Handy guides from
A handy guide from SpareRoom and Shelter
A letting agency must never charge you for registering or to show you its list of properties. They must be up front with you about fees for credit checks, references and other administrative costs. It's worth negotiating on the fees – you may get a reduction. Always ask for receipts. More on letting fees here.
In a recent SpareRoom survey, 69% of tenants say they'd been asked to pay fees on top of rent and a deposit. Make sure you know what fees are payable before you deal with an agent and remember, you can negotiate.
Know where your deposit goes
A deposit is usually 4-6 weeks rent. You should get your money back when you move out unless you've missed rent payments or damaged the property. Your landlord must protect your deposit in one of the government backed schemes and send you the details within 30 days. If not you might be able to make a claim for compensation.
28%* of tenants don't even know their deposits should be protected. Remember though, the rules only apply to Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) - so if for example you live as a lodger, these rules won't apply.
[* 28% of tenants in England and Wales reported that they were not aware of tenancy deposit schemes, YouGov survey for Shelter, total sample size was 5,146 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th December 2013 - 16th January 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted to be representative of all private renters in England & Wales (aged 18+).].
Rights to repairs
Landlords are responsible for repairs to the structure of the building itself, bathroom fittings, water and drainage, heating and hot water, gas appliances, pipes, chimneys and electrical wiring among other things. Report any problems as soon as possible - your landlord should start repairs within a reasonable time. More on repairs here.
Good communication with your landlord should always be a priority. Make sure you report anything that needs repairing promptly as, in some cases, waiting can make the problem worse. The rules are different for live-in landlords, but any issues will affect them as well so you're likely to get a quick solution.
Make sure you keep up to date with the rent and utility bills - get advice if this becomes difficult. Take care of decorations, furniture and appliances (excepting fair wear and tear). It's up to you to do the basics - replacing light bulbs, checking smoke alarms, taking out rubbish, heating and airing the place properly. Read more here.
There are good and bad landlords but also good and bad tenants. In both cases the cause can be as simple as poor communication and a lack of knowledge. You may be reliant on your landlord for a reference next time you move so make sure you get a good one by keeping to your end of the deal.
Your right to stay
Providing you pay your rent and don't breach your contract you should be able to stay until the end of your rental period. To evict you your landlord must follow certain processes. In most cases this will mean you have two months' notice to leave (a Section 21 notice), though the rules are different if you live with your landlord. Find out more on eviction here.
If you live with your landlord (i.e. as a lodger) they only need to give you 'reasonable notice' if they want you to move out as the law recognises that live-in landlords are more vulnerable. You should always have a written agreement with your landlord though, even if you're a lodger - your notice period should be covered in this.
Remember: your rights as a renter depend on the type of letting you have. Most are assured shorthold tenancies, but if you flatshare or live with your landlord some rules are different. Use Shelter's tenancy rights checker to make sure you know where you stand.
"What I wish I'd known before I started renting" - tips from real SpareRoom users.
- Never ever pay cash upfront to secure a room, however legitimate it seems.
- If you like a room and a flatmate don't wait too long as the room will soon be snatched up! The good ones go quickly.
- Take your time to get to know your potential flatmates, as you could end up spending a lot of time with them. I found it helpful to have a shortlist of things that I was looking for before going to see a new flat and meeting potential flatmates.
Eleana moved to London recently, having rented in Bath for 4 years.
- A lot of tenants (including myself at first) think monthly rent is just four times the weekly rent. However this isn't the case as there are more than 28 days in most months. This can be a nasty sting if you're not expecting it, so always check and do your sums beforehand!
- Make sure it's clear if any areas of the property are out of bounds when you are viewing it. I've been disappointed in the past to find out only after I'd paid the first month's rent that parts of the house and garden weren't accessible to tenants.
Sam is 23 and has been renting in houseshares in Cornwall for the last 4 years
This handy guide was produced by SpareRoom, in partnership with Shelter, to help tenants understand their rights and responsibilities. There is more helpful guidance for tenants and sharers on SpareRoom and on the Shelter website.