What to Look Out For in a Tenancy Agreement
Once you have seen the house you know you’ll love, you will want to sign the agreement and move in as soon as possible. However, before you place your signature on the dotted lines, there are a few things you need to look out for in the tenancy agreement. A tenancy agreement is a binding contract between the landlord and yourself, and sets out the conditions and legal terms of your tenancy. It defines the type of tenancy you are going in for, whether it is a fixed-term lease that will run for a specific number of months or a periodic one that runs from week to week or month to month.
This document contains what the landlord expects of you and what their responsibilities are. These seemingly little details are a crucial part of your tenancy and will determine how your stay in the property will be. For example, you will want to know who has the responsibility for repairs, so that you don’t get stuck with bills you didn’t plan for. It also covers how much notice you will need to give if you want to cancel the tenancy. if there is one good reason for taking the time to go through the tenancy agreement, it is so you can understand exactly what is required of you as a tenant and when.
The tenancy agreement guide below will throw a bit more light on this important document.
Tenancy Agreements: a Guide for Tenants
As pointed out above, a tenancy agreement is a document that makes things clear between the prospective tenant and the landlord. As a tenant, it is vital you go through the agreement properly, to understand your requirements and responsibilities as a tenant and those of the landlord. This document essentially protects both the tenant and the landlord from any form of future unpleasantries. Most tenancy agreements follow a standard format, so there is the temptation to believe that once you have seen one, you’ve seen them all. However, it is still important that, as a tenant, you read the entire document to be sure of what is contained in it. This way, you can ask questions if you come across any point that you don’t understand.
Here are some details you should check that the agreement includes:
- You name and the joint tenant’s name (if applicable)
- The location and address of the rented property
- Landlord’s name and address, as well as that of the letting agent (if applicable)
- How much should be paid as rent, as well as when and where it should be paid
- The duration of the tenancy
- Details of any applicable deposit, what it covers, and the circumstances in which it may not be returned
- Conditions about how to end the tenancy
The tenancy agreement will also cover your responsibilities, and those of the landlord, all through the period of the tenancy. In most cases, as a tenant, your responsibilities include: reporting any necessary repairs to the landlord as soon as possible, keeping the environment clean and tidy, not causing damage to any part of the property, paying your rent when due, living peacefully with the neighbors (if available) and so on. The landlord is responsible for carrying out repairs and making sure that the property is safe and secure for the tenants who live there, as well as fulfilling their legal duties. Additionally, the agreement may contain a list of the furniture and fittings that will come with the property. These details will be contained in an inventory, along with the details of who to contact about repairs or replacement.
In a lot of cases, landlords do not allow smoking and pets in their properties. This is because of the risk associated with damage from fire and animals. Some landlords, however, have a more relaxed approach. Some may allow you to keep pets, but could then ask for a higher deposit or stipulate that you pay for professional cleaning at the expiration of your tenancy. These details are most likely contained in the tenancy agreement. In a situation where you must keep a pet, such as a guide dog for the blind or partially sighted, the landlord may be able to change the rules to accommodate you. However, ensure that whatever new arrangement you have with the landlord is covered in the tenancy agreement to avoid future disputes.
Most people will need to redecorate the property before moving in. While some landlords have no problem with tenants carrying out a few DIY projects on their property, others would rather handle it themselves or get the letting agency or management company in charge of the property see to it. This little detail may be missing in the tenancy agreement, so you will need to ask the landlord or letting agent directly if you can carry out any DIY or redecorate. If they say you can, ensure that this is covered in the agreement.
As you can see, there are a lot of details tenants need to take note of when renting a property and signing the tenancy agreement. To some people, these details might seem overwhelming, and they would rather rush through and sign the document without paying attention to the fine print, thereby potentially putting themselves at risk of complications and landlord/tenant dispute at a later date. If there is any part of the tenancy agreement that you are not sure of, it is important that you ask the landlord or letting agent to make those details clear for you. You should also know that it is against the law for any landlord to discriminate against you based on your gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or if you are pregnant or disabled. It may be necessary to seek legal advice if you feel that you are being discriminated against, or if you feel a particular clause in the agreement is particularly unfair.
Types of Tenancy Agreements
There are a number of tenancy agreements designed for different circumstances. If you are a first-time tenant or you are new to buy-to-let, the different tenancy agreements might be confusing. A normal tenancy agreement must be written in plain, easy to understand English, and be devoid of any convoluted legal jargon that could confuse a layman. Two of the most common tenancy agreements you may come across as a tenant are: Contractual (non-AST) Tenancy Agreement and Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST). The following explanation will help you come to terms with these two tenancy agreement forms:
Contractual (non-AST) Tenancy Agreement
A non-assured tenancy agreement (non-AST) is an agreement that can be applied in particular situations. For instance, where the tenant has another home elsewhere, such as in a situation where the tenant lives with their family in another property on weekends, and uses the agreed property during the week only.
Another situation where this form of agreement applies is if the landlord lives in the property but does not share facilities and living accommodation with the tenant, such as where the landlord has their own home elsewhere in the property, but does not share bathroom facilities, toilet facilities, a kitchen or living room with the tenant.
Additionally, non–AST also applies when the rent for the property is no more than £250 per year.
In all of these cases, tenancy is not assured as you don’t have to pay the required deposit into a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme, and you also don’t need to give a Section 21 or Section 8 Notice in order to end the tenancy. This type of system is called common law tenancy. where the tenancy starts as a fixed-term tenancy and the tenant can stay until the end of the term as long as they pay the rent when due and comply with the terms of the tenancy agreement.
Previously, this form of agreement could be used when the rent was above £25,000 per year. However, the maximum rent that can be collected for an assured tenancy was raised to £100,000 per year effective from 1st of October 2010. After that date, all tenancies where the rent fell between £25,001 and £100,000 were automatically converted to assured tenancies.
Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST)
AST is the most commonly-used form of tenancy agreement. It can be used for a variety of properties including flats, houses, and self-contained units. It can also be used for properties such as a house or flat that is rented to a group of people, i.e students or young professionals. This form of agreement was created by the Shorthold Tenancy Agreement in the Housing Act of 1988. Under this form of agreement, any deposit paid must be protected under a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme. This form of agreement gives tenants what is known as long-term tenancy rights, but this fixed term tenancy automatically runs out at the end of the term unless the tenant and landlord agree to end it before its expiration. Any tenant operating under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement will be served a Section 8 notice in the event of an agreement breach or delay in rent.
Under AST agreement, a landlord is within their right to effect a possession order immediately after the initially agreed term, which is usually for a period of six months. This means that the landlord is able to evict the tenant at the expiration of the agreed six months (or longer) without any legal reason. In this situation, the landlord is obliged to give the tenant notice of at least 2 months before the end of their tenancy.
One of the requirements needed for this type of agreement is that the landlord and tenant both arrive at an agreement on the minimum length of term and the amount of rent. An AST agreement stipulates that a tenant is protected in terms of rent. This means that a tenant can challenge excessively high rent or a change on the initially agreed rent.
The Housing Act of 1988 puts in place these criteria for an AST to be set up:
- The property can only be let as a separate accommodation
- The property must be the tenant’s only or main home
- The tenant must be an individual
There are however some circumstances where it is not possible to use a shorthold tenancy. For example:
- When a property is more than £100,000 per annum
- When the property is let for very low rent or at no cost at all
- When the property is let as a secondary abode or holiday home
- When a property is let but the landlord also resides there
- When a property is let to a private company
- When a property is owned by the government or the Crown
- When a property is let for agricultural purposes
- When a property is let under a tenancy prior to the 15th of January 1989.
As pointed out earlier, an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement is usually arranged for an initial six month period. However, it can also be agreed for longer, e.g. twelve months. The tenant remains in the property for the initial fixed period, after which they and the landlord can decide to continue the arrangement of the tenant moving out of the property.
Tenancy Agreement Templates
To help you better understand how the two above agreements work, we will be looking at how these agreements are drawn up and what each of them contains. The following are essentially standard templates for these two types of agreement. However, there may be a few differences depending on the landlord or letting agency requirements and the circumstances surrounding the agreement and tenancy.
Sample of a Tenancy Agreement
Below are short samples of different tenancy agreements to give you an idea of what to expect.
Contractual (non-AST) Tenancy Agreement
Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST)
ASSURED SHORTHOLD TENANCY AGREEMENT
THIS TENANCY AGREEMENT (the “Agreement”) is made BETWEEN:
- [Name of landlord] of [home address of landlord] (the “Landlord”); and
- [Name of tenant] of [current address of tenant] (the “Tenant”).
IN RELATION TO THE PREMISES at:
[full address of the premises] (the “Premises”).
[note any exclusions should be specified above e.g. “excluding the adjacent storage shed”]
IT IS HEREBY AGREED as follows:
1.1 The Landlord lets the Premises to the Tenant for a fixed period of [length of tenancy e.g. 12] months (the “Fixed Period”), starting on and including [start date of tenancy]. Following the expiration of the Fixed Period, the tenancy shall thereafter continue, still subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, from month to month unless or until the Tenant gives a written notice of not less than one month to the Landlord (which will expire at the end of a rental period), or the Landlord serves on the Tenant a notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
2.1 The Tenant shall pay to the Landlord a rent of [monthly rent e.g. £1000] per month (the “Rent”).
2.2 The first Rent payment shall be made on [date of first rent payment], and thereafter monthly in advance on the [day of each month e.g. 1st] day of each month by [method of payment e.g. standing order into the Landlord’s bank account].
3.1 The Tenant shall pay to the Landlord upon the signing of this Agreement a deposit of [deposit amount e.g. £1000] (the “Deposit”) which shall be held by a government backed security deposit scheme. At the end of the tenancy, the Deposit shall be returned to the Tenant subject to any deductions made in accordance with this Agreement.
- Fittings and Fixtures
4.1 The tenancy shall include the fixtures and fittings in the Premises including all items specified in the inventory attached.
- Type of Tenancy
5.1 This Agreement is intended to create an Assured Shorthold Tenancy as defined in the Housing Act 1988 (as amended) and the provisions for the recovery of possession by the Landlord in that Act apply accordingly.
- Tenant’s Obligations
6.1 The Tenant shall:
(a) pay Rent at the times and when due in the manner aforesaid;
(b) pay all charges in respect of any utility bills such as electric, gas, water, telephonic and televisual services used or supplied to the Premises and Local Council Tax or similar property tax that might be charged during the term of the tenancy;
(c) keep all fixtures and fittings, including all items on the attached inventory, and the interior of the Premises proper condition and not damage or injure the Premises including the fixtures and fittings, or the items on the attached inventory (excep fair wear and tear);
(d) yield up to the Landlord the Premises including the fixtures and fittings, the items on the attached inventory, and all keys and security devices, at the end of the tenancy;
(e) not make any alteration to the Premises including the fixtures and fittings, locks, or any other items belonging to the Landlord, without the written consent of the Landlord;
(f) not do anything at the Premises which:
(i) may be or become a nuisance or annoyance to any other occupiers in and of adjoining or nearby premises;
(ii) is illegal or immoral; or
(iii) may in any way affect the legitimacy of any insurance of the Premises or the items listed on the attached inventory;
(g) shall not keep pets or any other kind of animal on the premises without the Landlord’s prior consent which shall not be unreasonably withheld;
(h) not use or occupy the Premises in any way whatsoever other than for that which it was taken for;
(i) not sublet , assign, or share occupation of the Premises, or allow paying guests, lodgers, family or children to occupy or reside in the Premises without the Landlord’s prior written consent;
Scottish Government Model Tenancy Agreement
As a landlord, letting agent, or tenant in Scotland, it is necessary to know of the changes that are being made to the law concerning properties. For instance, from December 1, 2017, a new tenancy agreement called the Private Residential Tenancy replaced the assured and short assured tenancy agreements for new tenants. This means that tenancies from this date will last for as long as the tenant wishes to stay or until the landlord uses any of the 18 grounds for eviction to repossess the property. However, for tenancies already existing before that date, the new law will not take effect until the current tenancy term comes to an end. To help landlords and tenants better understand the new system, the government has produced what is known as a Model Tenancy Agreement that includes the standard tenancy terms and the clauses that can warrant an eviction. The model tenancy agreement is made up of two sections. The first section contains the core rights and obligations, which include the statutory tenancy terms such as deposits and repairs. The second section contains discretionary terms which the landlord may opt not to display in the agreement. it also include all other terms and conditions the landlord wants the tenant to be aware of.
Tenancy Agreements: A Guide for Landlords
A tenancy agreement is a binding contract between you (The Landlord) and your tenants. It defines the terms and conditions under which your property is let. It can either be written down or oral, but in most cases, it is written down, signed and witnessed.
A tenancy agreement normally runs for a fixed term (usually between six months to a year) or periodic (usually week to week or month to month).
Whether there is a tenancy agreement or not, both the landlord and the tenants have certain expectations and responsibilities. For instance, the tenants expect that the property will be kept in good repair over the course of their term while the landlord expects that the tenants will be prompt with rent and live responsibly in the property.
The following will serve as a guide for landlords in respect to accepting tenants and drawing up the right tenancy agreement.
Landlord Help and Advice
As earlier pointed out, the most common form of tenancy agreement is the Assured Shorthold Tenancy which applies if you are renting out to private individuals, if the property is your tenant’s primary accommodation, if you don’t live on the property, and/or if the tenancy began after the 15th of January 1989. Another common tenancy agreement is the Contractual or non-AST tenancy agreement. Each of these agreements are suitable for different circumstances.
Apart from basic information such as the name of the tenant or tenants and landlord, the address of the property, rent and amount to be paid as deposit, the agreement will also carry important details such as who is responsible for repairs on the property (including the repairs that are the responsibility of the landlord), rules concerning ending of the tenancy, including if the tenant is allowed to end it before the due date, and whether the tenants are allowed to sublet or bring in other people into their part of the property.
If a tenant is required to make a deposit before taking possession of the property, you have to let them know if and how you intend to protect their deposit. You need to bear in mind that once you have taken a tenant’s deposit, you are expected to protect the money with one of the government backed deposit protection schemes, except in the case of a non assured tenancy where you are not required to protect the money. Placing the deposit in a government backed scheme is in the interest of both the landlord and tenant. However, the tenant needs to be told about this so that the paperwork can be completed.
As a landlord, it is important to note that no part of your tenancy agreement can be interpreted to show discrimination in any form, such as in respect to age, sexual orientation, religion, gender, or disability. If, for instance, a prospective tenant is blind or partially sighted and has a guide dog, but your tenancy agreement does not allow pets in the house, you will have to change the terms to accommodate guide dogs on the property unless you have a very serious reason not to, such as another tenant with a strong allergy to dogs.
Every part of your tenancy agreement must also comply with current laws.
If during the course of the tenant’s term, you decide to modify any part of the agreement, you may need to get the agreement of the tenants involved. Failure to do so can expose you to legal liabilities.
In a situation where you have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement with any tenant, you are within your right to take back your property at the end of the term without giving any reason. However, before you can do this, the following conditions must apply:
- The tenant’s deposit is protected in a government backed tenancy deposit scheme.
- You have given the affected tenant at least two months written notice before the expiration of their term, informing them that you want your property back and the day they are expected to leave.
- The eviction must happen at least 6 months after they take possession of the property.
- They have a periodic tenancy that runs week to week or month to month, or they have a fixed tenancy but you are not asking them to leave until the end of the agreed term.
However, there are reasons under the Housing Act of 1988 that qualify someone for an eviction before the end of the their term. Some of these reasons include:
- The tenant is behind in rent and unable to pay.
- The tenant is using the property for unlawful activities such as selling drugs.
- The tenant carries out activities that put the property or the lives of other tenants in danger.
In most cases, you must give a 2 months’ notice either orally or in writing, but preferably in writing to avoid disputes in future.
Regardless of the reason for eviction, you cannot remove a tenant with force. If the tenant has refused to leave at the expiration of the notice period, your next step will be to start the process of eviction through the law courts.
Even though there is a fixed agreed term between landlords and tenants, the tenant can leave before the expiration of term without paying the full rent if there is a breach in the terms that the tenancy agreed upon. They can also leave if you agree to an early termination of the tenancy period. The tenant can also opt to move out at the expiration of their lease after giving due notice.
It is vital that both parties (landlord and tenant) are in total agreement before the tenancy agreement is finally signed. If there is any part of the tenancy agreement that cannot be agreed upon, the issue should be resolved well before the start of the tenancy period. The landlord and tenant should both have a copy of the signed tenancy agreement as this can be used in the future to clarify any misunderstanding. Even though, as the landlord, you are within your rights to include your own terms and conditions in the agreement outside the standard format, it is important that you are fair to all the parties involved. Whatever agreement you draw up should always meet the current accepted standards, as this is a legal document. It is essential that your tenancy agreement covers all the points highlighted in this guide and clearly covers details of rent, mode of payment, and any required rental deposit. Very few landlords draw up the tenancy agreement themselves. Even though it contains easy to understand language, they would rather make use of a qualified legal expert or lawyer to draw up their agreement, so that they can be sure it covers all possible angles and contains everything required by law.
Affordable Tenancy Agreement Fees
Setting up and maintaining a tenancy involves a lot of work and resources, this is why the tenant is expected to make some payments in the process of renting a property. Some of these payments will include a tenancy set up fee, guarantor fee, deposit and so on. Some of these fees will be used to cover the cost of tenant referencing, which will cover the checking of credit status, current and past landlords, previous employers, and any other piece of information that will assist the landlord in determining if you are suitable for the property. The fees also include drawing up and providing a tenancy agreement and protecting the tenants’ deposit in a government backed deposit protection scheme. The landlord is expected to cover a share of the cost of setting up a tenancy.
It is, however, important that landlords and letting agents fix an affordable tenancy agreement fee for tenants. As a matter of fact, the law frowns on charging tenants exorbitant fees.
However, not too long from now, the government plans to make some changes to how landlords and letting agents let properties in England. At the center of this change is a proposed ban on tenant fees. If this change is effected, landlords will no longer be able to charge the tenant for referencing, inventory, and other expenses not associated with the rent, tenancy deposit and/or holding deposit.
Details you Need to Complete your Tenancy Agreement
Once both parties are in agreement with the content of the tenancy agreement, the next step is to sign it. While the details of each agreement can differ, the standard format is the same. Below are some of the details you are likely to find in a tenancy agreement:
This is where the landlord and tenant will put their respective names. In cases where there are joint or co-tenants renting the property, their names will also be represented here. In some tenancy agreements, the tenant may be required to fill in other details such as date of birth, next of kin and an address where someone can be reached if there is need.
This is where details of the property to be rented will come in. Here, the landlord or letting agent will put the address of the property including the designation of the particular flat if available.
Most properties in England come with furnishings and fixtures as part of the package. If that is the case with the property in question, the landlord or letting agent, accompanied by the tenant, will take an inventory of the available furnishings. These details will be contained in the tenancy agreement or in a separate inventory document which will be referred to in the tenancy agreement.
House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
If your property contains more than one tenant and all of them share facilities such as the toilet and kitchen, the rules concerning how these different households will peacefully share these facilities and co-exist will be contained in the tenancy agreement.
Tenancy start date
The date the tenancy period starts. In most cases, the tenancy start date begins once the tenant has signed the tenancy agreement. However, in some cases, the period starts only when the tenant has taken possession of the property. If the tenant does not intend to use the property as a primary residence, and will not be moving in immediately, the landlord and the tenant will have to agree on a suitable date for the tenancy to begin.
This concerns information on how and when the rent will be received. Depending on the type of tenancy agreement, it can be anything from four weeks to six months.
First payment deposit
This covers how much the tenant will pay for the first deposit. While there is no fixed sum for the initial deposit, most landlords or letting agents usually peg it at 10% of the total rent or six weeks rent.
The tenancy agreement will detail how the landlord and tenant will contact each other if the need arises, such as when there is something that needs to be repaired and so on.
In a situation where the property is managed by a letting agency or property management company, the details of this company will be contained in the tenancy agreement. If this is the case, then any repairs or alterations will likely be reported to the individual whose name is listed here.
Notification about other residents
In a situation where there are other residents living on the property, the rules and regulations guiding proper conduct and the need for peaceful co-existence between neighbors will be covered here. This part will also cover actions that can be taken by the landlord if the rules are broken.
Ending the tenancy
This determines how the tenancy can be ended and the conditions that can warrant a change in the defined process. For instance, the landlord can request for an early end to the tenancy if they discover that the tenant is using the property for illegal reasons. The tenant can also request for an end if there is a breach in agreement.
In the event that the tenant is interested in an extra term at the end of their initial tenancy term, the provisions contained here will apply. In some cases, a review of the agreement is necessary for a new term.
Contents and condition
Every landlord has a set of rules and conditions that tenants must keep to during their tenancy period. All these terms and conditions will be listed in the tenancy agreement. Both parties will, however, need to agree on the terms and conditions before signing, so as to avoid any dispute in future.
Local authority taxes/charges
This contains information about any local taxes and charges that the tenant will be responsible for.
Some landlords are okay with tenants carrying out minor modifications on their property, others are not. Details about repairs, DIY, redecoration and so on will be covered here.
In a situation where there are other tenants in the property, the tenancy agreement will cover the use and maintenance of common parts such as the driveway, stairwell, walkways and so on.
If the property contains a private garden, information about its use and maintenance will be covered in the tenancy agreement.
If the property has a roof that can accessed, the tenancy agreement will cover its use, maintenance, and security.
Bins and recycling
Refuse disposal and recycling, how often this should happen, and the implications of not meeting up with the local authority approved standard.
If the property comes with a storage facility, such as a basement, attic, garage or storage shed, the tenancy agreement will cover details on the conditions of their use.
Every landlord and letting agent frowns on the use of dangerous substances in their property. It is safe to assume that the tenancy agreement will completely ban or discourage the use of such substances in the property.
If the landlord allows pets in the property, it will be contained in the agreement. If they do not, that will also be contained in the agreement. However, under certain conditions, the landlord can be made to change the rules concerning the acceptance, or not, of pets.
The tenancy agreement will also contain information about whether tenants are allowed to smoke in the property. It is important to point out, though, that not many landlords allow smoking on their property because of the risk of fire and the damage to furnishings caused by cigarette smoke.
Summary must include terms
Other elements of the tenancy agreement may include details such as the latest a tenant can stay out at night, whether the property can be let to someone else, or whether the tenant can take in lodgers. All of these details must first be discussed and agreed upon by both the tenant and the landlord, before the final signing and moving in. This way, everyone is aware of their expectations and responsibilities.
Submitting a Tenancy Agreement
It is important that a tenancy agreement is completed, signed, and submitted before the tenancy term begins. This way, both the landlord and tenant know what is expected of them. It is advisable that both parties keep a copy of the tenancy agreement so that it can be referred to in the future if there is any misunderstanding or dispute.
Evictions and Noticies
During or after the term of a tenancy, a landlord may feel the need to repossess their property from the tenant. To do this, the landlord will need to start an eviction process. The process involves giving the tenant a written notice of eviction anytime between two months and two weeks of the due date, depending on the circumstances surrounding the eviction.
If the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy, the landlord is expected to give the affected tenant a Section 21 notice if they want their property back before the end of the tenancy term. If it happens that the tenant has breached the tenancy agreement, then the landlord is expected to give them a Section 8 notice. If the tenants refuse to leave at the end of the notice period, the landlord can apply to the law courts for a standard processing order. A landlord can also evict tenants under mandatory and discretionary grounds. If the reasons for a mandatory ground of possession of eviction is satisfactory, the court will grant an outright possession order and the sheriff must carry out the eviction. On the other hand, if a discretionary ground is used, the sheriff has the discretion to determine if the possession order is reasonable or not.
The following guide will help you better understand the eviction process.
Mandatory Eviction Grounds
These are grounds for mandatory possession. For the first five grounds, the landlord is required to give notice to the tenants before the tenancy term begins, informing them that the property may be possessed for any of the stated reasons. The remaining three grounds do not require that a reason be given.
- The property may be repossessed if the landlord previously used it as a principal residence and plans to do so again.
- The property may be repossessed if the mortgage lender plans to take over the property.
- The property may be repossessed if the tenancy term is no more than eight months and the property has been used as a holiday residence at some point before the start of the current tenancy.
- The property may be repossessed if it is to be used for education purposes.
- The property may be repossessed if it is to be made available for occupation by a clergy or religious minister, provided the court is satisfied with the purpose it is required for.
- The property may be repossessed if there is substantial building work or renovation to be carried out, provided it is proven that the tenants must vacate the property for the work to commence.
- The property can be repossessed in the event of the death of the tenant.
- The property can be repossessed if there is a case of serious rent arrears, at least eight weeks past the due date. This is the most common reason cited for possession.
Discretionary Eviction Grounds
The landlord may also seek possession of the property based on issues that may arise as a result of the tenancy agreement between the landlord and tenant. In cases like this, the decision is left to the discretion of the court. Here are the grounds that warrant discretionary eviction:
- In a situation where the landlord has offered a suitable alternative accommodation and is willing to cover the costs of moving.
- Where the tenant has given notice to leave but remains in the property after the expiration of the due date. The landlord must, however, start proceedings no later than six months of the notice expiration.
- Where the tenant is always late in paying rent.
- Where the tenant owes rent in arrears on the date when notice was served and when the proceedings began.
- In a situation where there is a breach in the tenancy agreement between the landlord and tenant other than the responsibility to pay rent.
- Where there is obvious damage to the property due to negligence on the part of the tenant.
- Where the tenant or those living with them has caused a nuisance to other tenants in the property or the tenant has been convicted by a court of illegal activities in the property.
- Where there is damage or deterioration in the furniture and fittings as a result of the negligence of the tenant.
- Where the property was let as a result of the tenant’s employment and the tenant is no longer in that employment.
A landlord can use just one of these situations, or several, to apply to seek grounds for repossession. It is, however, advisable to seek legal counsel if you are considering any legal action against a tenant.
Housing notices are notices or information given to tenants in a property, letting them know of any major repairs to be carried out. it is advisable to give the notice long before the repairs are to start, so that tenants can make arrangement for alternative lodgings. These notices will typically entail the nature of the job, the expected duration, and how it is going to affect the tenants. Extensive repairs may warrant that the landlord take back possession of the property from the tenants, and these details will be contained in the notice. In some cases, this notice comes from the local authority for statutory repair and not the landlord.
Ending a Tenancy Agreement
As pointed out earlier, in cases where the tenancy term has not expired or where a fixed tenancy agreement is in place, the landlord and tenant will have to agree on ending the tenancy agreement. However, a fixed term tenancy can also be ended without mutual agreement if there is a breach in the tenancy agreement by either party. Some tenancy agreements carry a break clause that allows a fixed term tenancy to be ended before the end of the term. This break clause specifies when the clause can be applied and how much notice can be given. The tenant is not required to seek the landlord’s permission as long as a break clause is in the agreement. However, they must give notice in writing as indicated in the agreement and, if possible, get a confirmation receipt.
The general rule surrounding ending a tenancy agreement is that the tenant is expected to leave the property in the same condition they first had it in, allowing for wear and tear. This means that, aside from the expected wear and tear, the property should be handed over in the same clean and organized state it was received in. The tenants may have to engage the services of professional cleaners or be willing to forfeit all or part of their security deposit if otherwise.
For tenants with periodic tenancy, they can end their tenancy at any time without seeking the landlord’s permission. However, if they plan on leaving before the end of a particular period, they may have to pay the rent up until the end of the period. The tenancy agreement will carry the amount of notice both parties will need to give.
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.