Which Laws Should Tenants Know About?

There’s actually quite a lot more legal protection for tenants than most people renting property realise.

Over the last few months, the government has announced several measures and plans to try and improve the sector for tenants.

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Often people are worried about renting after reading horror stories about things going wrong – a leaking washing machine and absent landlord; substandard living conditions, including mould or dirty carpets; or the threat of being turfed out suddenly if the landlord wants to sell.

In fact, according to recent reports, more than half of tenants are anxious about renting.

Post Covid, it’s fair to say that both the housing and the rental markets are quite frantic, with a shortage of properties to buy and to rent. The stamp duty holiday has been partly responsible for people rushing to market and many landlords took the opportunity to sell up.

But the government has announced that improving conditions in both the private and social rental sectors is top of its priority list.

As part of the Queen’s Speech at the opening of parliament in May, Prince Charles announced the introduction of the Social Housing Regulation Bill.

The bill aims to improve the regulation of social housing and strengthen the rights of tenants to ensure better quality and safer homes.

The introduction of a Renters Bill was announced, which aims to abolish so-called ‘no fault’ evictions or section 21 evictions and seek to give renters better rights if they are told to leave despite complying with the terms of their tenancy.

open hands over a wooden table and documents

Which rules and laws apply to the social housing sector? 

The government-run Regulator of Social Housing, sets both consumer and economic regulatory standards for registered providers of social housing. 

It promotes and monitors the social housing sector, to ensure it is viable, efficient and well governed, so that it can deliver and maintain homes of appropriate quality that meet a range of needs.

In England, housing associations, which provide and look after social housing in different areas, are funded and regulated by Homes England and the Regulator of Social Housing (previously Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).)

The exception being London, for which social housing funding has been the responsibility of the Greater London Authority since April 2012.

Let’s dive into some of the laws and rules which are designed to protect you if you are a social housing tenant.

Tenancy agreements

Your tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract which you and your landlord will sign when you move into the property. Your rights as a tenant will depend on whether you have an assured or secure tenancy, with landlords of secure tenants having statutory powers to vary (or change) the tenancy agreement following a consultation process.

The main difference between the assured and secure tenancy is that secure tenancies are, generally speaking, an older term and provide more extensive statutory rights than the newer assured tenancies. But assured tenancies still offer the same benefits of security and stability and offer largely the same principles.

Possession and eviction

The great news is that whether your tenancy agreement is assured or secure, it will not expire and you can continue living in the property as long as you pay rent and do not break the rules of the tenancy agreement

It also means your landlord cannot evict you without a court order and a landlord can only apply to a court to evict you if there is a legal reason, such as rent arrears or antisocial behaviour. 

If a landlord wants you to leave their property prematurely, they must provide you with written notice explaining why they want to evict you.

couple moving into a new house unpacking boxes


All repairs that your landlord is responsible for carrying out will be set out in your tenancy agreement. The law states that landlords are responsible for certain repairs, regardless of what the tenancy agreement says. 

Certain checks to ensure the safety of the property are required by law, and as the tenant you must be provided with evidence that these have been carried out by the landlord or responsible agency. 

These include:


What happens if you want someone, such as a partner, a relative or a friend, to move in? 

Secure tenants are permitted to rent a room in their home to a lodger. But it’s a criminal offence to rent out the whole property to someone else who is not a tenant of the council. 

Doing so could mean you lose your ability to rent as a secure tenant. The local council also has the right to evict anyone living at a property where no one in occupation is the official tenant.

Assured tenants can also rent a room in their home to a lodger, but you should check your tenancy agreement to find out if you can sublet your entire property or not. You may also need the landlord’s express permission before you can do so.

Tenancy exchange

Both secure and assured tenants can swap their homes by exchanging with another tenant, but you will need your landlord’s permission. Landlords can only refuse permission for a certain number of reasons provided in law.

Ending your tenancy

To leave your tenancy it’s vital you follow the right procedures. And the same goes for your landlord, too. 

If either the landlord or tenant wants to end the tenancy, they are required to give notice to the other party. Details of how to do this and the notice period will be set out in the tenancy agreement.

Leaving the property without ending your tenancy properly means you will be responsible for continuing to pay the rent, as well as fulfilling the other responsibilities set out in your tenancy agreement. 

If you abandon ship without following the procedures set out in the legal document you signed at the start – the tenancy agreement – the landlord may be allowed to take the property back, remove any possessions you left behind and charge you for doing so, as well as for any outstanding repairs. 

Likewise, the landlord cannot just tell you leave without following a similar procedure and giving notice.

couple moving into a new property and unpacking boxes


The PM has recently announced plans for people on benefits to be given the chance to buy their homes via the return of the Right-to-Buy scheme. This would mean that both secure and assured tenants have the right to buy their property under certain circumstances, such as having lived in their property for over three years. 

You can check with your local housing association whether you qualify or visit the Right-to-Buy website.

Which rules and laws apply to the private rented sector?

If you are renting from a private landlord, this generally means applying to rent a property you’ve seen advertised via an estate or lettings agent, management firm or another online platform such as Mashroom. Or you might apply directly to the landlord themselves. 

You can expect the following rights from a private rental arrangement:

  • The property you live in should be safe and in a state of good repair
  • When your tenancy ends you should have your deposit returned to you in part or full, depending on the condition of the property when you leave
  • If you choose to use a traditional deposit, you should expect to have your deposit protected under a government backed scheme within 30 days of the landlord receiving it
  • You shouldn’t have to pay excessively high rents or charges
  • You should know who your landlord is and how they can be contacted (either directly or via an agency or management company)
  • You should not be disturbed – your landlord or agent must provide 24 hours notice of any visits, checks or work that needs to be carried out and they should never just turn up, unless it is an emergency or your safety could be at risk
  • You should be provided a copy of the EPC, Gas Safety Certificate and EICR report for the property and your landlord should have checked that all of the fire alarms are in working order
  • You should be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent
  • If you have a fixed-term tenancy of three years or more, you should be provided with a written agreement
  • Your tenancy agreement should be fair and comply with the current law

If you are not told who your landlord is, you can write to the person or company you pay your rent to to find out. If you are not provided with this information within 21 days, your landlord can be fined.

When you start any new rental agreement, if you live in England, you should be provided with a copy of the ‘How to Rent Guide’, Scottish tenants should get a ‘Tenant Information Pack.’

As a tenant you should take care of the property and keep it in good condition. It goes without saying that you need to keep up with rent payments and pay the agreed amount. You should continue to pay rent even if you think repairs are needed or you’re in dispute with your landlord.

If you are required to pay Council Tax or utility bills, you must also pay these. As will be set out in your tenancy agreement, if you cause damage to the property, or your friends or family do, you will be required to pay for repairs. Often this is taken from your deposit. Your deposit or a portion of it cannot be withheld for reasonable wear and tear from living in a property, as this is par for the course.

You can only sublet a room if your tenancy agreement or your landlord allows it, so ask them first. You should let them know if you want someone to move in, such as a partner or relative. 

And if your landlord wants to increase your rent because of this, they must ask you in writing first and give you notice of an intended rise.

Your landlord only has the right to take legal action to evict you if you do not meet your responsibilities such as paying rent, not causing a nuisance, and keeping the property in a good state of repair.

Overall, the laws governing landlords in the private sector are a lot tougher than social landlords, so tenants are usually better off and more secure in a private rental. 

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