In most tenancies, the rights of tenants are disregarded, and they are often treated as unimportant. However, the rights of tenants often come out of the shadows if they fall victim to direct infringement of said rights. In the UK, the most common form of tenancy is the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). The AST expose tenants to various infringements, as it is basically unprotected. The tenancy agreement, in some cases however, does contain the rights of the tenants. Unfortunately, some tenants don’t know their rights, in fact, some of them don’t even know they have any at all. Here are 4 rights of tenants in the UK that you should know.
Sufficient facilities are non-negotiable. In the UK, the tenant is legally entitled to sufficient facilities. Facilities include, a functional oven, usable bathroom facilities, a home phone, and a well-ventilated corridor and rooms. At no point should the tenant be deprived of basic house facilities. The property must also be well secured, with running water and a stable power supply. In some cases, a backup generator comes in handy. Facilities should be continuously upgraded, as a lack of improvement in the property reduce the quality of the tenant’s experience. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Some landlords don’t do repairs, in this situation, tenants are left to tackle the deterioration of the rental property alone. Constant maintenance is expected, but, usually, it is neglected. If the tenant reports a problem on the property, the landlord is expected to take instant action, and the problem should be solved as soon as possible. It is the right of the tenant to get any damaged or faulty facilities repaired immediately.
Every tenant is legally entitled to have a tenancy agreement on paper – the tenant must have their own copy and an explanation of the tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement will contain the rights of the tenant as expressly contained in the housing acts; it also should contain the agreement of the tenant with the landlord. A breach of the tenancy agreement is an infringement on the rights of the tenant and it’s possibly prosecutable. Tenancy agreements usually contains the start of the tenancy, repairs and maintenance of facilities, and conditions for the end of the tenancy. The tenancy agreement usually contains some standard clauses.
Protected Security Deposit
Your landlord is legally required to protect your security deposit, it may be placed in a government scheme or in a bearing account. Your security deposit must be returned at the end of your tenancy. In a situation where money has been deducted from the security deposit, your landlord is equally obliged to inform you. In some states, your landlord has no legal right to hold your security deposit for more than 2 weeks after your tenancy, while, in other states, your security deposit must be returned within 4 weeks of the end of the tenancy.
Protection is key when talking about rights; yet most tenants aren’t protected. Tenants have their rights infringed upon because they don’t know them, or they’re not even aware they have them. B.K.S. Iyengar, says “Lack of knowledge is the source of all trouble and distress whether dormant, attenuated, interrupted or fully active.” Please, know your rights, as failure to do so can be detrimental. Peace out.
Tenancy Agreement FAQ’s
Rent payable is money a tenant owes a landlord at a given time. It is a term used in reference to the tenant, while rent receivable is used in reference to the landlord. Most tenancy agreements usually have specified intervals for payments. If the payment is to be made on the first day of every month for instance, and the tenant pays on time, the rent payable would be zero. If the tenant is late on payment, then the rent payable would be the agreed rent. If the tenant is behind on rent for two months, rent payable would be twice the monthly payment.
A holding deposit is money given to a landlord by a prospective tenant to hold the property until the tenancy is signed as a sign of commitment. It is often advisable for a tenant to be certain about the property before paying a holding deposit. Holding deposits are not required to be protected and are often returned after the agreement is signed. Sometimes, they are used as a part of the tenancy deposit, after which they would require protection.
It is also important to be clear about the terms attached to the holding deposit, how it will be used, and the conditions for a refund.
There should be. If you can’t find it, request it from the landlord or prepare one yourself. It is frustrating to discover that the some of the items or fittings you are paying for in the property were taken by the former tenant or don’t actually exist. It is definitely unlawful if you are charged for fittings that do not exist or that were stolen. In any case, the appropriate thing to do is have a run through the inventory, check for fittings and fixtures that are not in very good condition, take a photograph if you can, make a copy for yourself, then give the newly amended inventory to the landlord for appropriate action to be taken. Little wonder Plunkett says, “Give a copy of the amended inventory to the landlord, keeping a copy for yourself.”
Ideally, fixtures should in no circumstance be removed, if they can be pulled out with light force, then they certainly aren’t fixtures. A property with poor fittings and fixtures could be discouraging to prospective tenants.
The law already has provisions on tenancy agreements. All the details in any tenancy agreement are subject to law and must meet all its requirements. It is important to make sure all the details in the tenancy agreement are understood by both parties before signing. Tenants and landlords should look out for bogus agreements. That is, agreements that give less rights to the landlord or tenant than the law has provided for.
A tenancy agreement should have in it the following details:
- The names of everyone involved in the agreement: the landlord, the tenant, and letting agents if any.
- The address of the property in question.
- The start and end date of the tenancy agreement.
- The rental price for the property and the attached payment plan; monthly or weekly.
- Details on when and how reviews will be done on the rent.
- It should be stated if a tenancy deposit is required. If it is, how much and the details on how it will be protected should be included as well.
- All details on the circumstances in which the tenancy deposit could be withheld or deducted from; repairs on damages done by the tenant, owed rent and such.
- Details on the obligations of the landlord and the tenant, repairs other than what the landlord is responsible for, maintenance of the property and fixtures, and other activities that will keep the property in shape.
- What bills the landlord will be responsible for and what bills the tenant will be responsible for.
- Whether the tenancy could be ended prematurely by both parties, and the process attached to it.
- Whether the tenant is allowed to sublet the property or have lodgers with or without the consent of the landlord.
- Whether pets are allowed on the property.
In addition to the above details, if a tenant has a weekly tenancy, the landlord is required by law to provide a rent book or something similar.
If the tenant is dealing with letting agents and wishes to know the name of the landlord, a written application can be made to the receiver of the rent, requesting to know the name and address of the landlord. The letting agents are required by law to provide the information requested within 21 days or they are committing an offence.
There is a common misconception about tenancy and renting. The average individual only thinks about residential premises at the mention of the word ‘renting’. This is a bit of a strange idea considering there are a number of facilities and services that are involved in the renting industry -, tuxedos are rented. However, focusing purely on premises, here are a variety of them that can be rented:
Residential Premises: Residential premises are properties or buildings that are used for housing purposes. They are usually structured in a family-like manner or sometimes singularly. Residential premises in the same location are usually built in the same way. Residential premises are usually serene, but location is key. If you are going to rent a property in a residential area, you have to take into account the location, the proximity of the property to your workplace, and it’s centrality, amongst other things.
Business Premises: Business premises are not all too different to residential premises. They are structured in different ways as appropriate to different businesses. Some are individual units under a singular roof, some are incubator-like, while others are in the form of suites. Renting a business premises ties down less capital than actually purchasing one. A tenant that rents a business property most likely has an intention to move in the foreseeable future. Renting is a flexible and short-term option. Business premises are usually found in commercial locations because that’s where they are most marketable, and the tenants prefer a location where patronage and sales come easily, which they get in a commercial environment. In most cases, the cost of renting a business property is more than that of a residential property. There’s also a sense of professionalism and firmness attached to the tenancy by the landlord, as a result, a tenant renting a business property cannot afford to default. With the competitive nature of business premises, landlords favour the highest bidder and a mistake on your part may be brutally punished. If you are about to rent a property in a business premises, make sure of the following:
- Get a property in a commercial location
- Be professional in your tenancy
- Avoid mistakes as they can be costly
- Make sure your tenancy agreement is fully honoured
Before you enter into any tenancy agreement, be sure of what exactly you want. If you want flexibility never go into a fixed tenancy, avoid mistakes, and don’t be quick to vacate your apartment if there is a breach.
The tenant is required to inform the landlord about any of these damages and come to a decision on how to get them fixed. When the landlord approves the repair, the tenant may go ahead and keep documents on such repairs for referencing at the end of the tenancy. If the damage is left unfixed, the landlord would most likely deduct the cost from the tenancy deposit to cover the repair expenses. In some cases, the tenant may be sued by the landlord if the deposit does not cover the repairs needed.
Comfortable is the word. Most tenants quickly settle into their new homes; they set up the living room, clean the garage, and even paint the walls. They feel at home, but the truth is that there remains this lingering feeling that you are not the owner of the property and that a situation may occur when you will be physically reminded of it.
Now, there are various situations when your landlord can enter your home, but not without notice. The Tenancy Acts stipulates that if, and in any circumstance, a landlord is compelled to visit the home of their tenants, then a notice of 24 hours must be issued. If, with the exception of an emergency situation, 24 hour notice is not issued then the visit of the landlord could be regarded as illegal. The notice that is issued must:
- Be in writing
- State the reason for the visit
- State the date for the visit
- State the time of the visit
The reasons for the landlord‘s visit must also be reasonable, and unreasonable drop-bys by the landlord without prior knowledge by the tenant might be termed an infringement of privacy and could have legal recourse. So, what reasons could prompt a visit from your landlord?
Assessing Damaged Facilities: Damage to some facilities in the property may require repairs, at this point, your landlord will have to come over to assess the situation, so as to know the cost of repairs. Still, in this situation, a notice of visit is a must.
During Repairs: It’s their property, so whenever repairs are being carried out, they have the right, as the owner of the property and an obligation as a landlord, to occasionally drop by to see how the repairs are going; maybe because more cash is needed or more equipment. As a matter of fact, they might even decide to oversee the whole process.
Pest Control: So, there are bed bugs, ants, or rodents. In this situation, lack of instant response from a landlord (especially in regards to to insects like bed bugs) may have legal consequences if reported by the tenants. Your landlord will once again feel obligated to enter make a visit.
Emergency: So there is a gas leak, water pipe break, flooding, or a fire. All these are defined as emergencies and, in any of these scenarios, there will be a stop by, almost definitely more than once. Your life is important, but so is their property.
Prospective Tenant‘s Tour: Your tenancy is about to end, and you have informed your landlord that you are not renewing. There are streams of prospective tenants waiting for the expiration of your tenancy, so, your landlord may decide to give a prospective tenant a look around the property, even when you are yet to vacate.
Before the year 1990, it was legally required that a third party (witness) be present for the signing of a tenancy agreement. After this period, it was no longer legally required to do so except if the assured shorthold tenancy agreement is for a period of more than 3 years. This is because it is drafted as a deed if the duration is 3 years or more.
However, it is important for a third party to witness and sign an agreement, such as an AST, in order to provide a layer of security for both the landlord and the tenant. A party might deny signing the agreement; stating that they were coerced into signing it or that the signatures were forged. But certain other situations make having a witness particularly advisable. One of these is if the landlord is renting at a price different from the market value. This usually occurs when the tenant is a relative or a close friend.
Most agreements have only two spaces for signatures – the tenant‘s and the landlord‘s. So, there is no place for the witness to sign their name. Merely being present is acceptable, provided the witness can be reached in the future if needed. But the entire idea is usually dealt with by using agreements that are signed electronically, which is the recent norm. This solves the same problem it creates because electronic signatures can be secured with biometrics. This way, they become more protective of both parties than with written agreements whose witness might not be traceable afterwards since they don’t sign.
A simple answer to the present question is that an assured shorthold tenancy agreement does not require a witness, especially if the length of the tenancy is below three years. However, having the signing of the document witnessed does not only offer both parties more protection, but also gives the agreement a more professional look. That helps both parties realize the level of commitment that comes with this document and that the full strength of the law will go against any party that violates the terms. Also, it strengthens the relationship between both parties.
The answer is no. A tenancy deposit is different from an advance because a landlord is required by the law to protect it under a deposit scheme and refund it (after deductions if any) to the tenant within 10 days of the end of the tenancy. Rent paid in advance requires no protection and is not refundable at the end of the tenancy.
If the property repairs are extensive and inconveniencing, and affect the normal routine of the tenant, a rent reduction may be requested as compensation, except when the repairs are being handled by the tenant. If the repairs are so huge that a necessary part of the house is unavailable for use, or may be toxic to human health, the tenant may be advised to seek temporary alternative accommodation until repairs are done. In such cases, a rent reduction or discount may be given by the landlord as some sort of compensation.
When new tenancy documents are being signed, landlords usually request that a deposit is made to cover for damages that may be incurred on the property during the period of tenancy. Landlords also usually take physical inventory at the start of the tenancy period. This information is combined with other information taken from routine inspections of the property at the end of the tenancy period. Deductions are then made if necessary. Tenancy deposits are also used to pay outstanding rent on the property.
A lot of landlords do not allow tenants to decorate or renovate their property. This is because some changes would only be suitable for the one particular tenant and the property may be left in a mess after the tenancy period. Some tenancy agreements allow decorations or renovations to a specified limit. These things can be negotiated though, and the landlord and the tenant may come to an agreement on what can be done and what cannot be done on the property.
Some other tenancy agreements allow for decorations to be done but require that the property is left in the same condition in which it was found. This would mean covering drilled holes, and the removal or replacement of certain fixtures and installations and more.
It is important to read and discuss the options available in the tenancy agreement in detail before embarking on any decoration or renovation projects.
There are three deposit schemes authorized by the government, providing custodial-based or insurance-based protection.
Custodial based deposit protection:
- The tenancy deposit is given to the custodial scheme to protect for the duration of the tenancy.
- Any interest gained on the deposit during that period of time is retained by the custodial scheme.
- At the end of the tenancy, the landlord and the tenant both have to apply for the release of the tenancy deposit, after all agreements have been made about deductions.
Insurance based deposit protection:
- The landlord or letting agents hold the tenancy deposit and pay a sum of money to protect it.
When the tenancy is over, the landlord or letting agents are free to discuss how much should be returned to the tenant without involving the deposit scheme.
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Not being able to pay your rent is not an enviable position to be in. In fact, if not properly managed, it can be catastrophic. A tenant that is unable to keep up with their rent may be going through a number of issues. If, as a tenant, you realize you are not going to be able to pay your rent, there are certain steps you can take to remedy the situation or to soften the blow:
Adjust Your Budget: So, you have a lot of money going to groceries, or you are fueling two cars. Why not cut back a bit on the groceries, fuel one car, or take the bus to work, if possible? Look at certain things you don’t really need at the moment, and then stop them. You are probably going through a rough patch, it is only right that you steady the ship, and how do you do that? You regulate your expenses in such a way that you will be able to carve out enough money for your rent. Some tenants are not sensitive enough to their financial situation, and as such they find themselves stuck in a rental default situation.
Talk to Your Landlord: This may come as a surprise to you, but landlords are not monsters (they are just fierce), some of them are actually very considerate and compassionate. Even for purely business-minded landlords, a defaulting tenant may still find favour. Usually, if a good and consistent tenant were to be in such a situation, the landlord may give a helping hand, by reducing rent, allowing the tenant to continue tenancy till they get the required amount of cash. To help the situation, it is best to inform the landlord as soon as possible, so the landlord can know the necessary steps to take. This is where a good rapport with your landlord might just save your tenancy.
Seek Help: If you can’t pay your rent, can’t cut back any more on your expenses, and your landlord has refused to help you, then you are clearly in trouble and urgent help is required. You can get help from your family, maybe they can help you out with the rent till you get back on your feet. You can also ask your employer for a work loan, if your employer is compassionate enough. There are also charity organizations that support tenants going through certain challenges.
You want to end your tenancy, the question is: do you have legal grounds to do so? If you don’t, then how do you go about it? Don’t worry, let’s address this.
As a tenant, bringing your tenancy to an end may be for various reasons, but you have to be careful. A tenant in a fixed tenancy cannot, at any point during the tenancy, terminate their contract, unless there is a “break clause” or they have consent from the landlord. If a tenant vacates the property in a fixed tenancy, they may be forced to continue to pay rent for the property for the duration of the agreed tenancy. A periodic tenancy is more lenient.
Fixed tenancy? A fixed tenancy is a type of tenancy where the tenant has signed up for the long haul; it is usually no less than a year. Normally in a fixed tenancy, a tenant is not expected to want to opt out of a tenancy all of a sudden. However, in the event that they want to, certain conditions must be in their favour:
Break Clause: A break clause is a buyout included in the terms of a fixed tenancy agreement. A break clause may empower the tenant to end the tenancy before the end of the fixed period.
Landlord‘s Consent: A fixed tenancy may be brought to an end if the landlord agrees to relinquish the holding of the tenancy agreement. This is called “surrendering”.
Periodic Tenancy: A periodic tenancy is a type of tenancy where the tenant is paying rent on a monthly or quarterly basis and, in most situations, the tenant knows they cannot stay long in the location, so, there is no need to make a long-term tenancy commitment. Because of its flexibility, a periodic tenancy agreement can be ended at any time, as long as the right notice is given.
The tenant must give the landlord a quit notice of 21 days, except if the landlord agrees to early termination of the tenancy. During the 21 days, the tenancy is still active, and rent is still payable.
Joint Tenancy: If you are involved in a joint tenancy, it is vital to know that if one of the tenants should serve a legitimate notice to quit, then the tenancy is over.
The cost of repairing damages resulting from accidents not caused by the tenant is usually covered by the landlord. Most landlords have insurance plans with provision for these damages. The landlord, however, is not responsible for any damages the tenant may have caused to their belongings in such situations.
A tenancy agreement is a legally-binding agreement between a landlord and a tenant for the period of the tenancy. In summary, it sets out the rights and duties of both the landlord and the tenant. It is usually referred to as an assured shorthold tenancy agreement since this is the most common form of tenancy agreement in the United Kingdom. The distinguishing factors for the tenancy agreement include the length of the tenancy and whether the landlord lives in the same property you are renting. It is an assured tenancy agreement if the landlord does not live in the property. But you are a lodger if the landlord lives in the house.
Whether written or oral, a tenancy agreement will be enforced by law, provided it does not offer either parties less than is provided by statutory right, but will be enforced if it offers either the landlord or the tenant more than is provided for by their statutory rights. All the rights provided by law must be respected in a tenancy agreement. This is why the terms of the agreement are either implied or expressed. The implied ones are because it is assumed they are already established and made common knowledge by law. However, parts of the agreement that are already provided for by law may be emphasized, if they are very crucial. For instance, the agreement often states the legally established 2 month notice before the landlord can repossess their property before the end of the tenancy and reasons stated.
The contract, if written, must be drafted in a form that will be readable by the tenant. For instance, if the tenant is blind, it is required that the agreement be written in braille. There is no provision for the tenant to be entitled to a written agreement but, in Scotland, the landlord is required to provide one for you.
What constitutes the content of the agreement varies and it is determined by many factors. Some of these factors include, the length of time of the tenancy, the amount of money to be paid for leasing the property, and the location of the property. Maintenance of the property is often the tenant‘s duty and will be encapsulated in the agreement. Things like the changing of lightbulbs, changing the batteries in smoke detectors, cleaning the compound, tending the garden (if there is one), and so on.
A tenancy deposit is a deposit made by a tenant at the beginning of a tenancy contract as a measure of security towards ensuring that the tenant does their part as specified in the contract. At the end of the contract, the landlord will inspect the property, along with their inventory list from the start of the tenancy agreement and routine checks to see if any payments need to be made on damages by the tenant and, if any, deduct the cost of repairs from the deposit and refund the balance to the tenant or the entire deposit if there is no need for deductions.
A tenancy deposit can also be used to cover outstanding rent or other required payments not made by the tenant.
The tenancy agreement is a written or oral contract between a landlord and their tenant(s). You do need a tenancy agreement as, without a tenancy agreement, a tenant may be at risk of exploitation. A T]tenancy agreement contains the rights of both the landlord and tenants for the period of the tenancy. The landlord and tenant have rights and obligations as specified by the law, any other arrangements in the tenancy agreement must not conflict with the law. Both parties can have more than their statutory rights under the tenancy agreement, but they cannot have less their statutory rights; if this should be the case, the agreement will not be enforceable. The private tenancies order compels a landlord to provide the tenant with a stipulated statement of the tenancy term within the first 28 days of the tenancy free of charge, with copies expected to be made, so as to avoid uncertainty about the nature of the agreement. A tenancy agreement can be in two forms – written or oral. Tenancy agreements mostly contain two terms; the express terms and the implied terms.
The express terms are the provisions of the tenancy agreement that were agreed by the landlord and tenant. They are either written or oral. In a case where the terms are written, they can usually be found in the rent book.
Implied terms are the privileges specified by law. They are standards, customs, and practices within the constitutional border. They are part of the tenancy agreement regardless of the inclusion or exclusion of the express terms.
Written Tenancy Agreement
Simply put, a written tenancy agreement is the expression of agreed terms of tenancy between a landlord and tenant on paper. In the UK, not all tenants have a right to written tenancy agreements, but landlords of local housing associations should give a tenancy agreement.
For assured shorthold tenancies
If the following conditions are met, the landlord may take back the property without providing a reason:
- The tenancy deposit of the tenant has been protected in a scheme.
- The landlord has given two months’ notice to the tenant with a final date for leaving.
- The date the tenant is required to leave is at least six months after the start of the original tenancy.
The tenancy agreement is for a fixed period and the landlord is not requesting they leave before the original agreed time.
If the decoration a tenant wants to do will upgrade the house in terms of modernity or fashion, and the landlord may benefit from such an upgrade, the tenant may talk to the landlord in question and propose a payment percentage. Tenants are usually willing to make huge changes or decorate when they have the intention of renting the property for a long period of time. This may stand as an incentive when negotiating for decoration purposes. The landlord, however, is not in any way obligated to accept the idea of payment a part of the expenses for decorations for personal reasons.
- England: In England, most tenants are not entitled by the law to have a written tenancy agreement. There are social housing authorities and associations that should give the tenant a tenancy agreement. Assured shorthold tenancies created after February 1997 must be given basic written agreement terms within 28 days of application by the tenant.
- Scotland: In Scotland, a landlord is required to provide the tenant with a written tenancy agreement, especially if the tenant is in public sector accommodation. It also strongly applied in assured or short assured tenancies with private landlords. If one is not provided by the landlord, the tenant may go to the local authority and request that one be drawn up. Tenants can also take their agreements to Citizens Advice or Shelter Advice if they are in doubt of its fairness.
- Northern Ireland: Tenants are entitled to tenancy statements from landlords if their tenancy is post April 2007. This statement would contain all the terms of the tenancy and rights a tenant is entitled to. If a tenant in Northern Ireland does not have a tenancy agreement, they are still entitled to basic tenant’s rights.
- Wales: As in England, tenants in Wales are also not entitled to written tenancy agreements and may also get them from local housing authorities and associations. Assured tenancies created after February 1997 are also required to be given written agreements within 28 days of application by the tenant.
A tenancy agreement may be used in the following situations:
- If there is a dispute between the tenant and the landlord, the tenancy agreement can stand as evidence, even in a court of law. This dispute could be related to repairs, responsibilities of the landlord or the tenant, payments and so on.
- If a tenancy deposit is made by a tenant, and the landlord fails to protect such a deposit, the tenancy agreement would show that a deposit was made to that effect necessary, especially in cases where the tenant may be awarded damages by the court.
- Tenants seeking housing benefits are required to present their tenancy agreements.
A tenant low on income could apply to Housing Benefit and get a part of or the entire rent paid by Housing Benefit, depending on the income situation.
A lot of people have their deposits paid by third parties: parents, friends, siblings, or others. The rules do not change in such cases. The landlord is still required to protect the deposit under a deposit scheme and make the details of the protection scheme available to the tenant and the third party.
Licencies do not usually require written tenancy agreements. This does not mean they shouldn’t. Bed and breakfast accommodation, for instance, would most likely not require a written tenancy agreement. The same goes for rooms let to lodgers. It is advisable, however, to get a lodger’s agreement to be on the safe side.
That being said, it is always best have a written, signed tenancy agreement to protect all parties involved should a dispute arise in the future. Sure, nobody wants to encounter a problematic landlord, tenant, or even a problematic experience. Being prepared for such eventualities is the smartest thing to do.
The following are the legal background requirements of assured shorthold tenancies:
1. Tenant Identity Check
From 1st of February 2016, landlords are required to run background checks on tenants before renting out their houses to them. These identity checks should include finding out if the tenant is an immigrant. If so, they should determine whether their immigration status allows them to rent a house in the UK. A fine of up to £3,000 will be given to any landlord who rents to a tenant that doesn’t have the right to rent a house.
The law permits landlords to request marriage certificates if the tenant is married, birth certificate, insurance, benefit book, utility bills, and so on.
Landlords are also required to check the tenant‘s employment and credit history before renting out their property and make sure that every person over the age of 18 is legally permitted to rent a house, even if the name of any person does not appear in the tenancy agreement.
2. Gas and Electricity Safety
The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 states that the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a free copy of the gas and electricity safety certification before the signing of the tenancy agreement. Even after signing the agreement between the landlord and the tenant, it is the landlord‘s duty to make sure that the gas installation is inspected from time to time, at least once a year, by a registered gas engineer. A copy of the conditions of the system should be with both the landlord and the tenant at all times. The same goes for the electrical connections. Imprisonment, or a fine of up to £25,000, is possible for defaulting landlords, while that of failing to meet with electricity requirements is a £5000 fine.
3. Deposit Protection Scheme
You will find this included in the tenancy agreement. It stipulates the amount of deposit for the property. Deposits can also be made with other items apart from money if the tenancy is assured shorthold. The landlord is also required to show how the deposit will be protected. Usually, the method will be through the Deposit Protection Scheme. They are required to provide the tenant with the protection information after registration. The deposit must be returned to the tenant no more than 10 days after the end of the tenancy.
There is no fixed amount on how much landlords can request for in terms of tenancy deposits. A landlord is allowed to charge as much or as little as they like, their only limit being how much the prospective tenant is willing to pay. Most landlords, however, adopt one of the following two structures:
- One month’s rent
- Six week’s rent
- Gas appliance and installation repairs. The landlord is also responsible for arranging routine safety checks and maintenance as specified for such appliances.
- Electrical wiring and installation repairs, safety checks and maintenance.
- Interior repairs like faults in the ceilings, cracks in the wall, damaged tiles and floors.
- Exterior repairs such as roofing problems and guttering, outbound drainage and cracks in walls.
- Hot water and heating repairs. If there are gas boilers or gas heaters, arrangement for routine maintenance and checks as well.
- Repairs to bathtubs, sinks, and other sanitary fittings, drainage and sewage systems, leakages and heavy plumbing jobs.
Damages that occur during repairs or attempted repairs.
No matter how good a tenant is, signs of wear and tear will show at some point because of constant use. A tenant is not required to pay for any such repairs. These repairs may be peeled paint from rain or heat, faulty faucets, worn carpets, and all the other little problems that inevitably crop up with time.
- Commitment: A tenancy agreement will ensure the landlord, as well as the tenant, follows their responsibility as stipulated in the agreement. There are usually provisions for the repair of damaged facilities, occasional repair etc. The landlord‘s side of the deal must be honoured as when there is a skirting of responsibilities, legal action can be taken.
- Differentiating Landlord and Tenant Obligations: A tenancy agreement stipulates the role of both parties in the tenancy; when each one understands their responsibilities, the tenancy will thrive and both the landlord and tenant will be satisfied.
- Dissolution of Tenancy Agreement: Tenancy agreements usually have provision for the dissolution of the tenancy. In a case where you as a tenant need to move on, depending on the provisions of the agreement, it could be easy as pie.
A tenancy agreement is a contract between a landlord and tenant regarding a property. This agreement outlines the rights of the landlord and the rights of the tenant. These rights include the tenant’s right to use the property without interference and the right of the landlord to receive rent payment for such property.
Tenancy agreements may be written or oral, although it is more advisable to have written agreements for good reference purposes. The agreement contains details of the arrangement on the tenancy between the landlord and the tenant, details that must be aligned with the law. The law already has provisions for the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. No details in the tenancy agreement can be in conflict with the stipulations of the law.
Tenancy agreements may be made up of express terms, which are what is specified in the written agreement or orally. They could also be made up of implied terms, which includes the rights provided by the law for both parties or established arrangements by custom.
A tenancy may be fixed or periodic. For fixed, the contract runs for a set period of time. For periodic, it could be weekly or monthly.
So far, there is no maximum length for an assured shorthold tenancy. However, there have been calls for the government to restrict the maximum number of years that can be covered by an assured shorthold tenancy, which is simply the tenancy form for privately owned properties. The calls have been consistent with 5 years with reasons, even though it is not the most common length found in these agreements. Because assured shorthold tenancies are meant to be for short periods, the agreements usually cover between 6 months and 3 years. The length is agreed upon by the tenant and the landlord. However, there have been cases where agents have refused a letting agreement that was longer than 3 years, even after the landlord and tenant have agreed to it. Their reason may be because, if an assured shorthold tenancy agreement is to be renewed, there would be no need for another agreement to be drawn up if the new term is 3 years or less. It simply is a statutory tenancy. But if it is going to be more than, say 4 or 5 years, then another agreement has to be drawn up for the purpose.
Now, the standard length of tenancy for landlords is 6 months as it offers them ease to repossess their property through a section 21 notice once the tenancy ends. All they would require is a two month notice and no fee. It is favourable for the landlord since they can easily increase the rent fee, replace unruly tenants, and also easily renovate their property.
The tenants, on the other hand, prefer a longer tenancy agreement as it provides a certain level of security for them. Those with school-age children are better assured with a longer tenancy of up to 3, 4 or 5 years. They are better protected from indiscriminate fee increases and repossession of the house by greedy landlords. The longer the length, the more rights are accrued to the tenant.
However, a longer tenancy may be good for the landlord as much as the tenant. It provides a steady income, which isn’t assured in a short one. An assured shorthold tenancy agreement that covers only a few months might leave the landlord without a source of income if they are not able to find a replacement quickly.
There is no stipulated maximum length of an assured shorthold tenancy agreement.
Can your landlord limit the number of occupants in their property? Probably. The issue of how many tenants can occupy a property is a grey area. Landlords are required by law to follow housing law/regulations, and discrimination must be avoided against potential tenants, especially if they are relatives of the existing tenants. On the flip side, landlords must be careful when they admit new tenants, as too many tenants will result in overcrowding, as well as more tenants, more repairs, and maintenance. So, the number of tenants is really at the discretion of the landlord. The Housing Act 2004, section 258, talks about a building where all the tenants are related. In another situation, if the landlord should rent out the property to 3 or more people from different families, then it becomes House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
A written agreement controls the use of the property and clearly states the position of the tenant and the landlord.
If there is a tenancy deposit to be paid, it would have to be protected using one of the official tenancy schemes, which would require a tenancy agreement.
When there is no tenancy agreement in place, the landlord is still required by law to provide the tenant with written details on the tenancy within six months from the start date. Since there’s a document involved, it’s often best to go ahead and do it all; correct, detailed and signed.
Tenants claiming benefits from the housing benefit office are usually required to provide signed tenancy agreements.
No written agreement could mean misunderstanding in the terms already discussed and agreed upon. A formal argument ensures both parties are in agreement with whatever specifications have been made.
Without a written agreement, a landlord cannot use the accelerated possession process to evict a tenant if needed.
Deciding on the length of tenancy agreement can be tricky, especially in situations where “cowboy landlords” and short-term agreements are involved. Adam Smith, the popular economist, said, “As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.” Tenants are sometimes evicted unlawfully if repairs are requested, and they are given two months notice to quit while being under a 6 month tenancy agreement. Law enforcement assistance is even drafted by these “cowboy landlords” in some cases. Let’s take a look at the type of Tenancy Agreement that exists:
- Shorthold Tenancy Agreement: This is the most common type of tenancy agreement in the UK, popularly known as the Assured Shorthold Tenancy. A shorthold tenancy agreement is usually agreed on by both the landlord and tenant, and they are usually between 6 months and 3 years. Contingent on the pre-agreed conditions, the tenancy agreement could be dissolved before the end of the contracted period. If there is a breach of contract on the part of the tenant, the landlord can take legal action, the same goes for the tenant.
What is the Assured Shorthold Tenancy?
The assured shorthold tenancy is a type of tenancy agreement that is commonly practiced in the UK and is regulated by the Housing Act of 1988. Under the assured tenancy agreement, rent is paid to a private landlord and the landlord does not reside on the same property as the tenant.
- Periodic Tenancy Agreement: When a shorthold tenancy agreement expires, the tenant may either move out or sign another contract with the landlord. The tenant may opt for a periodic tenancy agreement in this situation. If that is the situation, then there is no specified date for contract termination, and the rent is either paid on a monthly or quarterly basis. Maybe this philosophy works, Rory Vaden says, “Success is not owned, it’s rented and the rent is due every day”. Periodic tenancy agreements are flexible and beneficial to tenants; a tenant can move out of the premises once a notice is submitted as and when due.
- Permanent Tenancy Agreement: A permanent tenancy agreement is a tenancy system that is fixed for a predetermined period between the landlord and the tenant. The permanent tenancy agreement can secure the interests of both the landlord and the tenant. If the tenant is seeking a long-term tenancy, then the landlord is assured of steady income on a monthly basis, and that means stability for both. A long-term tenancy can help the tenant to settle down and get used to their environment. Because of its fixed nature, a permanent tenancy agreement can be the perfect solution to the challenge of “cowboy landlords“. If there is a breach, legal action can ensue.
By law, tenants in the UK are entitled to something called ‘the covenant of quiet enjoyment’. This allows them to use the property without the interference of the landlord, agents, or any other third party.
There are times, however, when the landlord or the letting agent is entitled to access to the property. These times are provided for under following three stipulators:
Right to Inspect
Landlords like to keep an eye on their property from time to time. There are other routine calls as well that landlords may make to their property. They are not allowed, however, to do so unannounced. A landlord or a letting agent is required to give notice of at least 24 hours to the tenant before making such a visit. This is in accordance with the Housing Act 1988.
Tenancy agreements usually cater to this, stating that the landlord writes to give notice, and visits at a reasonable hour, to allow the tenant be prepared.
A tenancy agreement should not give the landlord full access to the property, as this is not in line with the law. The tenant is, however, required to make the property available for access when necessary.
How Often Should the Property be Inspected?
The law does not specify how many times a landlord or letting agent is allowed to inspect a property, as long as they give due notice to the tenant as stipulated by the law. Some inspections are done once or twice a year, while others are done quarterly, and all with permission from the tenant. It does say that they are not allowed to abuse this provision.
Right of Reasonable Access
This right permits the landlord access to the property for repairs. The landlord is required, however, to give notice to the tenant before this time except, in cases of emergencies. Such emergencies include but are not limited to:
- A fire outbreak
- The smell of gas
- Suspected criminal activity in the property (although it’s better to call the police)
Right to Enter for Service Provision
This right provides for landlords who have an agreement with their tenants to provide services such as room cleaning. This agreement has to be specified in the tenancy agreement to allow the landlord access without notice. If it is not specified in the agreement, the landlord is required to give notice before being granted access.
- The tenant owes rent
- The tenant has used the property for illegal activities
Depending on which reason it is, notice given to the tenant may vary from 2 weeks to 2 months.
For Assured Tenancies
A landlord would have to use one of the reasons stated in the Housing Act of 1988 to repossess the property.
For Excluded Tenancies or Licences
Excluded tenancies are normally the case when there are lodgers and shared rooms involved. In this case, a landlord usually has to give reasonable notice, which is usually the length of the payment period (1 week or 1 month, depending on the agreement).
Non-excluded Tenancy or Licence
A written quit notice can be given at any time, and the notice period depends on the kind of tenancy agreement involved.
Break of Clause
If a tenant breaks a clause in the agreement, the landlord can give the tenant notice to leave after the event. However, the landlord cannot repossess the property until after 6 months from the start of the agreement.
A tenant is required by law to inform the landlord about the need for repairs when they arise. Landlords cannot be held liable for repairs that are not reported by the tenant. A tenant can only do repairs if the tenancy agreement allows for it and cannot be made to do repairs that the landlord should do. Tenants are required to:
- Keep the property in good condition, neat, and well maintained.
- Avoid damages resulting from negligence.
- Carry out small maintenance repairs on the property.
- Give access to the landlord for repair purposes.
- The landlord not being able to regain possession of the property under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act.
- The tenant applying for a court order and the court specifying that the landlord pays three times the original deposit.
According to general law, in the absence of a tenancy agreement, the tenant would pay rent in arrears. If there is a tenancy agreement, the landlord may require rent to be paid in advance. For example, at the start of a tenancy on 1st of May, the tenant may pay rent for the 4 weeks ahead and the rent would be due again on 1st of June. Basically, the rent is paid ahead of time, for a service yet to be received, unlike rent paid in arrears which is for a service already received. Rent payable in advance usually helps cut down on tenants owing.
The landlord is responsible for any damages caused by a crime (not committed by the tenant) on the property. It could be a broken window from a burglary or attempted burglary, or a damaged door from a break in. The landlord is not liable for any belongings of the tenant lost or damaged in these circumstances.
There is also no minimum length of an assured shorthold tenancy. However, the common length is between 6 and 12 months. This became the standard because the 1988 Housing Act set a minimum length of 6 months for assured shorthold tenancy. But the 1996 abolished that by providing that landlords can give periodic tenancy for ASTs. Another reason is that, in a case where a landlord invokes section 21 of the Housing Act to repossess their property, the court most often cannot grant it if the tenant hasn’t stayed up to 6 months in the house. It doesn’t matter if the tenant has violated any of the clauses of their assured shorthold tenancy agreement. That explains why most landlords will hardly ever agree to a two or three month tenancy. It means that a tenant can easily decide to stay longer than the stipulated number of months and refuse to vacate. since the court cannot grant possession. And, in some cases, the possession proceedings only begin from the 8th month. There are also other restrictions. Section 21 of the housing act notice cannot be served if the tenant has not been given a Gas Safety Certificate, an electricity power check certified, a how to rent guidebook, and/or the tenancy deposit protection information.
If the landlord agrees, it is often better to negotiate a shorter tenancy depending on your needs. For instance, a Masters student moving somewhere for their course can get a 12-month tenancy. Once this fixed agreement expires, they can then renegotiate for a periodic tenancy with the landlord. At this point, there won’t be any fixed date for vacation. The periodic tenancy can then go on on a month by month basis. The tenant may leave as soon as their course is over, provided they give a notice of two months before.
Although the landlord is not allowed to increase the rent in a fixed tenancy, they can do so once the minimal tenancy expires so that a new price will be renegotiated into the next agreement. A way to discourage this is to introduce a clause in the tenancy agreement that takes care of that. Really, it all comes down to negotiations between the landlord and the tenant because, most of the time, the shorter the tenancy, the costlier the rent.
Apart from all the above pros and cons, there is really no mandatory minimum length of assured shorthold tenancy.
If the decorations to be done are the most basic and required ones due to wear and tear from previous use, or as stated in the tenancy agreement, the landlord is responsible for the cost of these decorations or renovations. On the other hand, if the tenant wishes to decorate for personal reasons such as taste, trend, or comfort, the landlord would not be required to pay any part of the cost.
When a tenancy deposit is paid to the landlord or letting agents, they are required to protect the deposit using an authorized tenancy scheme. This is to be done within 30 days of receiving payment. The landlord or letting agent is to keep the tenant informed of the steps taken to protect the tenancy deposit.
By law, a tenant is supposed to recover the tenancy deposit at the end of the tenancy period, if there is no agreement of renewal. To ensure this, a Tenancy Deposit Protection Act was drawn up in April 2007. The tenancy deposit is protected by the landlord under the right body. If they fail to do so, they may face legal action or may not be able to reclaim the property after the tenancy. At the end of the tenancy, the landlord and tenant are required to apply for the deposit to be released after agreeing on deductions for repairs and other payments.
As the saying goes: “There is nothing new under the sun.” A breach of agreement is not a new occurrence, but that doesn’t excuse the breaching party. Depending on the details of your tenancy agreement, a breach of the agreement by your landlord might be a refusal to do repairs, default on the provision and availability of certain facilities, the restriction of tenants, amongst other things. So the question is, what can you do about it? Well, a few steps can be taken, some of which are:
Write to Your Landlord: It’s a dire position to be in when there is an agreement breach by your landlord because you will most likely have to deal with the bulk of the problem. Don’t make any assumptions; write to your landlord informing them that they’re in breach of contract, and list the problems. Indicate in the letter that you expect the landlord to make the necessary corrections on the breach. Inform them that if the breach continues, you will have no choice but to terminate the agreement, also that legal action may be taken. Make sure you make copies of this letter.
Give Them Time: After the letter has been sent to your landlord, give them a realistic amount of time to make amends. The time given is a measure of good faith, as it is possible your landlord is not aware that they’re in breach of the agreement, and the letter may call his attention to it and amends be made. On the flip side, if your landlord is purposely breaching your agreement, they may never respond to the letter, but a realistic period of time may see them regret what they’ve done.
Serve a Notice to Quit: So, you have given your landlord enough time, yet no remedy has been made to the breach, the next step is to give your notice to quit. This means that you are terminating your tenancy agreement on the grounds of agreement breach. As long as the breach has legal recourse, you can terminate your tenancy agreement with the aim of taking legal action once you vacate the property. Never terminate your tenancy agreement unless you are absolutely sure you’ve done all you can to change your landlord‘s behaviour.
Simply put, a UK rent guarantor is a UK resident with a good credit history that has agreed to pay your rent if, for any reason, you default on your payment. If, in the course of your tenancy, any damages occur, the guarantor will also agree to cover the cost and anything else related to the tenancy. Guarantors are legally obliged to do this on the basis of the Guarantor agreement. As an individual with a good reputation, a guarantor is expected to be a homeowner. Getting a UK guarantor can be a major challenge, especially for foreigners, because most guarantors in the UK are either relatives or family friends with the tenant. Most landlords consider a guarantor as an insurance policy, as background checks are carried out on tenants, with the same being done for guarantors.
Guarantors are requested for by the landlords in a situation where you, as a tenant, do not meet the following specifications:
- You Are a New Immigrant: For the purpose of protecting their interests, landlords often mandate new immigrants to get a UK guarantor; a task that can be daunting, as a new immigrant doesn’t fully know their way around well enough. If you are a new immigrant, prepare yourself for this possibility.
- A Student: Landlords believe that students don’t have the financial prowess to maintain an apartment, and this is mostly true.
- Below 21 Years Old: When it comes to someone who is less than 21 years old, they are more prone to misdemeanours. Landlords are wary of the over-exuberance of youths which may result in liabilities.
- Has Low Financial Prowess: Individuals with low financial strength do not exactly strike a confident figure to landlords, As a matter of fact, some landlords totally refrain from letting out their properties to these people. For those that don’t, they generally request a guarantor.
Disagreements between tenants and landlords are fairly common. Tenancy deposit schemes usually wait until disputes are resolved before releasing the deposit. If an agreement cannot be reached on how much should be deducted for damages and the cost of repairs, the tenancy deposit scheme usually has an option for resolving such disputes. If this option is taken, the tenancy deposit scheme would ask for evidence from both parties and make a decision. Their decision on how much the tenant is due is final.
A UK rent guarantor is a resident of the UK who has a good credit history and is willing and ready to cover the rent of a tenant, as well as cover the tenants‘ liabilities in a case, where necessary. The following are requirements to be a UK guarantor:
- A UK guarantor must be a resident of the UK
- They must be an individual of good repute
- They must have a good financial history
- They must be between the age of 18 and 75, above all
- They must be ready and willing to pay your rent
In a situation where you are unable to produce a guarantor, the landlord may require you to pay 6-12 months’ rent upfront.
The following are examples of fixtures:
• Fireplaces etc.
• Kitchen Cabinets
Examples of fittings are:
• Flower Vases
• Window Coverings
• Light Bulbs
Some tenants are blasé about the fixtures and fittings in the house, as they just want to have somewhere to rest their heads, But, if you want to enjoy the property and have value for your money doing so, then it is important to be thorough. To ultimately avoid unpalatable situations, ask specifically about these items and thoroughly inspect them before going into any form of tenancy agreement. A good rapport with your landlord will go a long way in making you comfortable and satisfied, in other words, be nice. Naturally, the landlord is liable for all costs incurred on repairing facilities on the property.
Regardless of who your landlord is, make sure the tenancy agreement you go for is the one that best represents your interests, and also ensure that you get value for your money. Be careful of the “cowboys”.
An HMO is a property where two or more households occupy as tenants. HMO’s are common in the UK. Legally, for a building to be a HMO, the landlord has to willingly let out the house to the households. In some cases, the landlord needs a license; HMO’s that are large must be licensed (mandatory licensing). HMO’S are classified as large if the building has 3 or more floors, and if 5 or more people, who form 2 or more households, reside there. If your landlord fails to get a HMO licensed, they can be prosecuted and fined up to the tune of £20,000. HMO’s add more responsibilities to the landlord, aside from default maintenance, some of which are:
- Security: The overall general security of the property must increase functional smoke detectors with alarms, well-bolted doors, and a fire escape.
- Water Supply: The quality of the water supply must be consistently high, and at no point in time must the water supply be unreasonably disrupted.
- Appliances Check: Occasional safety checks must be carried out on electrical installations and gas connections.
Some determinants for setting the number of tenants in a building are:
- Family: According to the law, an application of tenancy cannot be rejected where a family is involved, especially children. If the number, however, is way more than the normal standard, rejection might be justifiable.
- Size of Property: If the property is large enough, the landlord may be obliged to take in more tenants.
Students can reside in HMOs too, however, not all student environments are categorized as HMOs. Students halls and hostels are not regarded as HMOs.
The bottom line is, even though there are housing regulations, the admittance of tenants still rests on the landlord. With proper consultation, your landlord may set the maximum number of tenants per unit.