landlord

Sorting out repairs is one of the most common problems in privately rented homes. You should know which repairs you are responsible for, which repairs your landlord must do, and how to report problems.

Your landlord is legally responsible for repairs to the structure of the building: the roof, windows, doors, drains, gutters, baths, sinks, toilets, heating, hot water, damp and general building repairs.

They must also repair damage that was caused by someone with no connection to you - for example during a break-in or vandalism.

 

Reporting repairs

When a repair needs doing, tell the landlord in writing as soon as possible. You can use the template letter on the Shelter website.

If it's an emergency (such as a burst pipe), phone them.

You have to give the landlord a reasonable time to do the repair. If the repair isn't done in a reasonable time, even after reminding the landlord, do not stop paying your rent.

 

Landlord's visit

Your landlord has the right to come into your home to check what needs repairing - but they must give you at least 24 hours notice, and must come at an agreed time (although you'll obviously want them to come as quickly as possible if it's an emergency).

The property you rent must meet certain health and safety standards by law. If your landlord doesn't meet these standards they are risking your safety. The landlord is committing an offence and could have legal action taken against them.

If the landlord does not carry out a repair you have reported, speak to the Council’s Private Sector Housing team on 01642 527797 to investigate reports of disrepair

 

Does the property need a licence?

If the property accommodates five or more people who are not related and share bathrooms, toilets or cooking facilities, 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, face an unlimited fine or the issue of a Civil Penalty by the Council of up to £30,000.

 

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.

 

Harassment and illegal eviction

Some private landlords put pressure on their tenants to get them to leave their home.

As a private tenant, you have legal rights which mean that you cannot be forced out of your home. If the landlord wants to legally evict you, they will need to follow the correct legal procedure appropriate to the type of tenancy you have. Your landlord will initially need to give you written notice to leave your tenancy.

Harassment can include anything done by a landlord, their agent or any other person acting on the owner's behalf. Illegal or unlawful eviction is when a landlord, their agent or any other person acting on the owner's behalf unlawfully deprives you of all or part of your home

Examples of harassment or illegal eviction may include:

  • Threats, abuse or actual violence.
  • Threatening you if you refuse to leave the property.
  • Physically throwing you out.
  • Cutting off or interfering with services (gas, water or electricity supply).
  • Entering your home without your permission.
  • Changing the locks.
  • Removing your belongings.
  • Constant telephone calls and/or text messages.

If you are being harassed by your landlord, or someone acting on their behalf or if your landlord has asked you to leave, you should contact the Homelessness and Housing Solutions Team to seek advice before you leave the property.

 

Can the landlord end the tenancy by refusing to accept the rent?

The landlords refusal to accept the rent does not bring the tenancy to an end. If the landlord does this, you should continue to offer to pay the rent, put the money in a safe place and seek advice.

Contact the Homelessness and Housing Solutions Team if you are worried that your landlord is attempting to end the tenancy against your wishes.

 

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. Find out more 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 some 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.

 

Ensure the property is free from hazards

Make sure you visually check that the properties you view are in reasonable condition before agreeing to rent.

You should be able to move around your home safely. Ensure the kitchen has sufficient storage, preparation and cooking space.

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.

 

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.

The Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme protects tenants that paid a deposit for an assured short hold tenancy after 2007. This mandatory scheme improves tenants' rights and ensures that their deposits are not unfairly withheld.

Within 14 days of the tenancy starting, the landlord must protect the deposit through one of three Government sponsored schemes. There will be heavy penalties for landlords who fail to safeguard their tenants' deposits. Landlords also lose the right to obtain automatic possession of the property under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

Visit the GOV.uk website or Shelter website for more information on the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme.

 

Help with paying your rent 

If you cannot pay your rent, you have missed rent payments or you are worried that you won't be able to make your rent payments, sort things out as soon as you can. Even if you have other debts, make sure you give your rent arrears priority as you could face eviction if you do not pay.

If you are worried about rent arrears and have not claimed Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit paid to tenants in private rented accommodation), or the Housing Costs Elements of Universal Credityou may be able to get help. Make sure you tell your landlord if you are waiting to hear about the outcome of a claim.

Direct Payments

Local Housing Allowance and the Housing Costs Element of Universal Credit are usually paid to you but if you have difficulty managing your money we may be able to make arrangements to pay any Local Housing Allowance direct to your landlord. If you are receiving the Housing Element of Universal Credit you need to contact Universal Credit on 0800 328 5644. Alternatively, please visit the GOV.uk website.

 

Save money on your fuel bills

If you rent a whole house or flat, your landlord must show you an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before you move in. If the landlord does not have an Energy Performance Certificate for or a property you are considering to rent, you can search for the Energy Performance Certificate with your property postcode.

Since 1 April 2020, landlords can no longer let or continue to let properties if they have an EPC rating below E, unless they have a valid exemption in place.

Finding a more energy efficient property could help save you money on your fuel bills.

 

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. Alternatively further information can be found from Shelter or Citizens Advice.

Visit the Shelter website for further housing advice.

Visit the Citizens Advice website for further housing advice.

 

Additional Resources

If you rent a home from a private landlord, we offer a wide range of support packages and information to help you.