Being a landlord (at the same time as being a tenant)

From My Wiki

You will be collective guardians of a co-op and of the property held in common ownership for yourselves and future generations. You will also collectively be a "landlord", with legal responsibilities towards your tenants. And you will all be tenants, with legal responsibilities to your "landlord".

Obviously the line between tenant and landlord responsibilities is blurred, since you will be both at once.  However, it may become important to distinguish – for example, in cases where money has to be spent fixing something.

Sharing the landlords responsibilities

Managing the property, finances, and people in a co-op can be a lot of work. Some co-ops set out the minimum commitments for co-op members in a "membership agreement", which outlines how much every member needs to put into helping the co-op function smoothly. This helps the co-op to make the responsibilities clear when members are applying to join. It can also be a useful reference when there are disputes between members about workload.

Not all co-ops have a membership agreement, some cover these responsibilities in their policy documents or secondary rules instead. Most co-ops refer to members' obligations in their tenancy agreements, and may explicitly state that breaking the membership agreement can be grounds for expulsion. It is important that the co-op is allowed to terminate a tenancy for any reason (as long as it is agreed by General Meeting). This is explicitly covered by the 'new' set of model rules from 2014 (RRFM-14), but if your co-op is still registered on the 'old' set of model rules from 1996 (RRFM-96) then this is not clearly defined in the rules.


Every housed member should have a written tenancy agreement, signed by the tenant and at least one representative of the co-operative, before moving in. It is good practice for the co-op to have one prepared in advance.

Radical Routes has published a model tenancy agreement which you can use, it is right at the bottom of the publications and resources page. We do not advise writing your own agreement without advice - there are issues which might seem like a good idea for fully mutual housing co-ops, but could fall foul of the law.

Unlike tenants of housing associations or other landlords, the tenants of a fully mutual housing co-operative do not have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. This should not mean a tenancy in a housing co-operative is more vulnerable. Assured Tenancies are designed to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords; in a fully mutual co-operative, the tenants are their own landlord and do not need protection from themselves. You still have a contractual tenancy - a right to occupy the property.

There has been a lot of discussion about the relationship between the rules of a housing co-operative and the tenancy agreement, due to what is known as 'the Mexfield ruling'. This has caused issues for housing co-operatives in general. Currently (March 2023), the best advice is that any agreement for tenancy or otherwise must have a straightforward 4 weeks 'notice to quit' in it, which the co-operative can give to any member or resident under any circumstances. The main protection for a tenant member remains in the rules of the co-operative.

There is lots of info on the internet about the Mexfield ruling, which is worth reading if you want to understand it better, though a lot of it is more relevant to large housing co-ops with management committees and staff.

Tenant responsibilities

They can probably be summed up as ‘stick to what’s in your tenancy agreement’. Some of them don’t apply to people in shared houses and some shouldn’t need saying! As with many rules, they become important when things are going wrong or people are in dispute.

These points are taken from lists on Shelter’s and the websites.

  • You must give your landlord access to the property to inspect it or carry out repairs. Your landlord has to give you at least 24 hours’ notice and visit at a reasonable time of day, unless it’s an emergency and they need immediate access.

You are also responsible for

  • taking good care of the property, for example, turning off the water at the mains if you’re away in cold weather
  • paying the agreed rent, even if repairs are needed or you’re in dispute with the co-op
  • paying other charges as agreed with the co-op, eg Council Tax or utility bills
  • repairing or paying for any damage caused by you, your family or friends. Keep receipts for this, in case there is any dispute at the end of your tenancy
  • not using unsafe appliances
  • reporting any repairs needed to the rest of the co-op
  • disposing of your rubbish properly
  • sticking to the terms in your tenancy agreement regarding smoking, pets, parking and gardening
  • making sure your home is well ventilated, to help avoid condensation and dampness

Your landlord has the right to take legal action to evict you if you don’t meet your responsibilities.

The Right to Rent

Since February 2016, to force landlords to support the government's racist anti-immigration agenda, it has been a legal requirement for landlords to

  • check all prospective tenants' ID (eg passport or birth certificate) in the presence of the tenant
  • only offer them a tenancy if they have a right-to-rent (British citizens, EU/EEA citizens, people with indefinite leave to remain) or time-limited right-to-rent (people on visas)
  • re-check the right-to-rent of any time-limited tenants when their eligibility is due to expire

Co-ops found to be renting to someone they're not allowed to risk a £1000 fine the first time and £3000 each time it happens again.

The government advises landlords to keep a secure, non-editable copy of all tenants' IDs for at least a year after the tenant leaves. This is in case the landlord is accused of renting to a tenant who doesn’t have the right to rent – it can be used in the landlord’s defence.

Obviously this is a hideous infringement on everybody's civil liberties. It is horrendously racist, it interferes with co-ops' autonomy and freedom to rent to whoever they like (ie choosing the members they want) and it also brings up practical concerns about privacy and security.

Just for clarity, co-ops can have foreign members and fully mutual housing co-ops can have members who are prospective tenants. So it would be possible to have a foreign member of your co-op (who doesn’t have permission to remain in the country) living with you, as long as

  • you've minuted that you intend to make them a tenant as soon as you're legally allowed to, ie they are prospective tenants
  • they are not paying the co-op money which could be construed as being rental income, ie beyond food or utilities contribution.

For more detailed information, download the government's 'Code of practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation'.

Taking care of your tenants

The website gives very clear and reasonably comprehensive information for both landlords and tenants. We've copied here the bits that seem most relevant.  We recommend you read through the site yourself, as legislation and regulations are constantly changing.  This list is correct as at November 2016 and is followed by a few extra specifics from Shelter for clarity

Government list excerpts

  • keep your rented properties safe and free from health hazards
  • make sure all gas and electrical equipment is safely installed and maintained
  • provide an Energy Performance Certificate for the property
  • if your members have short-hold assured tenancies, protect your tenant’s deposit in a government-approved scheme (this isn't necessary for most small housing co-ops)
  • check your tenant has the right to rent your property if it’s in England
  • give your tenant a copy of the How to rent checklist when they start renting from you (you can email it to them)
  • fit and regularly test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms
  • follow fire safety regulations for property in flats

Shelter’s list: excerpts

  • To maintain the structure and exterior of the property, hot water installations and water supply, electrical wiring, basins, baths, sinks and toilets, etc.
  • To ensure the building complies with building regulations
  • To ensure that all gas appliances are safely maintained by CORGI-registered engineers
  • To provide furniture (if the property is furnished) that meets necessary fire regulations
  • To provide and maintain fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, fire escapes and smoke or heat alarms.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

You will probably be sharing a house together, unless the co-op has plenty of money and everyone wants to live separately. Any property housing more than 2 unrelated people who are not owners or leaseholders is a "House in Multiple Occupancy" or HMO", according to The Housing Act 2004. HMOs need to be licensed with your local authority.

Since the Localism Act 2011 (section 185), fully mutual housing co-ops run by general meeting have been exempt from needing HMO licensing. This exemption will apply to your housing co-op if you are using Radical Route's Fully Mutual 2014 rules. This exemption was won through a long campaign by Friendly Housing Action - a lobby group set up by Radical Routes to represent small housing co-ops. There is a lot more information about this legislation on their website.

TLDR: if you are a fully mutual housing co-op managed by general meeting, then you are exempt from HMO licensing.

Licence requirements

If you are NOT a fully mutual housing co-op managed by general meeting, you will need to pay an annual licence fee.

Your co-op is almost certainly an HMO and NOT exempt from the licensing scheme if:

1.The residents are not members of a housing co-op or

2.The co-op doesn’t hold the lease or own the property or

3.The co-op’s rules are not fully mutual or

4.The co-op is managed by a committee

This means you may need to apply for a HMO license from your local authority. Different local authorities can have different definitions of HMO, check with your relevant local authority.

Each local authority publishes building, fire, and security regulations which landlords must meet. These are likely to include: fire doors, more than one toilet for more than six residents, mains operated fire alarms, specific ventilation requirements, etc. They will be readily available from the council, usually through their website. You might wish to comply with these anyway as they represent higher health and safety standards than typical building standards, but they are only legal requirements for HMOs.

Councils are usually reasonable about allowing landlords time to meet building regulations. If you don’t get a licence, the landlord (co-op) can be taken to court and fined and the council can claw back any housing benefit payments paid during the unlicensed period. And you’ll still have to get the licence and implement the requirements.

Collecting rent

Your co-op will rely on rent to pay for all its outgoings: maintenance costs, bills, insurance, loan repayments, etc. If members aren’t contributing the agreed rent, this causes financial problems for the co-op and can cause stress and resentment between co-op members. To reduce likelihood of rent issues, make sure you have a good system for bringing in rent, and for keeping track of rent that has been paid. This can be pretty straightforward.

Using a rent book or spreadsheet for each tenant, from the beginning of their tenancy, list:

  • the dates (weekly, 4-weekly or monthly) their rent was due
  • how much was due on each date
  • how much rent was paid
  • the balance outstanding

It may feel odd checking up on your mates – in our society personal money is considered a very private thing and having to ask someone else about theirs can be embarrassing.  Also, no one wants to be in a position of having to nag their friends & housemates, or even tell them off.

Smaller co-ops often find that it's better to have a culture of openness about income and money from the start. This encourages honesty when people are struggling and a more open and collective approach to finding solutions. It's also a good idea to have a standard rent report to all co-op meetings, rather than only reporting when there are problems to highlight. This means that people are used to talking about being a week or two behind and the co-op will quickly notice if people start to get a month or two behind.

Having a culture of openness also means that housemates have a much better sense for each other’s financial power. Your co-op might want a more radical rent policy than ‘people who can pay more get bigger rooms’ - for example, rent being a percentage of one’s income or all members having the same disposable income after rent. If so, it can really help to have honest conversations about the practical implications of options you’re exploring.

State benefits that cover rent

These days it is possible that tenants living in the same local authority area might variously be receiving Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance (LHA) or Universal Credit (UC). The language around this is confusing as the phrase ‘housing benefit’ is used by some agencies to mean housing benefit, or Local Housing Allowance, or the housing component of Universal Credit.  However, most co-ops will not be registered providers of social housing, so their members will only be eligible for LHA or UC, not technically Housing Benefit. have clear and comprehensive information about all three benefits.  Most single people and many couples should now be claiming Universal Credit.  UC is still only partially implemented and is covering different people in different places. However, some general claims info below will still be relevant.

It is possible to apply for your benefits to be paid directly to your landlord (the co-op), but this is normally only granted in exceptional circumstances, so it is likely that all the co-op's claimant members will have their benefit paid into their own personal bank accounts.

When making a housing claim, in general, benefit claimants in co-ops should argue that they live alone (or only with partner/family members). The authorities may choose to see unemployed tenants as living together and their benefits might be cut (as with couples living together in similar circumstances). We are not aware of any instance of officials taking such action, but the possibility exists. We recommend making sure that each tenant/member has a lock on their bedroom door and if you are expecting a visit from an official, consider labelling cupboards with members names. Showing territory staked out in this fashion should counter any claim that you are living at a level of intimacy that would allow the benefits of individuals to be cut.

Housing benefit (HB) is often not paid retrospectively (although it should be, for up to 1 month) so applications need to be submitted from the first day of occupancy. Although it may take weeks (or in the worst cases, months) before the money actually comes through, they will usually cover rent from the Monday after the claim.

The Local Housing Allowance rates are used to work out a person’s maximum LHA. How much any person actually receives will be reduced in proportion to that person’s income. The LHA rates are updated regularly, and different in different local areas, you can find the most up to date LHA for your area here, searchable by postcode.. Co-ops working on a business plan will need to know the LHA level for the area they want to live in.

Council Tax

This section needs an answer from legal group