Our rights as renters are far from perfect, but if you have a problem with your home there are things you can do. We've tried to bring them all together in one place. Any suggestions for additions are welcome.
Know Your Rights
A good starting point is knowing what your rights as a tenant are. In 2015 we published a guide to private renters' rights with the support of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Hard copies are available for local groups. There are also some useful FAQs available from Renters' Rights London and CityMetric. And the government requires landlords to give you a How To Rent guide.
Getting a gas safety certificate from your landlord is one of the basics. Make sure that your gas supply is safe and that your landlord is meeting their obligations by reading this advice from the National Accident Helpline.
Is your landlord refusing to fix something?
Try to keep an email trail with your landlord in case you need to refer to it later.
If your landlord has not fixed something which is their responsibility, they are breaking the law. Contact your local council's environmental health department (some will have a private renting team within that). Be careful if you contact the housing department as they might tell you how to register for social housing - don't take that for an answer.
If this does not help, you may wish to contact your local councillors - find them on Write To Them.
Mould and damp is a common problem and some landlords like to insist that it's entirely the tenant's responsibility. In many cases these problems arise because of the structure of the property, which the landlord must address. You should not need to keep windows open in winter.
If you need expert help
Unfortunately Generation Rent cannot offer individual advice. We would recommend contacting:
- Advice4Renters provides free or low-cost legal advice and representation from expert housing specialists.
- Shelter's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 is open 8am-8pm on weekdays and 8am-5pm on weekends, 365 days a year. More information
- Citizens Advice
- A solicitor listed on Housing Law Practitioners Association
- A solicitor listed on Law Centres Network
- Duncan Lewis (national law firm)
You might also find informal help on ACORN's Facebook forum.
Think your landlord is evading tax?
Demanding rent in cash, keeping their name on the council tax bill, being a faceless offshore corporation: just some of the signs that your landlord isn't paying their fair share.
HMRC tells us that specific warning signs include paying in cash and the landlord having not:
- given you a tenancy agreement or rent book;
- provided evidence that your deposit is protected (also see section below); and
- not completing a "right to rent" check.
If you pay by standing order and the landlord has asked for a reference other than "rent" or the property address, that should also set alarm bells ringing.
Generally a landlord not doing what they should under the law is a sign that they aren't declaring their rental income.
You can report suspicious businesses (with total anonymity) to the taxman here.
If you don't know who your landlord is, you can check for £3 with HM Land Registry.
Private Eye has published a handy map of properties bought by offshore companies - is yours one of them?
Does the landlord want to raise the rent?
Rents have been rising faster than wages and inflation in much of the country, so some landlords are putting up their rents without worrying about what it means for their tenants. We have put together a guide and a video with some tips on how to negotiate down a threatened rent hike.
Moving out? Review your property and avoid the cowboys
Because anyone with a spare room or flat can become a landlord with no checks, there is an unknown number of cowboys in the market. Some London boroughs publish names of landlords and letting agents who have been convicted of housing offences, and these are listed on the Mayor of London's website.
While we wait for other local councils to do the same, we do have a list of landlords who have been convicted under the Housing Act 2004 - but only half are named. This was collected by Tom Wall of Environmental Health News.
Anyone can become a letting agent as well, and we hear occasional stories of people being scammed by handing over money to someone for a property which isn't theirs to let. Letting agents must, by law, be a member of one of three redress schemes. Before you attend a viewing, check the agent's credentials with the Property Redress Scheme, Property Ombudsman and Ombudsman Services. There is also a public register of banned letting agents.
Whether your current landlord has been outstanding or a nightmare, do their future tenants a favour and submit a review on one of the many review sites that have been popping up over the past couple of years. It's early days, but the more reviews tenants submit the more value these websites will have, and before long they will be an essential part of the flathunting process.
At the moment we don't have a favourite but are monitoring their progress. We would welcome your thoughts - submit your review site reviews in the feedback section below.
RentProfile (referencing service designed to prevent scams)
The Tenants Voice (agent reviews)
Are you being evicted?
Outside of a fixed-term contract, a landlord can give a tenant two months' notice to move out and there's not much you can do about it (except join our campaign to abolish this draconian law).
If you receive one of these Section 21 notices, check if it's valid with Citizens Advice's guide or by using this flowchart on the Nearly Legal blog. The National Homelessness Advice Service has several helpful factsheets.
Moving and want to avoid fees?
Generation Rent is gradually creating local lists of letting agents and what fees they are charging. The Letting Fees project currently covers 20 local areas, and we encourage our supporters to help out with the research in their area (more details available on the site).
These high street agents charge zero fees:
East & Co - Waltham Forest, London
Piper Property - Bristol and Bath
Julian Reid - Hackney, London
There are a number of listings sites that are charging no or very low fees to tenants. We don't know enough about these to recommend any particular sites at this stage, but they are worth a look. If you use any, please let us know how you got on in the feedback section below.
Roomr - "find great housemates based on matching interests" (London)
Movebubble - "The app to find, view and rent your next home" (London)
OpenRent - "The safer, faster and cheaper way to rent." (Nationwide)
Rentify - "Find your next home to rent from private landlords." (Nationwide)
Avenue "takes the pain and cost out of renting, by connecting tenants with landlords directly" (London)
RentSquare - "the renting service that is fair and transparent" (London)
Upad - "the self-service lettings agency" (Nationwide)
RoomFlick "uses social connections to match people & spare rooms" (mostly London)
It is also worth contacting local housing associations which often have homes at market or intermediate rent available.
Has your landlord failed to protect your deposit?
You should receive confirmation from your landlord or letting agent that your deposit is protected at the start of your tenancy. If you have no record of this, check that it is protected on the individual scheme websites:
Landlords who don't protect deposits are liable to pay their tenants compensation worth up to three times the value of the deposit. If you're in this position, Renters' Rights London has produced a handy guide to getting your hands on that money.
Need help managing bills in your flatshare?
Other folks we work with
The campaign to fix the housing crisis is made up of a number of groups and individuals, each with their own specialism:
PricedOut campaigns on affordability for first-time buyers
A list of local renter groups is on this page
Defend Council Housing - campaigning for more council homes
Crisis - homelessness charity
Shelter Policy Blog - campaigning on everything from homelessness to housing supply
Citizens Advice - national network of advice centres
Citizens UK - organising community groups around the country
Ethical Landlords Association - for any landlord doing right by their tenants