Advice for tenants

Private and social housing tenants

If you are a tenant and you are experiencing problems with your accommodation you should:

  • Inform the landlord or agent by telephone or in writing.  If by phone, keep a note of the date, time and person contacted, with a summary of the conversation. If writing, keep a paper or electronic copy of the letter. Also if you are given a reference number by a housing association ensure you keep a note of this.
  • The works should be carried out within a reasonable amount of time, with serious matters such as a defective toilet being dealt with urgently. It is advisable to look at your tenancy agreement to see if a timescale for repairs is detailed.
  • Please refer to the Housing standards page.

Please note: 

  • Do not withhold rent. Although there are circumstances when rent money can be used to carry out works, the correct procedure must be followed. Seek advice from a solicitor or professional housing advisor.
  • Landlords must provide tenants with a copy of the gas safety certificate on a annual basis.
  • Before signing a tenancy agreement ensure you are fully aware of who to contact if there is a problem and how it will be dealt with. 

Eviction

If you are facing eviction, please:

  • call us and the Citizens Advice Bureau immediately for help
  • contact a solicitor for legal advice

The earlier you take action or get advice, the better. It is more difficult to make agreements at a later stage.

The most common reason tenants are evicted is if they have not paid their rent, although it is possible to be evicted if you have not followed your tenancy agreement.

Landlords have to follow legal procedures before evicting you. Usually you are entitled to a written notice even if your landlord did not give you a written agreement to live in the property. The main exception to this is if you share living accommodation such as a kitchen or bathroom with your landlord. In this case, the landlord only has to ask you to leave. A written notice is usually given either 14 days or two months before you are expected to leave, depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have.

Once a possession order has been issued from the courts, you must apply to the court itself to change the terms of the order or ask for it to be suspended. The court will then reconsider your case but may not agree to alter the decision. There is no guarantee that the courts will not evict you if you have children. If your landlord takes you to court to make you leave, you may have to pay the court costs. If your landlord takes you to court to make you leave, you may have to pay the court costs:

If you are on benefit and are evicted for not paying your rent, you are likely to be considered to have made yourself homeless intentionally. Please note that in this case, we have no obligation to provide you with alternative accommodation.

Problems with paying your rent

If you don't pay your rent, your landlord can insist you leave where you are living. However, it may be possible to avoid being evicted if you act quickly. Please take the following steps:

  1. Call us and the Citizens Advice Bureau to discuss solutions.
  2. Tell your landlord that you are struggling to make your payments. Ask your landlord if you can agree on a plan to pay back the money you owe over a set period of time. Decide on an amount that you can afford. Try to make regular payments, even if they are small amounts.
  3. Pay as much as you can of the money you owe. If your landlord refuses to accept a partial payment, put it in a separate bank account and keep offering to pay it.
  4. Start managing your finances. You need to work out your income compared to how much you spend as accurately as possible. Seek help from the Gov.uk website or a specialist debt adviser such as Christians Against Poverty, which offers support and advice regardless of your religion.
  5. If you are receiving housing benefit, please contact us. You may be able to apply for a 'discretionary housing payment' to help cover your rent.
  6. If you have been unable to pay your rent because you have not yet received your housing benefit, please contact us to discuss your claim.

Landlord harassment

Some landlords try and force their tenants to move out by harassing them. Harassment is a criminal offence. If you are having difficulties with your landlord, please call us for advice. You can also contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.

What is harassment?

Harassment can be carried out by your landlord or someone acting for your landlord, like an agent. It includes things that stop you living peaceably in your home, such as:

  • cutting off or restricting services such as hot water or heating
  • stopping you having guests
  • constantly calling round late at night or without warning
  • threatening you
  • entering your home when you're not there or without your permission
  • allowing your home to get into such a bad state of repair that it's dangerous for you to stay
  • leaving building works unfinished
  • sending in builders without notice
  • insisting that you sign agreements that reduce your rights 

What action can be taken?

Harassment does not have to be obvious or intentional before you can do something about it. You can:

  • ask your landlord to stop the behaviour
  • keep a diary, notes and photographs of what happens
  • contact us or an advice centre, the police, or a solicitor for help (this can also be used as evidence later)
  • ask your landlord to put all communication to you in writing
  • have someone with you for support and as a witness whenever you see your landlord

In an emergency, such as if you have been locked out, please contact us. If we are not available to help immediately or if violence has been threatened, you should also call the police.

Taking legal action

You may be able to take your landlord to court to stop the harassment or to let you back in the property. We can help you to do this. This can be effective as your landlord could be imprisoned if a court order is not obeyed. The court can also award you compensation. We can help negotiate with your landlord to sort out problems. Even if we don't think there is enough evidence to take your landlord to court, we could warn or officially caution your landlord about the consequences of continuing the harassment.

Appealing Enforcement Notices

When an owner or landlord has been served with either an Improvement Notice or Prohibition Order, he or she has the right to appeal within 21 days or 28 days respectively.

Appeals are heard by the Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) which has replaced the previous role of the County Court.