Information for private tenants

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Your accommodation should by law have at least one smoke alarm installed on each storey of the property (excluding mezzanines), and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid-fuel burning appliance such as a coal fire or wood-burning stove.

Your landlord is obliged to check that these alarms are in working order on the day your tenancy begins, but you should check them regularly as well. The legislation applies to existing tenancies as well as new ones.

If your accommodation does not have the minimum number of alarms, speak to your landlord. If necessary, we can enforce the regulations and impose a fine of up to £5,000 if your landlord fails to comply with a remedial notice.

GOV.UK has published a helpful Q & A Booklet giving landlords and tenants more information on the regulations and their enforcement.

Energy performance certificates

Your landlord is required to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). It must be made available free of charge at the earliest opportunity – for example, when you first receive written information about the property, or when you view it – and before any rental agreement is entered into.

The certificate gives information about the energy efficiency of the property such as its:

  • Energy performance – from ‘A’ for very efficient properties to ‘G’ for very inefficient properties – based on the building’s age, layout, construction, heating, lighting, and insulation
  • Environmental impact rating, based on how much carbon dioxide it releases into the environment
  • Potential running costs, based on how long it is heated each day, average fuel prices at the time the EPC was produced, and more.

The certificate also recommends measures that could improve the property’s energy performance.

EPCs are valid for 10 years and can be reused within that period.

Electrical safety

Owners and managers of rented accommodation have a responsibility to ensure that the electrical installation in their properties is regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that it is safe. Visit the Electrical Safety Council's website for handy guides.

Gas safety

All privately rented properties must be provided with an annual gas safety certificate. Please visit gas safe for further information http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/

Tenancy deposit protection

If you are an assured short hold tenant, your landlord is obliged to place your deposit in a tenancy deposit protection scheme, to help ensure that any disputes about it are dealt with quickly and cheaply, reducing the need to go to court.

The government has chosen three companies to run the tenancy deposit schemes: the Tenancy Deposit Protection Service, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, and Tenancy Deposit Solutions.

If your landlord does not protect your deposit in this way, you are entitled to take them to court, where they can be ordered to meet their legal requirements and pay you compensation.

When tenancy deposit protection schemes don't apply

If you are not an assured short hold tenant – for example, if you live in the same property as your landlord or in a student hall of residence, or if you have an assured or regulated tenancy – your landlord does not have to protect your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.

This means that if your landlord doesn't return your deposit, the only way to get your money back is to take your landlord to court.

Shelter provides advice about how to retrieve your deposit if you are not an assured shorthold tenant, or you can contact our Housing Advice Service for advice.

Unlawful eviction and harassment

As a private tenant you are entitled to live peacefully in your home: you cannot be forced to leave your home unless your landlord has followed the correct legal procedures.

If you are threatened with unlawful eviction, either directly – for example, by changing the locks when you are out – or through harassment – for example, by stopping the supply of power or water – contact our Housing Enforcement Officer.

We will contact the landlord or agent and take appropriate action. We may facilitate mediation between you and your landlord, but have powers to prosecute if necessary.

Keep a record of all relevant incidents, as you may be asked to make a formal statement or appear as a witness in court.

Redress schemes

Letting agent redress schemes provide a free, independent service for resolving disputes between landlords and tenants. Decisions made by redress schemes are binding on both parties.

All landlords and letting agents are required by law to join a letting agent redress scheme, either the Ombudsman Services Property, the Property Ombudsman, or the Property Redress Scheme.

When you rent a property, or if you are considering doing so, ask the landlord which scheme they belong to. This information will often be available on their website, and some letting agents also display the details in their premises.

What you can complain about

You can complain to a redress scheme about a number of different issues, such as:

  • lack of transparency about fees you may have to pay
  • inaccurate property descriptions
  • disputes about holding deposits
  • inaccurate charging
  • not passing rent onto the landlord
  • slow or poor service

You can also complain if a landlord breaches the redress scheme's code of conduct or doesn’t have an in-house complaints procedure.

When to complain

You can complain to a redress scheme if your landlord does not resolve an issue within eight weeks, or if you are unsatisfied with their response.

You must complain within the time limit set by the redress scheme.

Your landlord must co-operate with any investigation and is bound to adhere to the scheme's ruling, including paying compensation if it is awarded.

Alternatives to the redress scheme

If you don’t want to use the redress scheme you can take alternative action, including:

  • complaining to your local council
  • complaining to the landlord's professional association, if they are a member of one
  • taking the landlord to court to claim compensation

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