Tenancy agreements are a contract between the tenant and the landlord and detail the terms and conditions of renting the property, such as when the rent is to be paid and how much it is, who is responsible for maintaining the property and paying for repairs etc.
A contract is a legally binding document which is enforceable by law and is an agreement between two or more people. If there are disputes regarding the content of the contract, if the fundamentals or whole contract have been broken, then these claims can be taken to court. The judge will then determine whether a “breach of contract” has in fact been made by either party and they will make this decision based on the underlying law or legislation that the contract is based on.
There are 6 key parts of a contract:
- Intention of legal consequences
- The terms and conditions
- Breach of contract
To find out more about what makes up a legally binding contract.
For instance, if your rental contract states that no pets are to live at the property but you get one whilst living there, you would have breached the contract. Therefore, it’s worth knowing the consequences of breaking a lease agreement before you infringe them.
Eviction is the most severe penalty a tenant can face for breaching their rental agreement with the landlord. Landlords have the right to start the formal eviction process at any time throughout the tenancy if a breach of the contract has been found. Therefore, it’s imperative that tenants learn what can void their tenancy agreement in order to protect themselves.
Depending on what level the breach of contract was or what the direct consequences of the action taken by the tenant to break the contract are, the action the landlord can take will vary. In some renters agreements the landlord may stipulate that they will pay a fine should any breach occur by the tenant. However, if the landlord tries to implement a fine without this written into the contract then the tenant will be able to protest it.
Warning letters are also used by landlords in order to provide tenants with notice that they have broken a clause in their rental agreement. This should be the first course of action taken by a professional landlord, as it gives the tenant time to address the situation and to avoid it escalating to the point where eviction proceedings need to be undertaken.
Resorting to evicting tenants is a drastic measure and shouldn’t be taken lightly. One way that landlords can avoid this situation is to improve their relationship with their tenants and open up communication channels with them, in order to better understand both the tenants and landlords expectations.
It is always worth giving tenants a chance to make things right before resorting to the drastic measure of evicting them. Not only does this avoid the risk of having void periods, but tenants like having the security of a long-term home and it benefits landlords having the rent guaranteed to come in each month.
This handy guide details how landlords can improve the relationship with their tenants.
It is worth remembering that if you are tempted to break a clause in your contract, your landlord could find out about it a lot sooner than you may think. This can happen when the area the property is has a strong community focus and neighbours often have a good idea as to what is going on at each property and could report any rule-breaking to your landlord. Remember, most professional landlords will conduct regular property inspections which could catch you out.
The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations make any clause which is ‘unfair’ null and void in a court of law. If the landlord added any clauses which infringe on the tenant’s statutory rights in the tenancy agreement, then those terms and clauses will be null and void, even though they are present in the contract. So if a term or condition of the tenancy agreement is giving either party less than their statutory rights, then it can’t be enforced and it won’t hold up in a court of law.
An example of an unfair clause could be: ‘The landlord has the right to enter the property at any time without the tenant’s consent’.
It is important to be aware that even though landlords have the rights to amend their renter’s agreement contract by adding clauses the statutory rights laid down by law are always in existence and can never be written out or superseded by those added into a written or oral agreement by the landlord.
With this in mind, there could be a difference between what the tenancy agreement states and what rights the tenancy agreement is actually protecting. Some unprofessional landlords can claim that an assured tenancy is actually an assured shorthold tenancy, or that the agreement isn’t a renters agreement but a ‘licence to occupy’ which are used for lodgers. If for whatever reason you are unsure as to which agreement you have and whether it is valid, contact an expert or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Tenants should be wary of landlords who try to persuade them to enter into a verbal contract or “gentleman’s agreement”, saying it’s just as good as a written agreement. This is not the case, having a formal, written renters contract in place gives the tenant a lot more protection in case things go wrong. Written agreements also allow the landlord a lot more protection too should they need to evict a nightmare tenant.