Our Workshop For Private Tenants: Your Q&A


Workshop Q&A

Our workshop for Southwark’s private tenants took place on 20th March in partnership with Southwark Refugee Communities Forum. If you missed it – don’t worry! We have summarized the most prominent questions and answers in this article.

Our workshop on the subject of evictions took place on the 20th in partnership with Southwark Refugee Communities Forum. Solicitor Rachel from Southwark Law Centre delivered the workshop at St Giles Centre, SE5 (pictured) and answered questions relating to tenancy documents, safety certificates and house sharing.

We have included few of the asked questions below. To read our articles on Southwark’s property licencing and what it entails, scroll through our What’s On section.

What is the difference between a private tenant and a social tenant? And why does it matter?

A private tenant rents the property from a landlord or an estate agent.

A social tenant rents the property from a Council or a Housing Association.

The main difference is that Housing Rights Act 1988 applies to private renting, whereas social tenancies are governed by entirely different laws. This is why advice given to private renters may not apply or be relevant to a social housing tenant.

You can always contact Citizens Advice Southwark or Shelter if you are unsure what type of tenancy you have.

What is a Section 21?

Section 21 allows private landlords to evict their tenants without giving a reason.

The notice is essentially a warning that landlord intends to evict you within 2 months’ time. However, the landlord needs to follow many steps and do them correctly before the eviction can take place. You can read more about the notice here.

If you have received a Section 21 notice but don’t know what the next steps are, you can contact Citizens Advice Southwark or Shelter for free advice.

Will the Council re-house me if my private landlord evicts me from my privately rented home?

Not necessarily. The Council has a duty of care towards the residents of their borough and can certainly offer advice and signposting. However, if the resident is not a priority-need tenant (meaning, they do not have a dependent, disability or similar), re-housing cannot be guaranteed.

Nevertheless, if you are at risk of becoming homeless or need help with managing the relationship with your landlord, you can contact the Council and inquire about your options.

Read about the different Council teams and how to contact them here.

If you need general advice about your circumstances, tenancy or options, please contact Citizens Advice Southwark or Shelter.

For a list of available help locally, please refer to our Get Support page.

What are my options if my home is in disrepair?

First and foremost, notify the Council. You can do so by contacting the Council’s Private Sector Enforcement Team.

The Council has powers to prosecute the landlord or ensure that the landlord carries out the necessary repairs.

Secondly, you can seek free legal advice from organizations such as Southwark Law Centre. You can find a full list of pro bono legal services on our Get Support page.

You can also read our article on disrepair and how the Council can pursue the landlord here.

Fix My Block  and Shelter websites offer a wide range of template letters and step-by-step guides which can help you to contact the landlord and get them to do the necessary repairs.

What is the maximum amount of deposit the landlord can collect from the tenant?

Five weeks’ worth of rent. For example, if you rent the property for £1,000 a month, the maximum amount of deposit that the landlord can collect from you is £5,000.

Your landlord must protect your deposit within 30 days’ from the receiving it. The landlord must use one of the three government- approved deposit schemes to do so. These are:




I have contacted organizations such as Citizens Advice Southwark and Shelter before but they haven’t solved my problem. What are my options?

Both of the mentioned organizations can provide advice and guidance on tenancy matters. However, they do not provide legal assistance.

For legal assistance or pro bono services, you can contact organizations such as Southwark Law Centre, Anthony Gold Solictors, HASL or Justice For Tenants. You can find the full list of available support in Southwark here.

If the matter is criminal, you must contact the police.

I rent my property from a landlord and pay rent to him but I do not have a written tenancy agreement. Is this legal?

While it is advisable to have a written contract to avoid disagreements about the agreed terms of the tenancy, your tenancy is still legally valid. In other words, Housing Act 1988 still applies to you even when you do not have a written tenancy agreement. As long as you can prove that you have paid the rent to the landlord or estate agent (for example, via bank transfer or if you have written receipts), you have the same rights as tenants who have a signed contract.

Does my landlord need to provide a new How To Rent Guide to me each time I renew my contract?

No. The landlord doesn’t need to provide another copy of the guide to a tenant each time it is updated.

If the landlord renews the tenancy with the same tenants (including where the tenancy becomes statutory periodic tenancy at the end of a fixed term), the landlord only needs to provide the guide if it has been updated in the meantime. In this case, the new version must be provided.

Can my landlord send me a link to the How to Rent guide?

No, the document cannot be provided as a hyperlink. The landlord must download the brochure from Gov.uk and provide a hard copy of it to the tenant or attach the document as a PDF in an email.

If the landlord wanted to send the brochure as a PDF via email, it is advisable that the landlord, first and foremost, confirms with the tenant that communications between both parties can take place electronically rather than, say, via post.

I share my home with multiple people. My landlord has not given a gas certificate to me personally but they have displayed the certificate in the communal area. Is this correct?

No. Gas Regulations of 1998 state that if any part of the gas installations (including any pipes, boilers, fittings, etc.) are inside the property occupied by the tenant then Regulation 36(6) applies. This means that landlord must give the gas safety certificate to each tenant, not just prominently display it within the premises.

The alternative Regulation 37(7) only applies where the property is supplied by hot water which is heated by gas, but the entire gas fitting itself is outside of any parts occupied by the tenant(s). This then allows the landlord to prominently display the certificate within the premises. This distinction is explained in paragraph 10 of Trecarrell House vs Rouncefield in the Court of Appeal.

The only exception to this where the gas fitting is inside the dwelling is where there is a tenancy for not more than 28 days.

I have heard many cases of overseas students who find properties and rent them online. When they arrive in Southwark, the “landlord” initially allows them to move in the property but then requests the tenants to vacate a week later. Worse, the “landlord” then refuses to give the rent and the deposit back. What can the tenants do in this situation?

These are typical cases of fraud and scam.  The tenants must report these incidents to the police.

To avoid these kind of scams, tenants should never wire money to third parties without viewing the property first. Using a reputable, well-known estate agent can also ensure that you do not become a victim of fraud.

Cambridge House offers support and guidance on safer renting. You can find their guides here.

My landlord has advised me that they intend to increase my rent. Can the landlord do this whenever they wish?

No, they cannot. Weather the landlord can increase your rent or not will depend on your contract with the landlord.

First, check your contract – is the landlord simply reminding you of something that you have agreed at the start of the tenancy? If so, you are contractually obliged to pay the increase as per yourc ontract. For example, if you have a two-year tenancy and the contract has a clause which states that the landlord can increase the rent by X% on month X, then the landlord can legally and contractually increase your rent.

 Nevertheless, the landlord cannot:

  • increase the rent within the fixed period unless this is written in the contract;
  • increase the rent higher than what is stated in your tenancy agreement. For example, if your contract states that the landlord can increase the rent by £50 per month from November 3rd 2023, the landlord cannot increase the rent by £100. This is because you did not agree this with the landlord when you signed the contract.
  • increase the rent earlier than what is stated in your tenancy agreement. For example, if your contract states that the landlord can increase rent by £50 per month from November 3rd 2023, the landlord cannot increase the rent on 3rd July. This is because you did not agree this with the landlord when you signed the contract.
  • If you do not have a written contract or you are on a rolling contract, your landlord must serve you with Section 13 before they can increase the rent. Section 13 is a formal notice of rent increase. If the landlord has not served you with this notice, keep on paying your rent as per usual. You are under no obligation to pay more rent if your landlord has not followed the correct procedures.

My rent is inclusive of bills. Recently, my landlord has advised me that the cost of the bills have risen significantly and the rent monies no longer cover the expense. In other words, my landlords are paying for my bills out of their own pocket. Consequently, they have asked me to pay more monies to cover the bills. Should I pay more to the landlord to cover the bills?

The landlord cannot ask you to contribute more towards the bills. This is because:

  • the landlord has included bills in the asking rent
  • the landlord has already agreed the rent amount with you

Remember – if the landlord has not specifically written a rent or bill increase in the tenancy agreement, the landlord cannot ask you to pay extra, even if the bills have risen significantly and no longer cover the expense. External circumstances such as rising fuel costs or changes in property market does not change the rent amount you have agreed to pay to the landlord at the start of the tenancy.

Have a question or feedback about this article?  Contact us via our webform and we will get back to you!

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.