West Berkshire Council

Advice for Private Tenants

Advice about private sector renting and dispute resolution

Understanding your tenancy rights, dispute resolution and what to do if your situation changes.

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 Shelter - Tenancy Rights Checker. There are a variety of grounds which a landlord could use to re-gain possession of a property depending on the tenancy type. If you would like to find out further information about these grounds, please click Shelter - Grounds for Possession.

The Government has produced guidance to; help you to understand your rights and responsibilities, what to look out for before renting, living in a rented home, what happens at the end of a tenancy and  what to do if things go wrong. The guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/private-renting

You can approach the service to receive further advice and information about your housing situation by contacting the housing operations team on 01635 519 530 and choose option 2. Alternatively, you contact us by e-mail on housing@westberks.gov.uk 
 

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 through the shelter website by clicking Shelter - How to check a section 21 notice is valid

  • The section 21 eviction process
  • How long a section 21 eviction takes
  • How to check if your section 21 notice is valid
  • Challenging a section 21 notice in court

What to do if your situation changes

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, please click Apply for Universal Credit. Please note that 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 Rate is used to determine the maximum costs you could claim towards your housing costs. 

Please note: 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:

  • Step 1: Check whether the property you rent or want to rent is in 'North' or 'South' of the district or enter a postcode: Local Housing Allowance rates
     
  • Step 2: Confirm the number of bedrooms your household is entitled to. To do this, you can use the Bedroom calculator:  Your bedroom entitlement

The average market rent in West Berkshire is significantly higher than the average Local Housing Allowance rate, making it increasingly difficult to find an affordable home. However, we can support you in looking for a home that is affordable and suitable for you.
 

If you are under 35 and single:

If you are under 35 and renting from a private landlord, your Housing Benefit is restricted to the 'shared property rate'. This means the amount of Housing 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 25-35 and have lived for 3 months or more 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. It applies to people of working age. You are 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 your total benefits don't go above the benefit cap limit.

If you are affected by the Benefit Cap, it will affect your ability to find affordable accommodation in West Berkshire. We will help you to explore options in affordable areas to ensure that you can obtain suitable and affordable accommodation.

 

FAQs about tenants' rights

These frequently asked questions are set out to guide tenants through their rights and responsibilities in the private rented sector and offer information on where to seek more expert advice.
 

What are my responsibilities as a tenant?

  • Paying your rent on time
  • Looking after your home and reporting repairs
  • Allowing your landlord reasonable access
  • Behaving responsibly
  • Ending your tenancy properly

Your landlord can take action to evict you if you don't pay your rent.
 

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, 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 it, you can report the disrepair to the council by contacting Environmental Health. Please contact the team on 01635 503242, or email ehadvice@westberks.gov.uk 

Tenants are responsible for minor repairs, for example, changing fuses and light bulbs. For more information, visit: Citizens advice - dealing with repairs
 

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 knowns as bailiff warrant) will give you a date and time you just vacate the property. A typical eviction process takes at least six months to complete. You can find out more about the eviction process at Shelter - Section 21 eviction process.
 

My landlord has contacted the police, he has told them that he owns the property. Can the police ask me to leave?

No. Even though your landlord owns the property, it is your home and the law says that you are entitled to 'quiet enjoyment' of your home. As long as you are the tenant, you can ask the police to remove anyone from your premises, including the landlord. You can find out more by reading the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

My Tenancy is coming to 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 Shelter - Section 21 eviction process.
 

What can I do if my landlord tries to bully me into leaving?

You are entitled to live at your rented property without fear and free from harassment from the landlord or their agents. This is referred to as 'quiet enjoyment' in law. If your landlord is harassing you or trying 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 the citizen's advice bureau (their details can be found below).

Examples of harassment unlawful eviction include:

  • Depriving you of hot water or electricity
  • Harassment, eg frequent phone calls or visits to the property
  • Changing the locks
  • Removing possessions from property

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 operations team on 01635 519 530 choosing option 2.

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 this 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 operations team for advice about your rights.

 

Rent Repayment Orders RROs

Tenants are able to apply for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO) to reclaim up to 12 months of rent from the rogue landlord who 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 operations team on 01635 529530, choosing option 2.  

 

Further advice about tenants' rights:

Citizens Advice Bureau

The Citizens Advice Bureau will also be able to provide advice about your rights as a tenant. West Berkshire Citizens Advice Bureau Newbury Address is:  2nd Floor, Broadway House, 4-8 The Broadway, Northbrook St, Newbury RG14 1BA.

Visit Citizens Advice West Berkshire for online support and resources. Alternatively, please call the West Berkshire advice line 01635 516605 (if busy, please leave a message).

 

Searching for a Private Property to Rent - Top Tips

1. You should check the following daily:

  • Local lettings agencies and landlords
  • Websites
  • Local newspapers, Loot, Evening Standard and Pink Paper (for gay lettings)
  • Shop windows, community notice boards, supermarket boards etc.

2. Useful websites to help you find a home:

We recommend that you check these websites regularly. Also, ask family and friends to keep their eyes and ears open for you!

Tip: If a property states 'No DSS', the landlord does not accept Housing Benefit payments

3. DO NOT hand over money straight away

4. Always bear in mind that landlords and lettings agents always look for good tenants - people who are reliable, will keep the property in good condition and pay the rent. There is a huge demand for private rented accommodation so the better you are able to present yourself, the more likely it is that landlords and agents will be impressed.

5. Ring landlords and agents - It will usually take more than a couple of phone calls before you're viewing properties and you shouldn't expect lettings agents always to ring you back. Making regular, polite and relaxed calls is a very good idea.

6. 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; make sure you're checking local newspapers, websites, community noticeboards, shop windows and so on. The wider you search, the more likely you will be successful.

7. When you have viewings of properties, look presentable, be on time, be friendly, and make sure you have your particular 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 is at risk of breaking down, it is important that you get advice about your housing options as soon as possible. Please contact the housing operations team on 01635 519 530 choosing option 2 to discuss your options.

Who To Contact