Private rent and tenancies

If you're a tenant in private rented accommodation, you and the landlord have certain rights and responsibilities protected in law. A landlord must give their tenant a statement of tenancy terms with information about rent, length of tenancy, rates and what the deposit can be used for.

Tenant's rights

A tenant in private rented accommodation has certain rights which exist in law.  A tenant has the right to:

  • a rent book
  • freedom from harassment and illegal eviction
  • required notice to quit 
  • due process of law
  • claim Housing Benefit

Tenancy began on 1 April 2007

If your tenancy began on or after 1 April 2007,  you have additional rights to: 

  • tenancy statement 
  • a default tenancy term of at least six months
  • information about landlord's basic repairing obligations

Tenancy agreement

The agreement is a legally binding contract on you and the landlord during the tenancy. Your right to receive a written tenancy agreement depends on the type and length of your tenancy. 

If you are a private tenant and your tenancy is less than 12 months, you do not have a right to a written tenancy agreement.  If your tenancy is longer than 12 months, your landlord must provide you with a written tenancy agreement.

Your basic rights as a tenant exist without a written agreement. 

Your tenancy agreement may give you more rights than basic tenant's rights. A written agreement cannot reduce your basic rights as a tenant.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Any deposit taken in connection with a private tenancy since 1 April 2013 must be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme:

  • within 14 days of the landlord receiving the deposit
  • within 28 days of receipt of the deposit, the landlord must give details to the tenant of the scheme in which the deposit is protected

For recent changes affecting landlords and tenants in the private sector, you read more on the Department for Communities (DfC) website:

Notice to quit period

The length of individual tenancies may be agreed and reflected in the tenancy agreement.

Where there is either no tenancy agreement or the time is not agreed, the tenancy period is six months.

A landlord must always provide the tenant with a written notice to quit.

The following table shows the minimum period of notice which the landlord must give the tenant, depending on the length of the tenancy:

Length of tenancy Notice to quit
Five years or less No less than four weeks' written notice
More than five years and up to and including ten years No less than eight weeks' written notice
More than ten years No less than twelve weeks' written notice

If you leave the tenancy early without the agreement of your landlord, even with giving the required notice, you could still be liable for the rent until the end of the tenancy agreement.

Your landlord can withhold the deposit (if there is one) for non-payment of rent – this will often be stated in the tenancy agreement – and they could pursue you in the Small Claims Court for the remaining rent.

You should get advice before giving your landlord written notice to quit.

Protected or statutory tenancy

If you moved into the property before 1 April 2007, you may have a protected or statutory tenancy.

This type of tenancy offers the most security against eviction and rent increases. The type of tenancy you have depends on when the tenancy started.

Further information is available on the Department for Communities (DfC) website:

For information about the Rent Officer, go to:

Private landlords

Private landlords will normally rent their property out at the market rate. Their right to increase the rent depends on the type of tenancy and the tenancy agreement.

Tenancies which began before 1 April 2007 do not have to have a written agreement unless the tenancy is for a fixed term of over one year and a day.

The landlord of a tenancy which began after 1 April 2007 must provide the tenant with written confirmation of the terms of the tenancy.

All private landlords must register before letting a new tenancy.

To check if a landlord/property is registered, go to:

Landlord qualification

A new qualification has been developed for private landlords who let residential properties.

This Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Level 2 Certificate aims to promote good standards in privately rented accommodation and provide skills and knowledge to help landlords in their role.

For more information, contact CIH at the telephone number or email address below.

Paying a deposit to the landlord

Before you move into your home, you will probably pay a deposit to the landlord or agent. This could be used for unpaid rent or damage to the property when you move out. Sometimes a landlord and tenant dispute the returnable amount. 

At the beginning of the tenancy, it is important to: 

  • check the details in your tenancy agreement to see what your deposit will cover and how it will be returned
  • ask for an inventory of the property’s contents when you move in
  • confirm you agree with the terms and conditions of the tenancy before you pay a deposit

Protecting a tenant's deposit

Since 1 April 2013, a landlord must protect a new tenant's deposit in an approved tenancy deposit scheme. For more information on approved deposit schemes, go to:

Help with your rent

If you have a low income you may be able to get Housing Benefit to help pay your rent. Your savings as well as your income will be used to work out how much benefit you may be entitled to.

For more information, go to:

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