Legal for Landlords: know your rights

Legal for Landlords: know your rights

Landlords often fail to protect their legal rights properly. Many see housing law as being there mainly to protect tenants. It should be used to protect landlords too.

The law can be complex. And when you have a long to-do list to deal with, it’s easy to push understanding the law to the bottom of it. We’ve covered landlords’ legal responsibilities recently. Now we’ve put together this list of the basics to help landlords know their rights.

The contract

You must never let a property without having a contract in place. Even if you happen to be letting to tenants you know, having a contract means that you are protected if anything goes wrong. And as any experienced landlord will tell you, things will sometimes go wrong.

The contract protects your right to receive rent, and for the property to be kept in a decent condition. The contract should say when the tenant must pay rent, and when it is due. Then, if it is not paid, you can start legal proceedings. It should also set out when you can put rent up. Any rises have to be reasonable, but make sure your agreement allows you to keep up with the local market.

The contract also prevents tenants from walking out on a tenancy whenever they like. If they try to leave without giving notice, you will be able to pursue them through the courts for lost rent.


Deposits must now be protected in one of the governments’ approved deposit schemes. This means that tenants can dispute any decision you make to withhold some of the deposit. It is therefore vital that you can prove that any damage done is the responsibility of the tenant. Make sure that the deposit is enough to cover damage – six weeks rent is usual. Landlords insurance helps cover accidental damage, but damage costs should be recovered from the tenant.

Take a thorough inventory and make sure the tenant signs it. Make sure that you take photographs of the property – this gives you pretty undisputable proof that damage happened during the tenancy, not before.

Ending a tenancy

You have a right to end a tenancy if you want to, but you have to do it the right way. If your tenant is not paying rent, then you can evict them, but you must do so through the courts. You also have the right to take back your property whenever you want to after the initial fixed term (usually the first six months of the tenancy). You might want to sell it, for example. You will need to give two months notice. If you don’t, your tenant may have the right to stay.

Make sure you get advice if you are not sure of your legal rights. Landlords associations will often be able to give some advice for free.

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