What Rights Do Tenants Have?

For UK tenants living in social housing, understanding your rights is crucial to ensuring you have a safe, habitable, and fair living environment. Recent legislative changes have strengthened these rights, providing tenants with more protection and support.

Right to a Safe and Habitable Home

Legal Requirements for Safety and Habitability: Landlords must ensure the accommodation they provide is safe and free from health or safety hazards. The new consumer standards underscore this obligation. These standards have been effective since April 2024, which include the Safety and Quality Standard. This standard mandates that landlords maintain homes to a decent standard. They must ensure they are structurally sound, warm, and free from health hazards such as damp and mould.

Comprehensive Safety Standards: The Safety and Quality Standard is comprehensive, covering not only the physical condition of the property but also the quality of services provided by landlords. This includes regular inspections to ensure compliance, promptly responding to repair requests, and maintaining a clear record of maintenance activities. The new standards require landlords to be proactive in identifying and mitigating potential hazards before they become serious problems, promoting a culture of continuous improvement in social housing management.

Impact of Awaab’s Law: Named after Awaab Ishak, this law aims to prevent tragedies caused by neglect. It sets strict deadlines for addressing health and safety hazards like damp and mould, ensuring swift action to protect tenant health. This law also enables tenants to hold landlords legally accountable, making sure their homes remain safe and habitable. This legislation integrates into all social housing tenancy agreements, binding landlords to its requirements.

Right to Repairs

Timely Repairs: Tenants have the right to request repairs for issues that affect the habitability of their home. Awaab’s Law enforces this right by requiring social landlords to fix reported health and safety hazards within a specified timeframe. This legal provision empowers tenants to take action if their landlord fails to comply, ensuring timely resolution of problems related to plumbing, heating, electrical systems, as well as structural integrity.

Preventing Escalation of Issues: This tenant’s right is particularly crucial in preventing small issues from escalating into major problems that could compromise the safety and comfort of tenants. The legislation specifies clear timelines for addressing different types of repairs, prioritising those that pose immediate health risks. Landlords are also required to keep tenants informed about the progress of repair works, fostering transparency and trust.

Reporting and Monitoring Repairs: Tenants should report repair needs promptly, and landlords must respond within the legally defined timeframe. This system ensures minor issues are addressed promptly, preventing them from becoming serious problems. It reduces long-term maintenance costs and significantly enhances tenants’ overall quality of life.

Right to Quiet Enjoyment

Privacy and Peaceful Living: The right to quiet enjoyment includes privacy and the peaceful use of the premises. Tenants are entitled to enjoy their rented property without unnecessary interference from the landlord. Recent regulatory updates emphasise the importance of landlords respecting this right and also responding promptly to complaints. The Transparency, Influence, and Accountability Standard requires landlords to be transparent and respectful, ensuring tenants can live without unwarranted disturbances.

Minimising Disruptions: The right to quiet enjoyment is a fundamental aspect of tenant rights. This ensures that tenants can use their homes as a refuge from the outside world. Landlords must respect this right by minimising disruptions, such as excessive noise or unauthorised entries. They must also promptly address any complaints related to disturbances. This standard significantly enhances tenants’ overall quality of life.

Handling Noise and Privacy Issues: Landlords should have clear policies to handle complaints about noise and privacy violations. These policies should be communicated to tenants and consistently enforced to maintain a peaceful living environment. Landlords must ensure their actions, and also those of other tenants, do not disrupt the right to quiet enjoyment.

Right to Reasonable Notice

Notice Requirements: Landlords must provide tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property for inspections or repairs, except in emergencies. This is to ensure tenants’ privacy and allow them to prepare for any scheduled visits. The new regulations ensure that landlords adhere strictly to this requirement, fostering a respectful landlord-tenant relationship.

Balancing Needs: This right balances the landlord’s need to manage the property with the tenant’s right to privacy. By providing reasonable notice, landlords can plan necessary inspections and repairs without intruding on tenants’ daily lives. In emergencies, landlords can enter without notice, but they should clearly communicate and justify such instances to maintain trust and transparency.

Communicating Inspections and Visits: Effective communication regarding inspections and visits helps build trust between tenants and landlords. Landlords should provide clear reasons for entry, schedule visits at convenient times, and follow up with tenants afterward to ensure satisfactory resolution of any issues.

Right to Fair Treatment

Non-Discriminatory Practices: Tenants have the right to fair and non-discriminatory treatment. This includes equal treatment regardless of race, gender, religion, or disability. The new regulatory framework emphasises fair treatment through the Transparency, Influence, and Accountability Standard, which mandates that landlords be open with tenants, listen to their concerns, and treat them with respect.

Promoting Inclusivity: Fair treatment is a cornerstone of tenant rights, ensuring that all tenants receive equal treatment and access to services. This standard requires landlords to implement non-discriminatory practices and to actively promote inclusivity and respect. By fostering a culture of fairness and respect, landlords can build stronger, more positive relationships with their tenants, enhancing the overall quality of the social housing experience.

Addressing Discrimination and Bias: Landlords must have policies in place to address and prevent discrimination and bias. Training for staff on diversity and inclusion can help ensure fair treatment. Tenants should be aware of their rights and know how to report discriminatory practices.

Stronger Regulation and Accountability

Regular Inspections: The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 introduces significant reforms aimed at improving the quality of social housing and holding landlords accountable. The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) will conduct regular inspections of larger social landlords and has the authority to issue unlimited fines for non-compliance. This aims to ensure that landlords maintain high standards in providing safe and quality homes. These inspections will assess how well landlords deliver the outcomes specified in the new standards, ensuring they manage their responsibilities effectively.

Inspection Protocols and Standards: The inspection protocols are detailed, ensuring that all aspects of housing management are evaluated. Inspections cover maintenance, tenant engagement, complaint handling, and also compliance with health and safety standards. This comprehensive approach ensures landlords cannot neglect any part of their responsibilities.

Enhanced Tenant Voices: New tenant satisfaction measures have been introduced to provide greater transparency and allow tenants to better hold their landlords accountable. These measures will help bridge the gap between tenants and landlords, ensuring that tenant feedback is taken seriously as well as acted upon. Initiatives like the Make Things Right campaign aim to educate tenants about their rights and how to raise complaints effectively.

Tenant Feedback Systems: These systems include regular surveys, feedback forms, and tenant forums where residents can voice their concerns and suggestions. Landlords must review and act on this feedback, demonstrating their commitment to improving services and addressing issues raised by tenants.

Mandatory Qualifications for Social Housing Managers: To ensure professional management, the new Competence and Conduct Standard requires social housing managers to acquire specific qualifications. This ensures that those managing social housing possess the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver high-quality services. This standard also includes expectations for the behaviour and competence of staff, ensuring they are equipped to provide excellent service to tenants.

Implementation and Enforcement of Tenants’ Rights

Complaint Handling: The Housing Ombudsman Service’s Complaint Handling Code ensures landlords follow a strict and transparent process for addressing tenant complaints. This includes clear timeframes and accountability measures to ensure issues are resolved promptly and fairly. The Ombudsman’s enhanced powers allow for the publication of best practice guidance and setting time limits for addressing hazards.

Structured Complaint Resolution: The complaint resolution process includes multiple stages, starting with initial reporting, followed by investigation, resolution, and finally feedback. Landlords must provide clear timelines for each stage and keep tenants informed throughout the process. The Ombudsman oversees this process, ensuring fairness and efficiency.

Tenant Engagement and Participation

Tenant Participation Programmes: Landlords are encouraged to establish tenant participation programmes to involve tenants in decision-making processes. These programmes may include tenant councils, regular meetings, and feedback sessions where tenants can express their views and contribute to policy and decision-making.

Encouraging Active Involvement: Active tenant involvement helps ensure that housing policies and practices are reflective of the tenants’ needs and preferences. By fostering a collaborative environment, landlords can improve the quality of housing services and create a more supportive community.

Training for Tenants: Providing training opportunities for tenants on their rights and responsibilities can empower them. Effective ways to engage with landlords can help them take an active role in improving their living conditions. This training can cover areas such as understanding housing policies, how to report issues, and ways to participate in tenant forums.

Environmental and Sustainability Standards

Sustainable Housing Practices: Landlords should adopt sustainable housing practices to reduce the environmental impact of social housing. This includes measures such as improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting the use of renewable energy sources.

Energy Efficiency Improvements: Landlords should ensure that homes are well-insulated, have efficient heating systems, and also use energy-efficient appliances. These improvements not only reduce environmental impact but also help tenants save on utility bills.

Green Spaces and Community Areas: Providing green spaces and well-maintained community areas can enhance the quality of life for tenants. These spaces encourage social interaction, physical activity, and contribute to overall well-being.

Financial Support and Affordability

Rent Control and Affordability: Ensuring that rent levels are affordable for tenants is a key aspect of social housing. Rent control measures may be implemented to prevent excessive rent increases and ensure that housing remains accessible to low-income families.

Financial Assistance Programmes: Tenants may be eligible for financial assistance programmes. This includes housing benefits, to help cover the cost of rent and other housing-related expenses. Landlords should provide information and support to tenants in accessing these programmes.

Debt Management Support: These services can include budgeting advice, assistance with managing debt, and guidance on accessing financial support.

Empowering Tenants & Upholding Their Rights

At Tenant Support Helpline, we believe every tenant deserves to live in a safe, habitable, and fair environment. Stay informed about your rights and the available resources to ensure you meet this standard. Together, we can foster a society where everyone has access to dignified living conditions.