General terms of tenancy

A written contract/tenancy (usually an assured shorthold tenancy) agreement should be supplied to tenants. An inventory of fixtures, fittings and appliances should be supplied and agreed between landlord and tenant so that any deposits can be fairly determined and returned at the end of the tenancy.

Tenants also have obligations under tenancy agreements to occupy properties in a tenant-like manner (i.e. not to damage the property and appliances, etc) and to report any deterioration to the landlord.

Landlords should ensure that arrangements for the payment of Council Tax, water charges, utility bills and any service charges (for example for cleaning or maintenance of common areas, servicing of fire alarms etc) are clearly indicated on the tenancy agreement and properly understood by the prospective tenant prior to commencement of the tenancy.

Tenant complaints – It is important that landlords take tenant’s complaints about problems with their property seriously and fully investigate them.  Tenants are the first to know about any defects and if they are not remedied the defects are likely to get worse and may result in a complaint being made to the local authority’s housing enforcement team.

Councils would much prefer the landlord and tenant to resolve the matter themselves but if they get involved because the tenant is not happy with the landlord’s response then they will carry out an inspection and the result may be expensive enforcement action for the landlord.

Tenants should not expect councils to jump in and take action as soon as they contact them - they will usually expect the tenant to have given the landlord plenty of time to sort out the defects before complaining.


Properties must not be statutorily overcrowded under the provisions of the Housing Act 1985. In addition, under the HHSRS, risk of harm from crowding and space must be considered. The number of people sleeping in a dwelling must not contravene either the room standard or the space standard of the Housing Act 1985.

Summary of the Overcrowding Provisions of the Housing Act 1985

For the purposes of this standard a person 10 years or older counts as one unit,  a child under 10 years counts as half a unit and a child under one year counts as a zero unit.  The maximum permitted number (PN) of units that may sleep in a dwelling is the lower number specified in either Table 1 (in relation to the number of habitable rooms excluding kitchens and bathrooms), or Table 2 (in relation to size of the habitable rooms).

Table 1:

1 Room2 units
2 rooms3 units
3 rooms5 units
4 rooms7.5 units
5 rooms10 units
6 rooms12 units
7 rooms14 units

Thereafter, increase limit by 2 units per room

Table 2:

Under 4.6 sq m (50 sq ft)
0 unit
4.6 - 6.4 sq m (50 sq ft - 69 sq ft)
0.5 unit
6.5 sq m - 8.3 sq m (70 sq ft - 89 sq ft)
1 unit
10.22 sq m (110 sq ft) or more
2 units

Under the HHSRS space and crowding hazard of the Housing Act 2004 there should be sufficient provision for sleeping having regard to the numbers likely to be accommodated in the dwelling. As a guide, and depending on the sex of household members and their relationship, and the size of rooms,a dwelling containing one bedroom is suitable for up to two persons, irrespective of age, two bedrooms is suitable for up to three or four persons, three bedrooms is suitable for up to five or six persons and four bedrooms is suitable for up to seven persons.

Landlords must take responsibility for overcrowding in permitting the occupation of their property by tenants. Ensure the tenant group is small enough so the property is not overcrowded. Tenancy agreements should forbid subletting.

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