Coronavirus and your tenants rights

Landlords must now give tenants three months’ notice before starting eviction procedures since the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force.

For the latest read: Coronavirus and renting - what does it mean for my rights as a tenant?

Do I have to pay tenancy fees?

Letting agents in England, Scotland and Wales aren’t allowed to charge you for:

  • General ‘admin fees’
  • References or police checks
  • Credit checks
  • Renewing your tenancy contract

If a landlord or agent tries to charge you these fees, remind them of the rules and tell them you’re only willing to pay for rent and any deposits required.

If they’re found to be charging for the above, they face a £5,000 fine. If they continue to charge fees, they could be fined much more.

Depending on what your tenancy agreement says, the only fees your landlord or letting agent can charge are:

  • Your rent, utilities and council tax.
  • A refundable holding deposit
  • A refundable damage deposit, which must be put in a deposit protection scheme and can be no more than six weeks rent
  • A fee to change the details of your tenancy, capped at £50. For example, a change of tenant.
  • A fee if you decide to end your tenancy early
  • Fees for a default. For example, paying rent late, damaging the property or losing a key.

In Northern Ireland fees can be illegal if they are charged by a letting agent and cover services that benefit the landlord. But if you rent directly from a landlord they're allowed to charge fees.

How do I get repairs and maintenance carried out?

Your landlord is responsible for keeping your home safe and warm. You should have a working water supply and safe access to gas and electricity.

Tenants are usually responsible for the general upkeep of their homes, such as changing light bulbs, unblocking sinks, gardening and cleaning.

Ask your landlord to repair issues that threaten your health and safety as soon as possible.

This could include a boiler breakdown, leaky pipes, faulty or exposed electrical wiring, damp problems, pest infestations, and broken doors and windows.

What are my rights if I rent a room in a house share?

If you rent a room in a house share with at least two other people and you share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen, you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

You can check if your home is registered as a HMO by contacting your local council.

Your landlord usually has extra legal responsibilities:

  • proper fire safety measures are in place, including working smoke alarms
  • annual gas safety checks are carried out
  • electrics are checked every 5 years
  • the property is not overcrowded
  • enough cooking and bathroom facilities for the number of people living there
  • communal areas and shared facilities are clean and in good repair
  • enough rubbish bins/bags

Can I complain about rent increases?

Your landlord should be charging you ‘market rent' which is the going rate in your area. It can be affected by the availability and cost of similar homes for rent nearby.

If you have a fixed-term tenancy, then your landlord can't increase the rent until the fixed-term ends.

In Scotland, landlords can only increase rent once a year. They must also give tenants three months’ written notice of any rent rises.

The only exception is if there's a clause if your tenancy agreement saying your rent can be increased.

Once the fixed-term has ended and the tenancy becomes a periodic tenancy, it’s difficult for private tenants to challenge rent increases.

The landlord may choose to evict you if you refuse to pay more rent.

  • Complain about rent increase If you think your rent is excessive compared to similar properties in your area, you can apply to the Rent Assessment Committee (RAC). But you can only do this within the first six months of your tenancy.
  • Complain about excessive rent An application can't be made to the RAC if the original tenancy has ended and been replaced, and it's more than six months since the start date of the original tenancy.

Can I move before the end of my tenancy agreement?

How quickly and easily you can leave will depend on whether you're still within a fixed term of a tenancy or not.

  • If you’re in a fixed term tenancy, check if your tenancy agreement contains a ‘break clause'. This allows you to end the agreement before the end of the tenancy. If it doesn’t include this clause, you won’t be able to end the tenancy early unless your landlord agrees you can. If you leave without an agreement, you'll be liable to pay the rest of rent up to the end of the contract period, or until someone else starts renting the property - whichever is sooner.
  • If you've gone beyond the fixed term, then your agreement will be a periodic tenancy, or rolling from week to week or month to month. In this case, you normally have to give at least four weeks’ notice to end it, or a calendar month if you have a monthly tenancy. The main exception to this is if your landlord agrees to accept a shorter notice period, or agrees that someone else can take your place.

It's always best to give notice in writing and ensure that the notice ends on the first or last day of the period of a tenancy.

For example, if your tenancy is monthly and started on the fifth day of the month, the notice you give your landlord should end on the fourth or fifth.

How do I get my deposit back?

If you disagree with charges,write to your landlord asking for your deposit back. 

Landlords can make deductions from your deposit for:

  • Damage to the property and missing or broken items
  • Cleaning costs
  • Unpaid rent or bills

They must give you a list of deductions, and the costs.

Your landlord should have paid your deposit into a deposit protection scheme. 

These schemes offer a free service to help resolve disputes between tenants and landlords over deposits.

You could also take it to the small claims court, but using the dispute resolution service provided by the protection scheme is usually preferable.

 Approved schemes
England and Wales
  • Deposit Protection Service
  • MyDeposits
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Scotland
  • Letting Protection Service Scotland
  • Safe Deposits Scotland
  • my|deposits Scotland
Northern Ireland
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland
  • My Deposits Northern Ireland
  • Letting Protection Service NI

Use our free template letter to ask for your deposit money back.

My deposit hasn’t been paid into a protection scheme

Your landlord must return your deposit, minus any damage costs.

Your deposit must be protected by law, so you could take your landlord to court if you can prove they didn’t pay your deposit into a scheme.

Discuss this with your landlord. It’s likely they would rather pay your money back than face court action.

How to get a holding deposit back?

If you pay a deposit to secure a property, it’s normally refunded when you move in. Sometimes it might be deducted from your first month’s rent.

Ask your letting agent to confirm in writing how your holding deposit will be used including: 

  • the amount of the holding deposit
  • how it is going to be used
  • if it will be used towards your security deposit or rent
  • if any amount goes towards any fees
  • if it will be returned to you in the event the landlord changes their mind
  • in what circumstances it will not be refunded

If the letting agent can’t explain why it’s not returning your holding deposit, ask for it to be refunded.

If it refuses, you can make a complaint to a trade association, if the agent is a member of one of the following main trade bodies:

  • ARLA (the Association of Renting and Letting Agents)
  • NAEA (the National Association of Estate Agents)
  • NALS (the National Approved Letting Scheme)
  • UKALA (the UK Association of Letting Agents).

You could also consider taking the letting agent to court.

My landlord wants to evict me, what can I do?

Housing Act 1988

Section 21 and Section 8 of the the Housing Act 1988 are what landlords typically use to evict tenants living in England and Wales.

While landlords can serve both notices at the same time, a Section 21 and Section 8 notice are different processes.

The government has recently announced plans to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, although they haven’t yet said what this will look like or when it will come into effect.

If you’re having trouble with a landlord, find out how to make a complaint about them

There are two different types of eviction notice, and how you go about challenging them is different:

Section 8 notice seeking possession - given when a landlord has a reason to evict you. For example, if you’ve not paid the rent or you’ve damaged the property.

Section 21 notice seeking possession - given when the landlord would like the property back at the end of your tenancy contract. They don’t need to give a reason.

First, check your landlord has followed the right procedures. If they haven’t given you enough notice or move the eviction date, for example, you can make a case to stay put.

Challenge a section 8 eviction process

The landlord must:

  • Specify which terms of the tenancy you’ve broken - this will usually affect how much notice the landlord has to give you. However, during the coronavirus outbreak, you must be given at least three months notice.
  • Serve you with a formal Section 8 notice seeking possession of a property on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy. If you receive this notice, your landlord intends to seek a court order to evict you.

If your landlord is trying to evict you under Section 8 of the Housing Act, you can appeal the decision if you think the reason is wrong.

You’ll automatically be sent details from the courts on how you can appeal.

Challenge a section 21 notice of possession

Landlords have the right to ask you to leave at the end of your tenancy contract under Section 21, but they must be careful to follow the procedure correctly.

The landlord must:

  • give you at least three months’ notice to leave
  • serve the notice according to your tenancy terms. They can’t serve notice before the end of your agreed tenancy, unless the tenancy agreement says they can
  • put your deposit in a deposit protection scheme within the required time limit

If your landlord hasn’t complied, you have strong grounds to challenge their notice and you can ‘defend possession.’ You’ll be sent details by the court on how you can do this.

But if they’ve followed the process correctly, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to dispute it.

If you’re having trouble, find out how to make a complaint about your landlord.

Going to court 

If you don’t want to leave the property and you think the Section 21 notice is invalid, you can argue your case in court.

We recommend getting legal advice before taking your landlord to court.

Do I have different rights as a lodger?

Lodgers have fewer protections than tenant. If you;re a lodger you'll usually you'll have your 'own' room, but you live in your landlords home with their permission and share living space with them, like the bathroom or kitchen.

  • Lodger deposit protection Landlords don’t need to protect a lodger’s deposit in a government-approved deposit scheme. Tenants on an assured shorthold tenancy must have their deposit protected in a government backed scheme
  • Lodger privacy rights While the landlord should respect your privacy at all times they are allowed full access to your room without prior warning. Tenants on an assured shorthold tenancy are entitled to exclude the landlord from their home without prior notice.
  • Lodger rent increases If a lodger doesn’t have a fixed term agreement or the fixed term has ended, the landlord can increase the rent at any time and give the lodger notice to leave if they don’t agree to the increase. Tenants on an assured shorthold tenancy will have signed a fixed term agreement and so should be shielded against rent increases during the tenancy period
  • Lodger eviction rights Landlords can also usually evict lodgers without a court order and without giving four weeks’ notice, as long as they adhere to what’s set out in the tenancy agreement. It's a criminal offence for a landlord to evict a tenant on an assured shorthold tenancy without a court order.

Please tell us what you think of the Which? Consumer Rights website.

Your feedback is vital in helping us improve this site. All data will be treated confidentially. This survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Please take our survey so we can improve our website for you and others like you.