Paying a deposit
A landlord may insist that you pay a deposit in order to grant you a tenancy agreement. This is typically a months’ rent. The amount of deposit should be set out in the tenancy agreement and the deposit should be protected in an independent deposit scheme for the duration of the tenancy. The landlord should give you written details of the independent scheme that your deposit will be held in, together with details of how to get it back at the end of the tenancy. If, at the end of the tenancy, the landlord finds you have damaged the property or you owe any rent, the landlord may want to keep some or all of the deposit to pay for the damage or the rent owed. If there is a dispute between you and the landlord about how much s/he can keep back for these purposes, you can ask the independent scheme to mediate and make the final decision.
If your landlord did not protect the deposit or give you details of where it was protected, then he or she cannot serve a notice to end your tenancy until they have returned the deposit to you in full. You can also take the landlord to court and claim a penalty of up to 3x the value of the deposit.
Most people will want a home where there is enough space for a couple to have their own bedroom, where older children don’t have to share a bedroom and where there is a living room for communal activities. This is the ideal that you can normally expect in social housing. However, there are private landlords who rent out properties that do not meet these standards and most people have to rent places that are smaller than they would like due to the high cost of renting a property in the UK.
The law does set some basic standards regarding how many people can live in a property. If a landlord allows a property to become unlawfully overcrowded, then the local authority can take action against the landlord to stop the overcrowding. The law is quite complicated, but if more than 2 people have to sleep in one or more of your available rooms, then your home is likely to be unlawfully overcrowded. The law assumes a living room can be used to sleep in, ignores babies under the age of one year, and only counts children under 10 as half a person.
It is illegal to live in overcrowded conditions. While it is a reality in large cities, it is still important to report overcrowded accommodation to your local authority.
If you live in a place where you share a kitchen or bathroom with people who are not part of your household, then your home may be a “House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)”. There are additional rules about space standards and other health and safety standards that landlords have to follow if they are renting out an HMO.