Tenancy agreement dos and don'ts

It is in your best interests to have a tenancy agreement that sets out rights and responsibilities.
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Tenancy Agreement Dos And Don'ts

Tenancy agreement dos and don'ts

It is in your best interests to have a tenancy agreement in place. This is the master document that sets out a landlord’s and a tenant’s rights and responsibilities.

The most common type of tenancy agreement for residential landlords is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). This usually means that the property is your tenant’s main accommodation and you are not a live-in landlord.

There are other types of tenancies however such as assured tenancies, regulated tenancies and excluded licences. Excluded licences or tenancies are more often used when you take in lodgers. The noticeable difference between this and an AST is less protection for lodgers from eviction.

As the property owner, you should take the time to familiarise yourself with the different types of tenancy agreements available and seek legal guidance if you are unsure of the terms to include in your contract. It’s also good practice to review the terms of any agreement before renewing a tenancy.

What you need to include when writing a tenancy agreement

There are a few basic but essential pieces of information which must be included in any tenancy agreement, which we’ll detail below. There are also a few exclusions to be aware of, as you cannot include anything which may directly or indirectly discriminate against your tenants – and, yes, that can even apply to refusing tenants with pets.

You can’t discriminate against or harass your tenants on the grounds of age, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or identity, religion, your tenant being pregnant/having a baby. Your terms and conditions should always be fair and compliant with UK law.

Do include:

  • The property address.
  • The full names of all parties involved in the agreement.
  • How much the deposit is and details on how it will be protected (Deposits should be held in a professional scheme).
  • The full rental price and when it should be paid.
  • Information on how and when rent agreements can be reviewed.
  • The start and end dates of the tenancy, and notice period.
  • Landlord and tenant responsibilities, such as whether bills are included.
  • Responsibility for maintenance and repairs.
  • Rules on subletting the property.

Breaking a tenancy agreement? Here’s what you need to do

Within your tenancy agreement, you should have detailed how much notice you require from your tenants before they can leave the property and stop payments for the lease. Particularly in the case of a fixed-term tenancy, your tenants are responsible for paying the rent for the entire term detailed in the tenancy agreement. Lodgers should let you know that they want to leave ahead of the licence agreement end date.

In some cases, you might choose to include a break clause in the tenancy agreement. Although it’s not ideal to have to hunt for another tenant after 6 months or so, it can be best if either you or the tenancy are not able to uphold the terms of the contract for the full tenancy.

On the flip side, if you as a landlord want your tenants to leave then you must also give them fair warning. You should provide them with information on the process within the tenancy agreement in the first place but you should also write to them to give official notice to quit.

Landlords need to be aware that there are legal responsibilities to be able to end a tenancy agreement. In most cases, landlords do not have a right to possession within the first 6 months of a new tenancy agreement. Only after this term can you begin notice proceedings, and even then you may be subject to further legalities.

For instance, the notice period can vary significantly based on the type of agreement you have in place, and you cannot forcibly remove tenants from your property. If a tenant refuses to leave then you must go through the court system to have them evicted.

Is a tenancy agreement legally binding?

No tenancy agreement is above the law. You should be aware that not all tenancy agreements are written. If you have an oral agreement in place then take care, as disputes can be much harder to manage without proof.

UK law will always trump any written or oral agreement between a landlord and a tenant, usually according to the Housing Act 1988. If you are ever in doubt over your legal rights you should contact a professional or a Citizens Advice Bureau.

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