Know your renters’ rights

This is Part 1 a two-part blog post about your UK private renters’ rights. Check back next week for Part 2.

Bad flatmates, rent increases, and short tenancies – life can be hard for Generation Rent. But there are still some basic renters’ rights you are guaranteed as a private renter – and you can’t be penalised by your landlord for insisting you get them. These will pertain to Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs), which include all tenancies starting from 28 February 1997. These renters’ rights are guaranteed to you regardless of whether you were provided with and signed a written tenancy agreement.

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  1. Your tenancy agreement must be fair and legal

Although tenancy agreements don’t legally need to be written in England and Wales, they usually are. Because it can be harder to enforce oral agreements, we recommend that you get your agreement in writing, and keep a copy after you’ve signed it. Your written agreement should include:

  • names of people involved
  • rental price and method of payment
  • information on how and when rent is reviewed
  • deposit amount and protection, details of when the deposit can be withheld
  • property address
  • start and end dates of tenancy
  • tenant or landlord obligations
  • bills you are responsible for
  • when and how to end the tenancy early (a break clause)
  • who’s responsible for repairs (that the landlord isn’t legally responsible for)
  • whether you may sublet

In order to change the terms of your agreement during your tenancy, both you and your landlord must agree to the change. This might come up if you ask for permission to have a pet although your agreement forbids it (you should definitely not keep a pet without your landlord’s permission!), or if your landlord wants to raise the rent. Keep in mind that if your agreement has a rent increase procedure, your landlord must follow it. Otherwise:

  • Your landlord can only increase the rent during a fixed-term tenancy if you agree, otherwise it can only go up at the end of the term.
  • If you have a yearly tenancy, you must have 6 months’ notice of a rent increase.
  • For a periodic tenancy (weekly or monthly basis), the rent can’t be raised more than once per year without your agreement, and you must have a minimum of a month’s notice.
  • Rent increases must be fair and realistic, which means they’re in line with average local rents.
  1. You have the right to know who your landlord is

Maybe you worked with a letting agency or a management company, and you’re wondering who your landlord is. There are a number of reasons it might be good for you to know who they are and how to contact them, whether it is to raise a dispute, in the event of an emergency, or to verify whether a person wanting access to your home has the right to enter. You can make a written request to the person who collects your rent and they are required to provide you with the landlord’s name and address within 21 days.

  1. The property must be safe and in good repair

The landlord must ensure that the property is in good condition. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be beautiful, but it does have to be safe and usable when you move in, and kept that way throughout your tenancy.

  • Gas safety – installation and maintenance of gas equipment by a Gas Safe registered engineer, annual gas safety checks by a registered engineer, provide a copy of the gas safety check record before moving in or within 28 days of the check
  • Electrical safety – your landlord must ensure the electrical system is safe as are all appliances
    • Fire safety – safety regulation compliance, you need a smoke alarm on each storey, a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with a usable fireplace/woodburner, access to escape routes, fire safe furniture and furnishings, and fire alarms/extinguishers (if a large House in Multiple Occupation)

The landlord is always responsible for the property’s structure and exterior, basins/sinks, baths, pipes, drains, heating and hot water, gas appliances, flues, ventilation, electrical wiring, and any damage they cause while attempting repairs, and usually common areas in blocks of flats. You can’t be forced to do repairs that are the landlord’s responsibility.

  1. Your deposit must be returned at the end of your tenancy

Your tenancy agreement should outline in what instances part or all of your deposit can be retained by the landlord – generally, this would be if you were to cause damage to the property or any fittings inside it that belong to the landlord, like a carpet or a curtain. Your deposit cannot be retained over normal wear and tear to the interior, however. In many cases, your deposit must be protected by a government-approved scheme. Your agreement should provide the details of the protection scheme, which you can turn to if your landlord refuses to return your deposit. It is in your best interests to be aware of this information.

This is Part 1 a two-part blog post about your UK private renters’ rights. Check back next week for Part 2.

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The top 4 places in London for homesick Americans

Maybe you chose the expat life. Maybe the expat life chose you. Either way, Americans in London are bound to get homesick at some point. One day, you’ll wake up wondering where you are, with a powerful craving for Pop-Tarts. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow. But someday. Placebuzz has got your back.

  1. Five Guys, Soho, Covent Garden, & more

Photo via oxfordstreet.co.uk

You need some fries. Not ‘chips’. Fries. Served with a double-patty burger as the standard option. Soda galore, and free refills – just like the Founding Fathers intended. Thank God for Five Guys Burgers & Fries.

  1. Starbucks Drive-Thru, Heathrow

not this kind of drive-thru

Coffee. You need coffee. But not just anywhere, like at the Starbucks on your corner – you need to drink it in a car. All is not lost. You’ll have to get to the airport, but it’s not so terrible. Heathrow is, technically, in London, and you won’t have to go so far as to board a plane headed for Newark, New Jersey to get your fix. Heathrow has a drive-thru Starbucks. Close your eyes and inhale that aroma of fuel exhaust and bitter coffee. You’re home.

  1. American Food Store, Holland Park

Photo via Yelp

Are you feeling weird this morning, Americans? Is your blood coursing a little too easily through your unclogged veins? Did the English breakfast you ate, which weirdly involved tomatoes in non-ketchup form (whyyyyyy??), leave you feeling a bit too even-keeled? Then you need to get your butt over to the American Food Store for some £3.95 Pop-Tarts. Feel that sweet, sweet sugar rush once again. It feels like Freedom.

  1. Westfield Shopping Centre, Shepherd’s Bush & Stratford

Photo via The Telegraph

Step inside this gleaming monument to consumerism, this beautiful temple to the gods of over-consumption. Look at the Lululemon store, side-by-side with a mid-range sedan and a prosecco bar. Take a deep breath – in through your nose, out through your mouth. You smell that, America? Smell that ambrosia of perfume wafting out of clothing stores, mixed with sticky-sweet cinnamon pretzels? It smells like home.

We hope we’ve saved all of the homesick Americans in London an overseas flight. Go forth and overeat, dear friends.

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