Below is a short guide to Consumer rights and Housing contracts & rights, but you can find out more via the Citizens Advice Bureau by visiting www.adviceguide.org.uk for general rights, or by contacting Shelter for housing queries at www.shelter.org.uk/advice or on 0808 800 4444
What are your consumer rights?
It depends! Your rights will depend upon what you bought, whether you bought it from a company or private seller, whether they are based in UK or abroad and whether you bought something over the internet or in person.
The Sale of Goods and Services Act gives consumers statutory rights when buying goods and services from businesses in UK. You have legal rights when buying goods/services and companies have legal responsibilities to put things right if there is a problem with what they have supplied.
Your legal/statutory rights when buying goods state that goods and goods supplied with the service which you buy must:
- Match their description
- Be of satisfactory quality
- Be fit for purpose
If your statutory rights have been breached, you are entitled to ask the seller to replace the item, repair the item or give you a refund for the item. This applies when you have bought goods from a trader. If it would cost the trader more to repair the goods than it would to replace them, you may be offered a replacement. If the item cannot be either repaired or replaced, or to do so would cost more than a full or partial refund, it may be that a refund or reduction in the purchase price is offered.
When you pay for a service it must:
- Be carried out with reasonable care and skill
- Be carried out within a reasonable time, unless a specific time has been agreed
- Be provided at a reasonable cost, unless a specific price has been agreed
If you statutory rights have been breached when you bought a service, you may be entitled to ask the trader for compensation, for a refund, to correct the problem, to complete the work or to end the contract before the work has been completed.
You do not have the right to a refund, replacement or repair if you have simply changed your mind about something which you have bought. If there is nothing wrong with a product or service, the trader is under no legal obligation to take it back or offer you a refund/replacement.
Housing rights and contracts
You do not need a written contract to rent in the private sector.
If you do not have a written contract, the terms you agree orally (verbally) with the landlord count as your contract. This makes it very important to be especially clear about key terms such as how much the rent is and when and how it should be paid.
In almost all cases, unless you live with a resident landlord, if you do not have a written contract you will be an assured shorthold tenant.
Assured and assured shorthold contracts
Most people who rent from private landlords have assured or assured shorthold contracts. These can be:
- fixed term (eg 12 months)
- periodic (no fixed term) or
- statutory periodic (when a fixed term has expired and no new fixed term has been agreed).
Most students have fixed term assured shorthold contracts.
Joint contracts are very common in private sector housing and it is very likely that you will be asked to sign a joint tenancy if you move into shared student housing.
If you sign a joint contract you are normally liable for the whole rent on the property. Additionally, you cannot normally get out of a joint fixed term contract without the consent of the landlord and your joint tenants.
Assured and assured shorthold contracts can both be joint contracts.
The section applies to people with assured or assured shorthold contracts, including joint assured or assured shorthold contracts. If you have a resident landlord you do not have the same rights.
Tenants with assured and assured shorthold contracts:
- cannot be evicted without a court order
- are protected against harassment and illegal eviction
- are entitled to 24 hours notice of non-emergency visits by their landlord or anyone working for him/her
- can expect their landlord to deal with major repairs
- cannot have their rent increased during a fixed term contract unless the contract allows
In addition, tenants with assured shorthold contracts:
- must have their deposits protected
- can apply for a rent reduction within the first six months of the letting
- are entitled to written confirmation of certain key terms of the tenancy. These are: the start date; the amount of rent payable and the dates of payment; details of any provision for a rent review; and the length of the fixed term (if applicable).