Renting property in the private sector
Finding and renting property
Details of properties that are available for rent in the private sector can be found at local letting agencies or at commercial websites such as Rightmove.
For guidance on your rights and responsibilities see the GOV.UK How to Rent guide.
Types of tenancies
There are four main types of tenancies in the private rented sector.
1. Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST)
This is by far the most common type of tenancy and most new tenancy agreements are set up as ASTs.
Your tenancy can be an AST if all the following apply:
- The property is privately rented
- The property is your main accommodation
- Your tenancy started after January 1989
- Your landlord does not live at the property
It cannot be an AST if:
- The rent is less than £250 or more than £100,000 per year
- It is a business tenancy or tenancy of licensed premises
- It is a holiday let
- Your landlord is a local council
2. Excluded Tenancies or licences
This is where you lodge with your landlord and share rooms with them, such as a kitchen or bathroom. You will have less protection from eviction with this type of agreement.
3. Assured Tenancies
Tenancies starting between January 1989 and February 1997 may be assured. You will have increased protection from eviction with this type of tenancy agreement.
4. Regulated Tenancies
Tenancies starting before January 1989 may be regulated. You will have increased protection from eviction and can apply for a 'fair rent' which is set by the Valuation Office Agency. A fair rent is the maximum rent a landlord can charge.
Shelter provide a useful tenancy checker on their website if you require more information.
Notice to leave
Both landlords and tenants must follow correct legal procedures to end a tenancy.
1. Landlord giving tenant notice
For most tenancies a landlord or letting agent must issue (serve) a notice on a tenant to bring a tenancy to an end. This must follow a prescribed form and contain certain information depending on what types of notice it is.
- A Notice to Quit (often called a Section 21 Notice as it is relates to Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988) is used to let the tenant know that the landlord requires their property back. You must be given at least 2 months notice and it must be in writing. The landlord does not need to give a reason for ending the tenancy when using a Section 21.
- A Notice of Seeking Possession (NoSP) is used in circumstances where the landlord wants to evict a tenant for not complying with the terms of the tenancy. This could be, for example, because of rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or using the property for illegal or immoral activities. The notice a landlord has to give for seeking possession can vary from two weeks in certain instances and two months in others.
- An Order for Possession will be granted by the Court where they are satisfied that legal processes have been complied with, including consideration of any representations you make as a tenant. The Order will state a time by which you are required to leave the property.
- An Eviction Order can only be granted by the Courts where a landlord has applied for an Outright Order for Possession. The Court will send you an Eviction Notice giving a date by which you have to leave the property. If you do not leave by that date Court bailiffs will evict you.
As a tenant you should seek advice immediately if you receive a notice; and it is important to continue paying the rent during the notice period(s). If an outright Order for Possession is needed you will incur extra costs on top of anything that you already owe the landlord.
With effect from 1st October 2015, a landlord cannot serve a Notice to Quit (Section 21 notice) on an assured shorthold tenant (seeking to terminate the tenancy) if, at the start of a new tenancy, the landlord did not provide a tenant with certain documents:
- A valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- An annual Gas Safety Certificate
- A copy of the Government publication: 'How to rent' guide - see Useful links.
The landlord should supply these documents at the start of each new tenancy (or as soon as possible thereafter). If these documents have not been supplied, the landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice. As soon as the landlord supplies these documents this restriction will be removed.
Also a landlord cannot serve a Notice to Quit (Section 21 notice) because the tenant has requested repairs, or because they have asked for help from the Local Authority. This is also sometimes referred to as retaliatory eviction.
2. Tenant giving landlord notice
As a tenant you may only give up your tenancy before the end of the fixed term (e.g. six months) if your landlord agrees or your tenancy agreement says you can.
If you leave before the fixed term you will be responsible for the rent due unless the landlord manages to recover any losses by re-letting the accommodation.
In any event you are required to give at least four weeks' notice and to be valid it must be in writing.
It is important that you keep in touch with your landlord regarding the ending of your tenancy so as to avoid any problems.
Remember as a tenant you have rights and responsibilities. Where it involves notices whether from you, or the landlord, it is important to follow the rules so you do not create problems for yourself at a later date.
A retaliatory eviction happens where a private landlord serves a Section 21 notice on an Assured Shorthold tenant (seeking to terminate the tenancy) because the tenant has requested repairs or because they have asked for help from the local council. This is also sometimes referred to as a "revenge" eviction.
The Government introduced new rules aimed at preventing retaliatory evictions. A tenant must show that they have contacted their landlord and asked them to carry out reasonable repairs before they can rely on the additional protection against retaliatory eviction.
Retaliatory eviction is an unacceptable practice and no tenant should fear becoming homeless because they have asked for a necessary repair. Further information can be found at Gov.UK.