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Advice for tenants

Renting in the private sector can allow people a greater choice about where they live and can allow people to move very quickly. Unfortunately, the downside is that it can be insecure. We aim to offer advice and assistance to tenants to help them remain in their rented home and resolve any problems they may encounter.

There are minimum standards that private landlords must meet, such as the safety of the property, its state of repair, tenancy paperwork and security of tenure (for example, a landlord cannot ask their tenant to leave without giving them the proper notice).

We have summarised the main issues below, but you can find lots more information about tenants' rights on Shelter's website.

Paying your rent

If you fall behind with rent payments, your landlord may begin proceedings for eviction. Paying your rent is more important than other bills. You should think of it as a priority debt. If you build up rent arrears, this will also make it harder for you to find housing in the future, as landlords will look at references from previous tenancies.

If you are relying on Housing Benefit to help with rent payments then you should apply for Housing Benefit as soon as your tenancy commences and ensure that they have all of the information to process your claim. It is your responsibility to do this.

If you are in rent arrears at the moment, you should immediately apply for Housing Benefit and request a backdate if you have a legitimate reason for not claiming earlier. You should also remain in touch with your landlord to try to resolve the issue. You could offer to pay off the arrears over time. For further advice and information please contact us.

If you are renting in the private sector, and your Housing Benefit is paid to you, not your landlord, you could use a rent account from Nottingham Credit Union. This means the money for your rent is kept separate, so it cannot be taken up by other bills. It can help to manage your money and can give your landlord reassurance that the rent will always be paid.

Deposit issues

Landlords will normally expect you to pay at least one month’s rent in advance, and provide a security deposit. If you are threatened with homelessness within the next two months, and you are not able to afford the security deposit for a private rented property, we may be able to assist you through our Deposit Guarantee Scheme. This is subject to satisfactory references. Please contact us for more advice.

Your landlord must place your deposit in an approved "deposit protection scheme" and provide you with details of this. This means that you have some protection if there is a dispute about any damage that was caused to the property. We recommend that you complete an inventory when you move in (many landlords will provide you with one, so check it carefully) and take photographs at the beginning and the end of your tenancy. You can download an inventory form or you can find out more about deposit protection on the Government's website.

Eviction and illegal eviction

If your landlord or lettings agency want to evict you from your home, they will normally need to give you notice in writing for a period of at least two months notice. If you do not leave by the time this expires, the landlord will have to apply to court for a possession order. Only a bailiff appointed by the court can physically evict you from your home. A landlord cannot normally tell you to leave immediately without following this process.

If your landlord is threatening to evict you straight away or has actually evicted you or changed the locks, you can contact the Housing Options Team for advice. Out of office hours you can call our main number (0115 981 9911) for assistance, or you can call the Shelter Housing Advice Helpline (0808 800 4444). We will contact the landlord to try to resolve the situation and ensure that the landlord is aware of the law. If you think that you have been illegally evicted you should also seek independent legal advice.

If you are a council or housing association tenant, the law is different in some respects. Your landlord will normally only seek possession of your home if there are serious rent arrears or severe antisocial behaviour. Just like a private landlord, they will always need to apply for a court order to evict you from your home. If you are served with a notice to quit or a notice of seeking possession by a social landlord, you should also contact us for further information.

Bad conditions and unsafe housing

If your private rented property is in a bad state of repair or you think it's unsafe, contact your landlord or your lettings agency to let them know what the problem is. Keep copies of your letters or email, and any replies from the landlord or the agency.

If your landlord does not reply to your concerns, or does not carry out the works that are needed, you can contact us for further advice and information, using the details at the right of this page.

You should not withhold rent until your landlord carries out repairs. You do not have an automatic right to do this. In some circumstances, it is possible to carry out repairs yourself and recover this from the rent. If you are carrying out the repairs, you must let your landlord know beforehand, and keep receipts for all work carried out. We recommend that you do not take this step until you have had independent advice on the rights given by your tenancy agreement, for example, from a Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Harassment and quiet enjoyment

If your landlord is harassing you or making you feel uncomfortable in your home, you should seek help. When you rent a property, you are entitled to “quiet enjoyment” of it. If your landlord wants to visit and inspect the property, or carry out any repairs, they must normally give you at least 24 hours notice and, if this is not convenient, let you reschedule the visit for another time. There are some exceptions to this, such as for very urgent repairs which could cause injury or damage if the work is not done quickly.

You can find out more about your rights in this area on Shelter's website.

Adapting your home

If you have health problems or a disability, then we may be able to help you with property adaptations, including stairlifts, bathroom adaptations or hand rails etc. This help is available to tenants in private rented and social housing.