Advice for private tenants

How to Rent provides advice both for those considering renting privately and those who are renting privately.

A number of online guides are available to help tenants understand their rights and responsibilities:

Problems with your tenancy

If you have any problems with the property while you are living there you should contact your landlord/agent in the first instance.

If your landlord does not respond to your verbal requests for repairs to be carried out, we suggest that you follow up the request in writing. 

The use of email, text messages, screen shots and photos is often the best way to notify the landlord, and our template can be adapted to use those formats.

We recommend that you keep a copy of any correspondence you send to your landlord for your own records.

If your landlord refuses to carry out essential repairs and they have not responded to your spoken and written requests, contact us. We can talk to them on your behalf or take action against them. We may also send out an officer to check the property is safe.

Some landlords may try to evict a tenant who complains about repairs - so called "retaliatory eviction". There is some legal protection for tenants in this position where the landlord has been advised (in writing) but has done nothing and where the Council has served an Improvement Notice but we suggest you contact the Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter or our Housing Options Team if you're worried about this risk. You should not withhold rent because of disrepair issues because your landlord may then have reason to start the process to evict you.  

Property inspections and possible outcomes

If a tenant makes a complaint about their home or their landlord, we will usually inspect the property. When doing this, we use the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to identify what, if any, hazards exist and how serious these hazards are.

After an inspection, officers will decide on what type of action, if any, is appropriate.  There are number of possible outcomes:

  • No further action – where, following an initial investigation, the complaint cannot be substantiated.

  • Informal action – written warnings and / or providing advice, is usually the first option if there is a problem and those involved are willing to co-operate.

  • Formal notices - we may issue formal notices, for example, to force a landlord to carry out repairs.

  • Works in default – if essential works are not done by a landlord, we may do them instead to ensure safety and then recover the costs from the landlord.  We may still decide to prosecute the landlord.

  • Cautions / interviews under caution – if we issue a simple caution but this is ignored by the alleged offender, we will review the case and decide if other action is required.

  • Prosecution – before starting any prosecution proceedings, we must be satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.

  • Civil Penalty Notices - the Council can serve a Civil Penalty Notice as an alternative to a prosecution with fines of up to £30'000.

  • Rent Repayment Orders - in unlicensed HMO's for example, tenants can apply to the Courts for a Rent Repayment Order. Up to a years rent can be claimed if the Council has taken a prosecution case.

  • Banning Orders - preventing a person from renting out premises can be applied for by the Council in specified cases.

Where appropriate, we will seek to resolve problems through informal action, wherever possible.

Each case is considered on its merits and against the principles set out in our Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy.

Where can I get further information or advice?

If you are a private tenant in Elmbridge and need further advice about the condition of the property you rent (including repairs) please contact us

If you need advice on other tenancy matters (such as illegal eviction or harassment, rent arrears, your tenancy rights or your landlord serving you with notice and asking you to leave) please contact us.

More information and online guidance is available from Shelter and Citizens Advice.

You can contact our local Citizens Advice Bureaux Elmbridge (West) or Esher or call the Shelter advice line on 0808 800 4444.

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