Tenants Letting Guide

Assured Shorthold Tenancies

When you enter an assured shorthold tenancy – the most common type – you are entering into a contractual arrangement.

This gives you some important rights but also some responsibilities. This guide will help you to understand what questions to ask, what your rights are, and what responsibilities you have. This will help you create a positive relationship with your landlord, but we also tell you how to get help if things go wrong.

When you rent a home, people sometimes expect you to make a quick decision, or to sign documents before you’ve had time to think about them.

Before you start

How long do you want the tenancy for? You can ask for a tenancy to be any time between six months and seven years long.

What can you afford? Think about how much rent you can afford to pay: 35% of your take-home pay is the most that many people can afford, but this depends on what your other outgoings are (for example, whether you have children).

If you are on housing benefit or Universal Credit, there is no reason that it should affect your ability to pay rent. But check with this online calculator to see if you can afford to live in the area you want.

Have your documents ready. Landlords and agents will want to confirm your identity, immigration status, credit history and possibly employment status.

Do you have the right to rent property in the UK? Landlords must check that all people aged over 18 living in their property as their only or main home have the right to rent. They will need to make copies of your documents and return your original documents to you.

Questions to Ask

Deposit protection. If the landlord asks for a deposit, check that it will be protected in a government approved scheme. Some schemes hold the money, and some insure it.

You may be able to access a bond or guarantee scheme that will help you put the deposit together.

How long is the tenancy for? There is usually a fixed period of 6 or 12 months. If you want more security, you can ask for a longer fixed period of up to seven years. Many landlords are happy to offer longer tenancies.

Children, smoking and pets. Check if there any rules about them, as well as for other things such as keeping a bike, dealing with refuse and recycling.

Check who is responsible for bills such as electricity, gas, water and council tax. You or the landlord? Usually the tenant pays for these.

Fixtures and fittings. Check you are happy with them, as it is unlikely that you will be able to get them changed once you have moved in.

Smoke alarms – and carbon monoxide detectors if you have solid fuel appliances. Check these are provided. If not, your landlord must install them. They could save your life.

If the building becomes unfit to live in. Check that the tenancy agreement excuses you from paying rent should the building become unfit to live in because of a fire or flood.

When you've found a place

Make sure you have a written tenancy agreement and read it carefully to
understand your rights and responsibilities. The landlord or agent usually provides one but you can request to use a different version. The government has published a model tenancy agreement that can be used.

If you have any concerns about the agreement, seek advice before you sign.
Agree an inventory (or check-in report) with your landlord and, as an extra
safeguard, make sure that you take photos. This will make things easier if there is a dispute about the deposit at the end of the tenancy. If you are happy with the inventory, sign it and keep a copy.

Remember to take meter readings when you move in. This will help make sure you don’t pay for the previous tenant’s bills. Contact details. Make sure that you have the correct contact details for the landlord or agent, including a telephone number you can use in case of an emergency.

Code of practice. Check that whoever is managing the property is following acode of practice.

The Tenant Must...

Pay the rent on time. If you don’t, you could lose your home because you have broken your tenancy agreement. If you have problems, GOV.UK has links to further advice.

Look after the property. But get your landlord’s permission before
attempting repairs or decorating. It’s worth getting contents insurance to
cover your possessions too, because the landlord’s insurance won’t cover
your things.

Be considerate to the neighbours. You could be evicted for anti-social
behaviour if you aren’t. Not take in a lodger or sub-let without checking whether you need permission from your landlord.

And also you, the tenant, should

Make sure you know how to operate the boiler and other appliances and know where the stop cock, fuse box and any meters are located.

Regularly test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector – at
least once a month. Report any need for repairs to your landlord. There will be a risk to your deposit if a minor repair turns into a major problem because you did not report it.

The landlord must...

Maintain the structure and exterior of the property. Fit smoke alarms on every floor and carbon monoxide alarms in rooms
using solid fuels – such as coal and wood – and make sure they are working at the start of your tenancy. If they are not there, ask your landlord to install them.

Deal with any problems with the water, electricity and gas supply.
Maintain any appliances and furniture they have supplied. Carry out most repairs. If something is not working, report it to the landlord (or their agent) as soon as you can.

Arrange an annual gas safety check by a Gas Safe engineer (where
there are any gas appliances). Give at least 24 hours notice of
visits for things like repairs – the landlord cannot walk in whenever
they like. Get a licence for the property, if it is a licensable property. And also the landlord should Insure the building to cover the costs of any damage from flood or fire.