Housing Advice: Private Tenants
Advice about private sector renting and dispute resolution
On this page:
- Understanding Your Tenancy Rights and Dispute Resolution
- Getting Help to Pay Your Rent
- Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Rates
- If You are Under 35 and Single
- The Benefit Cap
- Rent Repayment Orders (RROs)
- Frequently Asked Questions About Tenants' Rights
- Top Tips for Searching for a Private Property to Rent
- Getting Help if You are Worried About Becoming Homeless
Understanding Your Tenancy Rights and Dispute Resolution
There are several types of tenancies available to renters. If you are renting through a private landlord you are likely to have an assured shorthold tenancy. If it is not clear what type of tenancy you have, you can use the Tenancy Rights Checker on the Shelter website.
There are a variety of grounds which a landlord could use to re-gain possession of a property, depending on the tenancy type. You can find further information about grounds for possession on the Shelter website.
The Government has produced guidance to help you to understand your rights and responsibilities, know what to look out for before renting, find out more about living in a rented home, what happens at the end of a tenancy and what to do if things go wrong. You can find this private renting guidance on the GOV.UK website, here.
You can also approach our housing service to receive further advice and information about your housing situation. Contact the housing operations team on 01635 519 530 and choose option 2. Alternatively, you can contact us by e-mail on email@example.com.
Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice Bureau can provide advice about your rights as a tenant. West Berkshire Citizens Advice Bureau can be contacted at the following address: 2nd Floor, Broadway House, 4-8 The Broadway, Northbrook Street, Newbury RG14 1BA.
Visit the Citizens Advice West Berkshire website for online support and resources. Alternatively, you can call the West Berkshire advice line on 01635 516605 (if the line is busy, please leave a message).
Getting Help to Pay Your Rent
If you are on a low or nil income, you could be eligible to apply for benefits towards your rent payments. For rent in the private sector, you will need to apply for Universal Credit. To make a claim or to find out more about Universal Credit, please visit the GOV.UK website.
Please note: you must apply for the housing element of universal credit to see what help you can get towards your rent.
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Rates
The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate is used to determine the maximum costs you could claim towards your housing costs. The LHA rate is the maximum amount of support you could receive. Your entitlement will be calculated based on your household income.
If you are affected by the Benefit Cap, you will not receive the maximum LHA rate.
To find out which LHA rate will be used to assess your claim, use Direct Gov's Local Housing Allowance rates search:
- Step 1: Confirm the number of bedrooms your household is entitled to - you can find this out using the Bedroom calculator
- Step 2: Enter your post code or select your local authority
The average market rent in West Berkshire is significantly higher than the average Local Housing Allowance rate, so even if you are entitled to the full LHA rate, you may still need to make a contribution to your rent.
If your property is no longer affordable for you, we will be able to support you to find alternative accommodation.
If You are Under 35 and Single
If you are under 35 and renting from a private landlord, the benefit that you receive will be equivalent to the Local Housing Allowance rate for a shared room.
The single room rent does not apply to couples or people living with their children.
You may be exempt from the single room rate up until your 22nd birthday if you were in care, or exempt up to your 25th birthday if you are claiming certain health benefits.
If you are 25 to 35 and have lived for three or more months in supported housing or a hostel for homeless people, you may be exempt from this restriction.
The Benefit Cap
The Benefit Cap limits the amount of money that you will receive if you claim certain benefits. You will be exempt from the Benefit Cap if you are of pension age, or if you work enough hours to claim working tax credits.
When all your benefits are calculated, your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is reduced so that your total benefits don't go above the Benefit Cap limit.
You can find more information as to which benefits are/are not included in the Benefit Cap on the Citizens Advice website.
You can calculate your benefits entitlement using the Benefits Calculators on the GOV.UK website.
If you are affected by the Benefit Cap and will struggle to afford your current accommodation, we will help you to explore options in more affordable areas, to ensure that you can obtain suitable and affordable accommodation.
Rent Repayment Orders (RROs)
Tenants are able to apply for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO) to reclaim up to 12 months of rent from a landlord who has exploited them.
RRO applications can be made for:
- Landlords illegally evicting or harassing people living in the property
- Landlords using violence to secure entry
- Failure to comply with a housing improvement notice or prohibition order
If you are a tenant and you would like to speak to an officer for advice on RROs or retaliatory evictions, please contact the Housing Options Team on 01635 519530, choosing option 2.
The Eviction Process
If you are renting a property from a private landlord (and the landlord does not live with you), you have rights under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This means that your landlord must follow the eviction process determined by the law.
You can find out more about the eviction process on the Shelter website.
Revenge or Retaliatory Evictions
A revenge or retaliatory eviction is when a landlord tries to evict you after you report repairs or complain about conditions in your home.
This usually affects private tenants with an assured shorthold tenancy, as it's easier for landlords to take steps to evict them. Landlords are not permitted to evict you due to a disrepair complaint that you have reported to the council. Any notice (known as a section 21 notice) served by your landlord following a disrepair complaint could be invalid.
If you believe you are a victim of a retaliatory eviction, please contact the Housing Options Team for advice about your rights.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tenants' Rights
These frequently asked questions are set out to guide tenants through their rights and responsibilities in the private rented sector, and to offer information on where to seek more expert advice.
What are my responsibilities as a tenant?
- Paying your rent on time - your landlord can take action to evict you if you don't pay your rent.
- Looking after your home and reporting repairs
- Allowing your landlord reasonable access
- Behaving responsibly
- Ending your tenancy properly
As a tenant, what can I do to get a disrepair fixed?
Landlords have a responsibility to repair problems with:
- The structure of the property, such as walls, roof, windows and doors
- Sinks, baths and toilets
- Pipes and wiring
- Heating and hot water, such as the boiler
- The safety of gas and electrical appliances
Tenants should report repairs to their landlord (preferably in writing). If the landlord does not fix the issue within a reasonable period of time, you can report the disrepair to the Council by contacting Environmental Health.
Tenants are responsible for minor repairs, for example, changing fuses and light bulbs. You can find more information, on the Citizens Advice website.
Should I leave my property if my landlord asks me to leave?
You should not leave your property because your landlord has simply asked you to; they must serve you with a valid notice to start an eviction process. The notice must be for at least two months, depending on when it was served.
After the notice has expired, your landlord will need to apply to the courts to obtain a possession order. If a possession order is granted, it will give you a date when you must give back possession of the property to your landlord. When that date expires, your landlord must return to the courts again to ask for an eviction notice. If granted, the eviction notice (also known as a bailiff warrant) will give you a date and time that you must vacate the property. A typical eviction process takes at least six months to complete.
You can find out more about the eviction process on the Shelter website.
My Tenancy is coming to an end, do I need to move out?
No. When your tenancy (known as the fixed term) comes to an end, it automatically becomes a periodic tenancy running from month to month. If your landlord wants the property back, they must follow the Section 21 eviction process.
What can I do if my landlord tries to bully me into leaving?
You are entitled to live in your property without fear and free from harassment. This is referred to as 'quiet enjoyment' in law.
If your landlord is harassing you or tries to force you to leave your accommodation, this is against the law and could be a criminal offence. You should contact the Council immediately for advice about your housing rights or, alternatively, contact Citizens Advice.
If you are experiencing harassment from your landlord, or feel you are likely to be a victim of an unlawful eviction, please contact the Housing Options Team for further advice.
Top Tips for Searching for a Private Property to Rent
- Check local lettings agencies, local newspapers, shop windows or community and supermarket notice boards regularly
- Ask family and friends to keep their eyes and ears open for you!
- Regularly check the following websites to help you find a home:
- Do not hand over money straight away
- Always bear in mind that landlords and lettings agents look for good tenants who are reliable, will keep the property in good condition and pay the rent. Remember that how you present yourself when speaking or meeting with them will create a lasting impression
- Phone landlords and agents - it will usually take more than a couple of phone calls before you're viewing properties. Making regular, polite and relaxed calls is a very good idea
- Don't contact just one or two lettings agencies - keep regular track of all the agencies that serve the areas you want to live in
- When you have viewings of properties, look presentable, be on time, be friendly, and make sure you have questions written down and ready to ask
Getting Help if You are Worried About Becoming Homeless
If you are worried about losing your home, or worried that your current living arrangements are at risk of breaking down, it is important that you get advice about your housing options as soon as possible.
Please contact the Housing Options Team on 01635 519 530, choosing option 2.