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Tenant Advice

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Overview

More than 30,000 households in Birmingham rent their homes from a private landlord or agent. Young people often move into privately rented accommodation when they first leave home and, with many people moving around to find work, private renting is a good solution.

The private rented sector ranges from direct access hostels for homeless people to luxury city centre apartments. The standard of accommodation and the way it’s managed varies.

The council is working with landlords, agents and tenants to encourage responsible renting, promote a positive image of private renting and to support good practice.

We provide information and advice to tenants on a variety of subjects including:

  • Landlord charges, rights and responsibilities
  • Types of tenancy agreement
  • Repairs to rented property
  • Housing benefits
  • Houses for multiple occupation (HMOs)
  • Tenant responsibilities
  • Landlord responsibilities
  • Ending a tenancy
  • Landlord harassment

You can get this information online by using the above buttons. We have a number of frequently asked questions, associated documents and service links to help you.

Essential Information
Frequently Asked Questions
    • Private rented property is advertised in many ways, including:

      • Local newspapers and magazines
      • A local letting agency
      • A local estate agent (many now have a lettings department)
      • Local shop windows or supermarket notice boards
      • Websites

      If you’re not sure of the best way, try using a reputable letting agent.

    • There are several key things to look out for when viewing a property:

      • Damp: look for tell-tale stains or mould on walls and ceilings.
      • Electricity: are there enough sockets and do they work?
      • Water: turn on a tap to check that it works.
      • Gas: make sure the property has a Gas Safety Certificate from a gas engineer on the gas safe register.
      • Kitchen and bathroom: are they well equipped and big enough? Do they have adequate ventilation?
      • Furniture: check what comes with the property and what condition it’s in. The landlord should give you a list (an inventory). Make sure you agree with what's on it. All upholstered furniture will have to comply with The Furniture and Furnishings (fire) (safety) Regulations 1988. A guide to these regulations can be found here.
      • Security: check that all the doors and windows close properly and that there are enough locks and bolts to keep the property secure.
      • Safety: how would you get out in a fire? Is there a smoke alarm? If you're thinking of moving into a house that's been converted into flats, bedsits, or a hostel there should be fire safety equipment, such as smoke and heat detectors, fire doors and fire blankets.

      Make a list of anything that doesn’t work or is missing and talk to the landlord about it.

      Comprehensive details of things to look out for together with check lists for easy reference is available in a guidance booklet entitled “Read this First” which you can view on the Homestamp website.

    • You should make sure that you:

      • Can afford the rent. You may be able to get Housing Benefit to help pay your rent, so find out first
      • Get a written tenancy agreement, which states what your rent is and spells out what you and your landlord are responsible for
      • Get a receipt if you have paid a deposit to the landlord
      • Find out which repairs your landlord is responsible for, which repairs you should do, and how to report a repair – by law you have to be provided with contact names and addresses to report repairs
    • You are entitled to 'quiet enjoyment' of the property you are renting. This means that your landlord has to let you use the property peacefully and must allow you to exercise all of your legal rights.

      Your landlord (and agent if you have one) must, by law, give you their name and address so that you can report repairs or other problems.

      Your landlord may have keys to your property but does not have the right to enter at any time. The only time your landlord has right of access is to check for any necessary repairs and to do this they need to give you at least 24 hours’ written notice. This could be less in an emergency, but your agreement must still be sought before the landlord can enter your property.

      If you are worried that your landlord is entering the property while you are out it may be possible for you to change the lock, but please take our advice before doing this.

    • The property you rent should provide a healthy and safe environment for you and your family as well as any visitors and should be free from unavoidable hazards.

      If the property you are renting is in an unsatisfactory condition such that it is affecting your health and safety or if it is in need of repair then you should contact the landlord in the first instance preferably in writing. A sample letter you can use for this purpose is attached below. The landlord should then arrange for any necessary remedial action or repairs to take place.

      If you think the defects are likely to put the health and safety of you and your family at risk of immediate and serious harm then you are advised to contact the city council's Private Rented Services Team (see Contacts above) as well as your landlord.

      With respect to repairs in particular, landlords are typically responsible for:

      • the structure and outside of the property
      • basins, baths, sinks and toilets
      • fires, radiators and water heaters
      • water, gas and electricity supply and meters
      • water tanks and boilers.

      However this may differ depending on the conditions of your tenancy. When you sign your tenancy agreement you should find out which repairs your landlord is responsible for, which repairs you should do, and how to report a repair.

    • If the reported problem is not attended to promptly by the landlord, then the following courses of action are available:

      1. Contact the Private Rented Services (PRS) Team (see Contacts above) and ask the council to take action. The Private Rented Services team would then speak to or write to the landlord about the problem and wherever possible will work with the landlord to ensure any necessary remedial action is carried out within a reasonable period of time.

        If the landlord fails to cooperate then depending on the nature of the problem, further enforcement action may be taken by the Private Rented Services Team. A full inspection of your home would firstly need to be carried out before any type of enforcement action could be taken.

        If there is a serious and imminent risk of harm due to your housing conditions, the council has powers to take emergency action whereby a builder can be brought in at short notice to carry out any necessary work to remove the immediate danger.

        Also in severe cases, either the whole or part of the property can be prohibited from use for living purposes, in which case the council will provide assistance with finding suitable alternative accommodation if required.

        It is important to remember when you contact the council or another agency about your accommodation, make a note of the name of the person you speak to and the time and date of the discussion.

        Further to this you may wish to look into the following courses of action (Legal advice should be sought prior to commencing any of the below).

      2. Take your landlord to court. Get legal advice before you do this.
      3. Sue your landlord for compensation if you are injured or your possessions are damaged because your landlord didn’t carry out the necessary remedial work. If any of your visitors are affected they can also sue.

      IMPORTANT - Do not stop paying rent – this could give the landlord grounds for taking court action to evict you.

    • If you’re finding it hard to make ends meet, or your circumstances change, you may be able to claim benefits which has been available since 7 April 2008. It is a new way of working out housing benefit for tenants of private landlords.

      Local housing allowance pays for accommodation only. It does not cover charges for heating, lighting, food or care that may be included in your rent.

      You can get advice from your local Neighbourhood Office or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

    • It’s your right to live in peace, free from the nuisance of noisy or antisocial neighbours. The Environmental Health Team can investigate and tackle noise from neighbours, such as music, DIY work, barking dogs and noise from industry.

      If you’re having problems with nuisance or harassment from antisocial neighbours, tell your landlord and call the Birmingham antisocial behaviour helpline on 0121 303 1111 for advice and help.

    • You normally have to give one months written notice to your landlord to end your tenancy. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter. If you have a fixed term agreement such as an assured shorthold tenancy you may have to pay rent until the end of your agreement, unless it contains a clause allowing you to leave early. For example, if you leave after three months of a six-month tenancy, you may have to pay rent for the remaining three months if your landlord is unable to re-let the property for this period.

      Once the fixed-term period is up you only need to give 28 days’ notice. Remember to keep a copy of the letter.

    • If your landlord tells you that they want you to leave, check your tenancy agreement to see what notice you’re entitled to. The length and type of notice that your landlord will have to give you depends on which type of tenancy you have. If you are unsure or want help contact us.

      Unless you share accommodation with your landlord you will usually be entitled to written notice and a court order before having to leave. It is a criminal offence for your landlord to evict you without following the correct legal procedure.

    • Yes, there are different types of tenancies:

      Assured Short-hold Tenancies
      This is the most common type of tenancy used by private landlords. Under an assured short-hold tenancy you have a legal right to live in your home for a period of time. Your tenancy might be set up for a set period such as six months, which is known as a fixed term tenancy. It could run on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis, which is known as a periodic tenancy. The landlord can evict you at the end of the fixed term tenancy, but if your fixed term tenancy is for less than 6 months or if you have a periodic tenancy, the landlord must wait for six months from the start of the tenancy before they can evict you.

      To end your tenancy the landlord must go to court to get a Possession order. The court will grant this automatically if the landlord shows that they have followed the correct procedure. You may have to pay the court cost.

      If you receive a notice to quit contact us.

      You cannot be evicted during the course of the tenancy unless you have broken one or more of the tenancy’s conditions (for example, if you have not paid the rent). If the landlord alleges that you have done this, they must serve a valid notice seeking possession and get a court order before you can be evicted. The court will consider the case and may or may not award possession to the landlord.

      Assured Tenancies
      This type of tenancy is the most secure and can only be created if the landlord serves you with an assured tenancy notice before the tenancy starts. If the landlord wants you to leave, there are strict rules about the procedures they must follow in terms of the amount of notice and the way that they serve it to you. The landlord must get a court order before you can be lawfully evicted.

      Resident Landlord Lets
      These are sometimes known as lodgings. If you live in the same house as your landlord and share facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen, you are only entitled to receive the amount of notice that was agreed when you moved in. In this type of situation the landlord would not need a court order to evict you. If you moved in before 15 January 1989, different rules could apply so get advice.

      Other Types of Occupancy
      If you share accommodation with someone else you would be entitled to a notice to quit, which gives at least 28 days’ notice before you must leave the property. The landlord may also have to apply for a court order.

    • No. It’s not always necessary to have a written tenancy agreement but it is advisable because it means that the details of the agreement are recorded. The contents of a written agreement can affect your rights as a tenant.

      Always get advice before you sign any agreement. The unfair contract terms regulations mean that the landlord cannot include any clauses that are unfair to you, for example, that you have to pay a high rate of interest on any unpaid rent. These clauses can be taken out. Get advice if you think your agreement contains any unfair clauses.

      If you are a tenant and don’t have a written tenancy agreement, you have the right to get your landlord to provide a written statement of the basic terms of the tenancy. These will include the start date of the tenancy, the rent you must pay, whether the tenancy is for a fixed term and the length of the fixed term.

    • Premium: a non-returnable sum of money that the landlord can charge simply for giving you the tenancy.

      Deposit: the landlord can charge a returnable deposit of up to two months’ rent. You have a responsibility to leave the property in the same condition in which it was let to you, allowing for fair wear and tear. When you move in, make a detailed list of all the property’s contents and record its condition. Taking photographs will help. Check the circumstances in which your landlord could refuse to return your deposit when you move out. If you have an assured shorthold tenancy your landlord must protect your deposit with one of the Tenancy Deposit Schemes. Please see What is the Tenancy Deposit Scheme below for more information.

      Rent: money you agree to pay the landlord for the right to live in your home. The amount of rent you pay will depend on your negotiations with the landlord and what you can afford. You can get an idea of what rents are being charged locally by looking at the register of determined rents held by the Valuation Office Agency.

      Bills: find out whether payments for gas, electric, water and phone services are included in the rent or whether you will need to pay the suppliers yourself.

    • If you get Income Support or Job Seekers’ Allowance, or if you are on a low income, you can claim Local Housing Allowance to help you pay your rent. These pay for accommodation only and do not cover charges for heating, lighting, food or care that may be included in your rent.

      Local Housing Allowance
      Local Housing Allowance is a new way or working out Housing Benefit for tenants of private landlords. Local Housing Allowance is based on who lives with you and what income and savings you have. It is calculated on the number of rooms you need not the number of rooms in your home or how much rent you pay If your Local Housing Allowance is more than your rent, you can keep the difference, up to £15 per week.

      The Rent Office Services sets Local Housing Allowance rates. The rates are displayed at each of our Customer Service Centres.

      Before agreeing to take on a tenancy you should check the amount of Local Housing Allowance you will get for the size of property you are planning to rent. You can check amounts at your local neighbourhood office. This will help you decide if you can afford the rent. Local Housing Allowance is paid to the tenant unless you:


      • Owe rent for eight weeks or more
      • Are having deductions made from a welfare benefit
      • Have a history of owing rent arrears
      • Are considered vulnerable

      For further information, contact the benefits service on 0121 464 7000 or ask at your local Customer Service Centres.

      Housing benefit: if your benefit claim began before 7 April 2008 your housing benefit will continue to be calculated under the old rules, unless there is a break in your claim or you change address. For further information, contact the benefits service on 0121 464 7000 or ask at your nearest Customer Service Centre.

    • Yes, if you are moving into a property that is a House in Multiple Occupation the landlord may need a licence. If the property has three floors or more and there are five or more tenants who share facilities, then the landlord must have a licence. If the property does not require a licence the landlord must still adhere to specific conditions regarding the quality of the property provided and failure to do so could lead to action being taken against them by the council.

      The landlord is also responsible for:

      • Providing accommodation that is large enough and has enough cooking, washing and toilet facilities for the number of people living there
      • Providing fire safety precautions and keeping them in good working order, including fire doors, smoke alarm systems, emergency lighting and a fire blanket in any shared kitchen
      • Ensuring that supplies of water, gas and electricity are maintained
      • Keeping the communal parts of the property in good repair, such as stairs, hall, shared kitchens and bathrooms

    • There are a few things you should do to protect yourself and your rights:

      • Make sure that you have a full inventory (list of contents and condition of property). If your landlord doesn’t provide one, write it yourself and get your landlord to sign it. If your landlord won’t co-operate get an independent witness to sign it. Make a note of anything that’s damaged or needs repair or cleaning. It can be helpful to take photographs
      • Read the gas, electricity, water and phone meters on the first day of your tenancy, even if you’re not moving in until a later date
      • Get your possessions insured. Your landlord’s insurance will not cover them
      • Find out where the water stopcock, electricity switch, fuse box and the gas isolator valve are
      • Make sure that you have a telephone number to contact your landlord or manager in case of an emergency
    • You must:

      • Pay your rent
      • Behave in a reasonable way, not causing nuisance or annoyance to others
      • Not damage any fixtures, fittings or furniture belonging to the landlord. If there is any furniture that you don’t want, ask the landlord to remove it. Don’t store it anywhere without their permission. Ask the landlord before making any changes to the property
      • Inform the landlord if repairs are needed
      • Allow the landlord to have access to the property at reasonable times, for example to carry out repairs, but preferably by appointment
      • Not sub-let or take in a lodger without asking permission first, unless your contract allows you to do this
      • Give the landlord proper notice if you wish to leave. You may well have responsibilities over and above those outlined here. If you have, they should be included in your tenancy agreement

    • Your landlord must:

      • Give you their name and address and that of their agent, if they use one
      • Give you a written statement of the conditions of the tenancy
      • Give you a rent book if you pay weekly, or a receipt for the rent payment if you pay fortnightly or monthly;
      • Respect your right to peace and quiet in your own home
      • Register your deposit with one the Tenancy Deposit Schemes. Please see “What is the Tenancy Deposit Scheme” below for more information
      • Give you reasonable notice in writing if they need to get into your home, for example to do repairs;
      • Give you legal notice if they want you to leave
      • Make suitable arrangements for security of your mail to prevent interference
      • Ensure that gas appliances are tested at least once a year and give you a copy of the safety certificate within 28 days of the test taking place
      • Ensure that all upholstered furniture complies with fire safety regulations
    • It’s your responsibility to pay the rent on time, as set out in your tenancy agreement. If you pay weekly the landlord must give you a rent book. If you pay fortnightly or monthly make sure you get receipts for payments you make. If you don’t pay the rent for whatever reason, the landlord can start possession proceedings to evict you from the property. You should not withhold rent in an attempt to force the landlord to carry out repairs.

      If the landlord does not collect the rent, you should make every effort to pay it. Write to the landlord, saying that you want to pay and keep a copy of the letter. If you try and pay the rent and the landlord refuses to accept it, make sure that you have an independent witness. Keep the rent money in a separate account, so that you can pay it when asked. Then, if the case goes to court, you will be able to show that it was the landlord, not you, who acted wrongly.

      • Clean it thoroughly, making sure that everything is as you found it when you moved in
      • Write to the landlord inviting them to inspect the property. If the landlord is unhappy with any aspect, try to put things right immediately, so that there will be no deduction from the deposit when it’s returned to you
      • If you’re responsible for gas, electricity, water or phone bills, arrange to have the meters read on the day you move out, and get the final bills sent to your new address
      • Don’t rely on the deposit for your last month’s rent. You have to pay rent until the end of your tenancy
      • Return all keys to the landlord when you leave, either in person or by registered post
    • Yes, but your landlord can normally make deductions from your deposit for:

      • Damage to the property or furniture (but not normal wear and tear)
      • Cleaning costs, if the property is left in a worse state than when you moved in
      • Keys not returned
      • Any rent that you owe

      If you paid your deposit before 6 April 2007 it should be returned within a week of you leaving the property. If the landlord does not return your deposit, or if you consider that any deductions made are unjustified, you can take action to reclaim the money in the Small Claims court.

      Anyone can use this procedure, without the need for a solicitor. Leaflets and advice are available to help you, which you can get from the private tenancy officers or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

      If you paid your deposit after 6 April 2007 your deposit will be covered by a tenancy deposit scheme. Within 14 days of taking your deposit your landlord should have told you which of the authorised schemes it is registered with and how to apply for the release of the deposit. All of the authorised schemes have a dispute resolution service. They will decide if, or how much of the deposit should be returned to you. You can get further advice from the private tenancy team on 0121 303 5070 or at your local Neighbourhood Office.

    • If you have an assured shorthold tenancy your landlord must protect your deposit with one of the Tenancy Deposit Schemes. If you paid your tenancy deposit between the 6 April 2007 and 5 April 2012 your landlord (or agent) had only 14 days to protect the deposit and to provide you with the required information. If your tenancy has not ended and your landlord has not done this they will now be subject to the new procedures. Your landlord had until the 5 May 2012 to protect your deposit and to provide you with the relevant information about the tenancy deposit protection scheme they have used. Before 5 April 2012 if your landlord did not protect your deposit and give you the required information they could be fined three times the amount of your deposit. If your tenancy has ended or your landlord protects your deposit before the court hearing, the court cannot fine the landlord at all.

      If you paid your tenancy deposit to a landlord or agent after 6 April 2012, they must:

      • protect your deposit within 30 days of receiving it, and
      • return your deposit at the end of your tenancy.

      Your landlord must provide you with all the following information within 30 days:

      • their contact details
      • details of the tenancy deposit protection scheme they have used
      • information about the purpose of the tenancy deposit protection scheme
      • how to get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy
      • what to do if there is a dispute about the deposit.

      A court can fine a landlord between 1 to 3 times the value of the deposit if they:

      • only protect a tenants deposit after 30 days, or
      • fail to give the tenant details of the scheme used within 30 days, or
      • fail to protect the deposit (the court can also order the landlord to protect your deposit).

      If your landlord does not protect your tenancy deposit and provide you with the required information, their right to evict you using a Section 21 Notice will also be affected. Your landlord will not be able to use a Section 21 Notice to evict you unless:

      • they return all your deposit money to you
      • they are authorised by your to offset all or part of your deposit money against rent or damage
      • if you have brought a claim for the “3 times penalty” award which has been resolved either by agreement or a Court Order.

      At the end of your tenancy you should try and agree with your landlord how much of your deposit will be returned or kept by your landlord. Ask your landlord or agent for a breakdown of any amounts they deduct from your deposit. There are rules on what can be deducted from your deposit. Your landlord or agent cannot charge you to cover normal wear and tear. If you cannot agree with your landlord or agent the Tenancy Deposit Schemes have an Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (ADR) aims to resolve any disputes without going to court. When a dispute occurs, and if you and your landlord both agree to use ADR, you will have to accept any decision and will then not be able to apply to the courts if you disagree with it. If you or your landlord does not agree to use ADR you may need to go to court to claim you deposit back.

      Further advice is available from the private tenancy team on 0121 303 5070 or your nearest Customer Service Centre on 0121 216 3030.

    • The two types of tenancy deposit protection schemes are:


      1. Custodial schemes – the landlord or agent pays the tenants deposit into the scheme, where it will be kept until the end of the tenancy.
      2. Insurance scheme – the landlord or agent keeps the deposit but pays an insurance premium to the scheme – meaning the tenants deposit is insured in case of dispute.

      There are three government approved Tenancy Deposit Schemes:


      www.depositprotection.com
      The Deposit Protection Service
      The Pavilions
      Bridgwater Road
      Bristol
      BS99 6AA
      0844 4727000

      Deposit Protection Service is a custodial scheme

      www.mydeposits.co.uk
      mydeposits
      Ground Floor,
      Kingmaker House,
      Station Road,
      New Barnet,
      Hertfordshire,
      EN5 1NZ
      0844 9800290

      My Deposits is an insurance scheme


      www.thedisputeservice.co.uk
      TDS
      PO Box 1255
      Hemel Hempstead
      Herts
      HP1 9EN
      0845 2267837

      The Dispute Service is an insurance scheme.