Some dodgy landlords don’t bother with pesky legal inconveniences like giving tenants a written tenancy to sign.
So it might seem like there is no protection for you if you live somewhere, pay your rent, but have no tenancy paperwork to prove you have a right to live there.
Fear not. If you can prove that you make regular rental payments (ideally some form of receipt written in some way – emails will do the trick or bank transfer), you automatically benefit from the protection of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), which is probably the most common form of private rental tenancy anyway.
There’s a caveat – this doesn’t apply to lodgers. Basically*, a lodger is someone who lives in their landlord’s home and shares some of the communal areas. In this situation landlords can access your room when they want, as opposed to ASTs where they have to get your consent (which some dodgy landlords conveniently forget as well). Another term for a lodger is an ‘excluded occupier’ (every day’s school day right?).
But assuming you don’t share your home with your landlord, by proving you pay rent regularly your landlord will have to go through the formal legal process of issuing a valid Notice To Quit (NTQ) and go through the courts to make you leave, which usually takes a few months, giving you time to find somewhere else to live.
And if they don’t bother with the court process either and start harassing you in any way, you need to get straight down to your local Council’s housing team to let them know about it – it’s their job to investigate and enforce the law which will hopefully ensure that landlords act lawfully. And it’s also important to bear in mind that leaving your home before the landlord has properly gone through the court process could leave you trying to argue that you’re not intentionally homeless, which is an argument we could all do without. (Obviously acts in good faith wouldn’t make you intentionally homeless, nor would being bullied out of your home by your landlord).
*This is just a clumsy-but-hopefully-helpful blog. It isn’t a substitute for legal advice. Always get legal advice from a qualified professional for housing issues.