Home » What tenants need to know about renting in 2024

What tenants need to know about renting in 2024

two renters moving into a flat with boxes looking happy

Times are hard for renters in the UK in 2024. Rents have never been higher, competition for rental properties has never been tougher. Landlords have been selling up, fuelling the broken private rented sector in the UK.

This blog post is not to discuss why there is a crisis in the private rented sector, or to debate what the solutions may be.

Instead, this blog post is a guide which explains to tenants how the rental sector works, what their rights are, and provides objective answers to the key questions that renters have. It’s intended to help renters understand how to successfully navigate every stage of enting a property from a private landlord in England.

This guide isn’t intended to provide specific legal advice for tenants, but to give general explanations of the key issues that arise when renting. If you’re a tenant who needs advice on your situation, I recommend Shelter and Citizens Advice. If you’ve received noticed that your landlord wants you to leave your rented home, you can obtain free advice from the new Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service. I’m unable to give advice to individual tenants as I’m no longer a practising solicitor.

FAQs: Key terms about renting explained

Quick fire FAQs

You’ll come across lots of technical and legal terms as a renter. I’ve included explanations of the key terms below. You can find explanations on lots more technical terms here: Glossary.

What is a private landlord?

A private landlord is an individual or company who rents property to tenants and is not a provider of social housing. For more information: What is a Private Landlord?

What is social housing?

Social housing is a term used in the UK to describe lower-cost rented housing provided by landlords registered with the social housing regulator. They are known as social landlords, and can be a council or a housing association.

>> Related Post: What does Social Housing mean?

What is a single let?

A single let is where a single household, which could be a family, couple or single person, rents the entire property.

>> Related Post: What is a single let?

What does an HMO mean?

A property is an House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) if 3 or more tenants from more than one household live there, and some or all tenants share common parts such as a toilet, bathroom, or kitchen facilities.

For example, 3 single people with their own rooms, or 2 couples each sharing a room. Each tenant rents a room in the property. There are lots of rules associated with HMOs: What is an HMO?

What is an assured shorthold tenancy agreement?

An assured shorthold tenancy agreement is the default form of tenancy agreement for renters in England at the moment.

The meaning of a fixed term tenancy

A fixed term tenancy is a tenancy agreement where a tenant agrees to rent a property for a minimum period. The tenant is responsible for paying the rent until the end of the fixed term ends, unless there is a break clause which says the tenant can end the tenancy early. Many tenants have fixed term tenancies at the start of a tenancy. They’re usually 6 or 12 months long.

A landlord cannot serve a Section 21 Notice during a fixed term tenancy, unless there is a break clause.

What does a periodic tenancy mean?

If the tenancy is not renewed at the end of the fixed term, it will automatically become a periodic tenancy whereby the tenant can keep living there unless they give at least one month’s notice (to expire on a rent day) or the landlord gives notice under Section 21 or Section 8.

>> Related Post: What is a periodic tenancy?

What does a tenancy renewal mean?

A renewal is when the landlord and the tenant agree to another fixed term tenancy at the end of a fixed term for another period. The terms are usually the same, although often the rent will increase. Tenants should compare the renewal terms to the original assured shorthold tenancy agreement and ask the letting agent or landlord if there are any changes.

If the tenancy isn’t “renewed”, it will become a periodic tenancy,

The basics about renting from private landlords in England

row of terraced houses in london

The private rented sector accounted for about one fifth of the housing in England in 2022, a figure which is up from under 10% in 1980. By contrast, social housing was 31% of all households in 1980, compared to 17% today.

Many of the people who would have previously rented from the council or a housing association (ie social housing) now rent from private landlords.

Renting from private landlords is heavily regulated, although it’s fair to say that the rules are currently more favourable to landlords. This may change if and when the Renters Reform Bill comes into effect, but that won’t be until at least 2025: Renters Reform Bill Timetable.

How to find and rent a property in England

letting agent showing around prospective tenants

1. The two different types of letting: single let and HMO rooms

Properties are either let as a whole, on a single let basis (see FAQ above) to one household or two sharers, or by the room, in an HMO (see FAQ above).

With a single let, the tenant is usually responsible for the bills. All of the adults living in the property need to sign the tenancy agreement.

With HMOs, often but not always, the landlord includes the bills in the rent. People renting rooms in HMOs might have separate tenancy agreements, or be joined together on one tenancy agreement.

2. What if I rent a room in a house where the landlord is living?

If someone rents a room in the same property as the owner, and shares living space (kitchen, lounge or bathroom), then they are a lodger and not a tenant.

Lodgers don’t have the same rights as tenants. For instance, provided that the landlord gives the correct notice, they won’t need a court order to evict the lodger. There’s also no requirement to register a deposit in a Deposit Protection Scheme.

Lodgers rent the room under a tenancy agreement or a lodger’s agreement, and not an assured shorthold tenancy.

3. What do landlords look for when they select tenants?

There is a lot of competition for rental properties at the moment, as demand is outstripping supply. Although it’s a stressful time for renters when they look for somewhere to rent, landlords are anxious to find good tenants.

What is a good tenant? For me, I look for the following in applicants:

  • Tenants who will pay the rent in full and on time.
  • Renters who will look after the properly and let me know when something needs repair.
  • Tenants who will be good neighbours (or good house mates when it comes to an HMO).

>> Related Post: Landlord Guide on How to Choose Good Tenants

4. How does the referencing process work for renters?

credit report ticked excellent which helps a landlord choose a good renter

Landlords (or their letting agents) carry out referencing to check what the applicant has told them. It usually involves using a specialist company to check whether the tenant has had any bad debts, reports back their income, and to obtain a reference from a previous landlord.

The company will make a recommendation as to whether the tenant can afford the property, and whether they have “passed” the various checks. If the tenant fails the affordability reference or has a bad credit history, the letting agent or landlord may ask for a guarantor.

Click here for more information on the referencing checks that most landlords will carry out: Renter Referencing.

5. What’s a guarantor and why is it needed?

A guarantor is someone who agrees to “guarantee” payment of the rent. This means that they will pay the tenant’s rent if the tenant doesn’t pay it, if they damage the property or leave before the end of the fixed term.

Landlords often ask for guarantors from people with poor credit histories, students, self-employed people with irregular income, and people on low income.

6. What should tenants do if they have CCJs, low credit scores, previous rent arrears?

Honesty really is the best policy here. It’s cheap and easy for landlords to carry out a reference (OpenRent provide it for £20 per applicant). The landlord will find out, and then it’s likely they’ll reject the application and keep the holding deposit of a week’s rent.

I personally would be sympathetic to someone who got into financial problems or rent arrears during Covid, so long as they were up front about it, explained what happened, and I conclude they acted properly. If I found out someone had rent arrears or a CCJ without them having told me first, I would automatically reject them as an applicant.

7. What rights do tenants have with holding deposits?

An applicant is likely to have to pay a holding deposit of one week’s rent to secure the tenancy while the landlord or the letting agent carries out referencing.

The landlord is entitled to keep some or all of the holding deposit if the applicant:

  • Changes their mind and pulls out before the tenancy agreement is signed
  • Fails right to rent checks
  • Provides false or misleading information (eg says no CCJs when they have CCJs)
  • Doesn’t provide the information the landlord needs to proceed.

The landlord can’t keep the holding deposit if the reason the applicant fails reference is due to the landlord’s affordability criteria, unless the applicant had provided misleading or false information. For instance, lying about their salary level.

If tenants have concerns about whether they will pass referencing, they should make sure they fill in the application form or provide the information to the agent before referencing. If the referencing fails for a reason that the applicant provided to the agent or landlord, then they’ll usually be entitled to their holding deposit back in full.

8. What is the right to rent?

no right to rent ground for possession

Right to rent refers to the obligation on landlords to check that every person aged 18 or over is legally entitled to rent property in the UK before they move into the property.

A landlord or their letting agent needs to check original copies of identity documents while the tenants are present, and take copies, before the start of the tenancy. Usually renters will be asked to visit the letting agent with their documents. Self-managing landlords may agree to meet the prospective tenants at the property and take photos of the documents.

There are very high fine for landlords who let their property to someone who doesn’t have the right to rent, so this is important. They need to ask for documents, even if someone seems to be British or Irish (eg they have British or Irish accent).

>> Related Post: What Right to Rent Checks must Landlords Carry Out

9. How can renters tell if a landlord is a good, responsible landlord?

female landlord handing over keys to tenant

The overwhelming majority of landlords are good, and comply with the law. However, there’s still a sizeable number who aren’t good landlords. It can be very stressful for renters who live in a property owned by a rogue landlord.

Often tenants will never meet the landlord in person, as they only deal with the letting agent. What can renters do to see if the a landlord is good?

Currently, there’s no register of landlords, although that’s due to change with the Renters Reform Bill.

However, here are some of the signs of a good, responsible landlord:

  • If the landlord is an Accredited Landlord Member of the National Residential Landlord Association, it’s a sign they take their responsibilities seriously as they need to have regular training. You could ask the letting agent of the landlord is NRLA accredited.
  • Does the property appear to be in good repair? If there are lots of problems with the property, it’s a sign that either the landlord doesn’t take care of the property, or the letting agents aren’t doing a good job. Point out the things that need repairing, and see what the reaction is.
  • If the property is tenanted, ask the existing tenants why they are leaving and if they have any tips or advice for them.
  • Does the landlord want to meet you? This is usually a good sign that they want to make sure the property is let to good tenants. If you meet them, you can judge yourself.
  • If the landlord is letting themselves on (say) OpenRent, how organised do they seem? How do they speak to you? Do you think they’ll sort out any problems when you’re living there?

Remember, entering into a tenancy agreement is a two-way process. If you don’t have a good feeling, don’t sign the agreement and keep looking. Properties come up for rent all the time, and it’s better to take a little bit longer to find the right place with a good landlord.

>> Related Post: The 5 Hallmarks of Responsible Landlords

NRLA accredited

10. What can renters do to increase their chances of renting a property?

There’s a lot of competition for rental properties in 2024, with demand at an all time high. Here are some practical tips for a tenant to increase their chances of being selected:

  • Time is of the essence. Have alerts set up on your phone so you’re notified when a property is first listed. Try to arrange a viewing straight away. If you like the property, say you want to rent it at the viewing. If you don’t, the changes are that it will be gone the next day.
  • Do register with OpenRent, which landlords use if they want to let the property themselves. OpenRent will normally advertise listings a few hours before they go live on Rightmove and Zoopla. If your landlord has screening questions, answer them in full straight away.
  • Turn up at the viewing on time, be well presented and ask questions.
  • If you say you want to rent the property at the viewing, follow up immediately with an email or message (if OpenRent).

11. What should happen to a tenant’s deposit?

By law, a landlord must place all tenants’ deposits in a deposit protection scheme if they rent property under an assured shorthold tenancy, within 30 days of receiving the money. This rule doesn’t apply to lodgers.

Also, the landlord or letting agent must provide prescribed information concerning the registration of the deposit within 30 days of receiving the deposit. Click here for full details of the prescribed information.

If the landlord doesn’t protect the deposit and provide the prescribed information to the tenant within 30 days, they won’t be able to serve a valid Section 21 Notice to evict the tenant. Also, the tenant can apply to court for compensation equivalent to up to three times the value of the deposit. The only way a landlord can serve a valid Section 21 notice is to repay the deposit to the tenant.

>> Related Post: Tips on Deposit Registration Schemes

12. What do landlords need to give renters before they move in?

list of documents for landlords to hand renters before letting
The list of documents that landlords must give renters before they move in

13. How can renters avoid getting scammed by fake agents?

According to Action Fraud, rental scams are a growing problem, with over 5,750 reports of rental scams in 2022. This is an increase of 23% increase on 2021.

There are lots of things that renters can do to check that their letting agent is legit, and to complain if they’re unhappy. Take a look at this blog post here for more details.

>> Related Post: How to avoid rogue and fake letting agents

What are tenants’ rights during a tenancy?

1. What should renters do when they move in?

extract from inventory
Extract from an inventory from OpenRent

Inventory / schedule of condition

Most landlords will arrange for a professional inventory to be done of the condition of the property before renters move in. This is a valuable document as an independent person has validated the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy. Without an inventory, it can be difficult for a tenant to prove that (say) everything was dirty when they moved in, and the cellar was full of junk.

If your landlord provides an inventory, make sure you check it thoroughly and point out anything you don’t agree with.

If your landlord doesn’t provide an inventory, make your own. Photograph every blemish, put it into a word document with descriptions, and send it to the landlord.

Point out where repairs are needed

If you notice something needs repairing after you move in, put it in writing and ask for it to be repaired. Many letting agents use a portal for tenants to report repairs. If this is the case, use the portal. If not, call the agent, and confirm by email. If the landlord manages the property themselves, message or email them.

It’s a tenant’s right to live in a property that is properly maintained. Sometimes things get missed, which is why I do a maintenance visit a week or so after new renters move in. That way they can see I want to keep the property in good condition, and it helps me nip problems in the bud.

2. What does unfurnished mean?

List of items that landlords must provide in UK unfurnished rental properties

There’s actually not much that a landlord is legally required to provide in an unfurnished property in England. The list above shows what landlords must provide.

Landlords aren’t even required to provide curtain poles, blinds or curtains, although many do.

For a full explanation of what is best practice for landlords to provide in unfurnished properties, click here: What Landlords should provide in unfurnished properties in England and Wales.

3. Do tenants have the right to have a pet?

As the law currently stands, tenants do not have the right to have a pet and the landlord is entitled to reject applicants who have a pet.

If a tenant has a pet despite a clause in the tenancy agreement forbidding it, this is a breach of the agreement. Consequently, the landlord could evict the tenants using Section 21 (if not in a fixed term period) or Section 8, using Discretionary Ground 12.

There are plans in the Renters Reform Bill to introduce the right for tenants to request consent to keep a pet. however, this is a long way from becoming law (probably 2025 at the earliest).

>> Related Post: Renters Reform Bill – Tenant’s new right to request a pet

4. What should tenants do about repairs and maintenance?

Landlords have a legal duty to look after their properties and keep them in good repair, so they’re fit for people to live in.

Landlords are legally required to carry out repairs to the roof, drains, gutters, external pipes, windows and exterior doors and main access to the property. This also includes fences, gates gates and garden sheds. It doesn’t include maintaining the garden, because that’s the tenant’s responsibility, unless the tenancy agreement says otherwise.

Landlords must also ensure their rental properties are fit for human habitation. This is enforced by local authorities, as well as by tenants through the courts.

It’s important for renters to tell their landlord (or letting agent) when repairs are necessary, other than those they should be carrying out themselves (eg unblocking sinks. Renters should not attempt to do anything else electrical, other than changing a light bulb or a fuse. They shouldn’t change light fittings, plug sockets or light switches themselves. It’s the duty of a landlord to have safe electrical installations, and this means tenants should not do it themselves.

Renters must also give “reasonable access” to the landlord, or someone working on their behalf, to carry out repairs, routine maintenance and safety checks.

>> Related Post: Which repairs are UK landlords required to do?

5. What maintenance are tenants responsible for?

Tenants have a number of obligations to look after the property. Here are some examples:

Here are some modern day examples of what behaving in a “tenant-like manner” means in practice:

  • Changing light bulbs.
  • Keeping the inside and outside of the property clean.
  • Disposing of rubbish in the bins provided and putting the appropriate bin out for collection on bin day.
  • Unblocking sinks, baths and showers, including clearing out hair from the traps in showers and baths.
  • Bleeding radiators and resetting the pressure of the boiler if and when needed.
  • Keeping windows condensation-free, ie opening windows and using any extractor fans to air the room and prevent mould.
  • Maintaining the garden, including lawn mowing and sweeping up leaves, unless the tenancy agreement says the landlord will arrange this.

>> Related Post: Which repairs and maintenance are the tenant’s responsibility?

6. Does a tenant have a right to make changes to a rented property?

Tenants are obliged to return a property in the same state it was when they let it, otherwise a landlord can deduct the cost of returning it to its previous condition from the deposit.

Most landlords are reasonable about changes (eg putting up a TV on the wall) or even painting a child’s room a different colour. However, make sure it’s agreed in writing whether or not you need to change it bad. An email or message is fine, so long as you keep a copy. if the landlord gives permission to make a change and says you don’t need to change it back when you leave, that’s OK.

If a tenant changes light fittings, they should get permission first and should also have the new light fitting put in by a qualified electrician. Tenants should not do anything electrical to a property, unless they’re an electrician. Otherwise the landlord will quite rightly arrange for an electrician to check the installation and deduct the cost from the deposit.

7. What rights do tenants have when the landlord wants to increase rent?

So long as the landlord is not increasing the rent above the market rate for a similar property in the same area, there’s not a lot a tenant can do to stop an increase in the rent.

The rent can’t be increased during the fixed term of a tenancy agreement, unless the tenant agrees.

It’s often worth negotiating if the rent increase is too high. For instance, to negotiate a lower increase or to stagger the increase.

If the proposed rent increase is above market value, tenants can appeal the rent increase by referring it to the First Tier Rent Tribunal.

>> Related Post: Increasing rent in England

8. What should tenants do if they know they can’t pay the rent in full?

worried renter looking at laptop

If a tenant fears they may not be able to pay the rent in full, it’s important to get advice. I recommend Citizens Advice and Shelter for options and support. There may be benefits the tenant is entitled to, for instance.

They’ll recommend that you explain your situation to your landlord so you can agree a plan. Many landlords are prepared to work with tenants when they fall into debt, provided they’re up front about it. Landlords are far less likely to be sympathetic if the first they know of their teant’s financial problems is when they miss a rent payment.

9. What if a tenant wants to leave before the end of the fixed term

Unless there’s a break clause, technically speaking, the landlord has the right to the rent from the tenant and/or guarantor until the end of the fixed term period, even if the tenant is no longer living there.

If a tenant wants to leave a property during a fixed term, speak to the landlord or letting agent. If you give lots of notice, they may be sympathetic.

With renter demand high and rents for new lets increasing, the landlord may actually be better off financially with a new tenant. Particularly if the rent has fallen behind the market rent.

10. Does a tenant have a right to make changes to a rented property?

Tenants are obliged to return a property in the same state it was when they let it, otherwise a landlord can deduct the cost of returning it to its previous condition from the deposit.

Most landlords are reasonable about changes (eg putting up a TV on the wall) or even painting a child’s room a different colour. However, make sure it’s agreed in writing whether or not you need to change it bad. An email or message is fine, so long as you keep a copy. if the landlord gives permission to make a change and says you don’t need to change it back when you leave, that’s OK.

If a tenant changes light fittings, they should get permission first and should also have the new light fitting put in by a qualified electrician. Tenants should not do anything electrical to a property, unless they’re an electrician.

11. What happens when a sharer needs to move out?

There are lots of instances where a flat-mate or house-mate might want to move out, not least in the event of the relationship breakdown of a couple.

Landlords can’t just cross out the name of someone on the tenancy agreement. Quite rightly, landlords need to follow procedures and do it properly.

To find out the legalities of different scenarios, read this blog post: What happens when tenants break up or fall out?

Tenants’ rights at the end of a tenancy

1. How can tenants serve notice to end a tenancy?

If a tenant is not in a fixed term tenancy, they can end a tenancy and move out if they give at least one month’s notice, which expires on a rent day.

This should be in writing and sent to the address for notices that will be on the tenancy agreement, or a subsequent notice from the landlord which changes the address. (A Section 48 Notice). Do check the tenancy agreement to see if there are any terms relating to how the tenant must provide notice.

>> Related Post: Tenant guide to ending a tenancy with a valid notice to quit

2. What rights does a landlord have to make a tenant leave a property?

The only way a landlord can end a tenancy is by serving either a Section 21 Notice or a Section 8 Notice. Most landlords use Section 21 as it’s easier, and this requires at least two months’ notice.

However, landlords can only use Section 21 if they’ve complied with certain legal duties (click here for the checklist), and it’s not during a fixed term.

Section 8 is more complicated and involves possession proceedings in court.

A landlord cannot force tenants to leave a property themselves, and must use a county court bailiff.

Bailiff outside rental accommodation

3. What should a tenant do if they receive a Section 21 or Section 8 notice?

The government has recently set up a free service called the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service to give advice to tenants who are at risk of eviction. This is a great new resource for tenants, as it will give tenants advice on what their options are.

4. What should tenants do if the landlord won’t refund some or all the deposit?

Renters have the right to get back the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

However, the landlord or letting agent can deduct money if there’s a good reason. For instance:

  • The renter owes rent or hasn’t paid bills.
  • If the property isn’t left in the same condition as at the start of the tenancy, the landlord can deduct reasonable cleaning and redecoration charges. (See above for the importance of having a record of the condition of the property att the beginning of the tenancy).
  • The tenant has damaged the property beyond normal wear and tear. For example, a spill on the carpet or holes on the wall from where they’ve hung a television.
  • Some of the items in the inventory, like the drawers inside the fridge or freezer, are damaged or missing.

If the landlord (or letting agent) and the tenant agree on the deductions, the landlord must return the deposit within 10 days of them both agreeing on the amount.

If they don’t agree, the tenant can use the deposit scheme’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service to challenge the landlord. In the meantime, the deposit will still be protected in the scheme. Both parties will need to provide evidence, and the decision made about the deposit will be final. The dispute resolution is free and they will look at the evidence objectively.

5. Rate your landlord!

Finally, when you move on, rate your landlord, letting agent and property so that other renters will know if your landlord is fab, one of the rogues to avoid, or somewhere in between.

The best way to do this is by rating your landlord, letting agent, property and neighbourhood on the website Marks out of Tenancy, and providing constructive feedback to highlight what went well, and what didn’t.

Reviewers can leave a rating out of ten as well as a comment on areas including value for money, quality of repairs and communication from the landlord and letting agent.

Every review helps renters make better-informed decisions, and the more renters that do it, the better the information will be.

How to be a successful renter in the UK

1 thought on “What tenants need to know about renting in 2024”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top