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How UK tenants’ rights compare

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, November 13, 2019

Private renting can offer a range of advantages: the freedom to move when you want, low maintenance costs and straightforward budgeting are just some.

However, there are significant differences in the rights of tenants in the UK compared to the rest of the world – and even within the UK itself.

Who are the tenants?

According to the government’s English Housing Survey (EHS), the largest group of private renters are those aged between 25 and 34, at 31.5%. When it comes to family status, most private renters are either cohabiting couples with no children (24%) or one person living alone (25.4%).

The EHS also found that the UK and the Republic of Ireland had the highest number of tenants reporting that they thought they’d be treated worse than other people of different races, at 4.9%. The average for the EU was 4.4%.

Private renters are also more likely to report being dissatisfied with their current tenures. The EHS found that 12.1% said they are slightly dissatisfied, compared to 6.8% of social renters. Meanwhile, 7.4% of private tenants and 3.5% of social tenants were very dissatisfied.

How tenants’ rights compare

According to research by the University of Warwick, the length of tenure for most private tenants in England is typically six to 12 months. This is much shorter than those in many other countries. In Italy, for example, tenants usually stay in one home for around four to six years, while Austrian renters have the security of a minimum three-year tenancy, with a ‘get-out’ clause that can come into effect after the first year. German tenants, meanwhile, face no fixed tenancy terms.

In England and Wales, the withholding of rent payments is just cause for a landlord to evict a tenant. In Scotland, landlords have to follow a more rigorous process to begin eviction – including offering help and advice – but eviction is a possibility for not paying rent. However, in some countries, tenants are allowed to withhold rent in order to pay for repairs themselves. This is allowed in France, Germany and California.

Tenancy renewals in England and Wales are up to landlords. This means that tenants can be evicted after an agreed tenancy period ends, even if that isn’t what they want. In Australia and New Zealand, there is no set end date for a tenancy. This means it will continue until either party gives notice – and landlords have to give 90 days’ notice, while tenants are required to give 21.

Evictions are the most contentious issue between tenants and landlords. They can often cause significant financial costs for tenants. Some regions have found unique ways of addressing this. The US city of San Francisco has set out that tenants being evicted on a no-fault basis are “entitled to receive relocation expenses from the landlord”.

UK eviction process

The government’s Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said: “On 15 April 2019, the government announced that it will put an end to so called ‘no-fault’ evictions by repealing section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

“Under the new framework, a tenant cannot be evicted from their home without good reason. This will provide tenants with more stability, protecting them from having to make frequent moves at short notice, and enabling them to put down roots and plan for the future.”

The government is currently analysing the feedback from the public consultation on this decision. Section 21 evictions are still a threat to English tenants. The Scottish equivalent of a Section 21 notice – a Section 33 no-fault eviction – was abolished in 2017. This meant that tenancies after that were open-ended. However, English tenants are – for now – still at risk of a Section 21 eviction.

If you’re struggling with a landlord-tenant dispute, First4Lawyers can help you get the legal advice you need to resolve the situation. To get in touch, just give us a call, request a call back or make your enquiry here.