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Tenancy Agreements

What is a tenancy agreement?

A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your tenants. It sets out the legal terms and conditions of the tenancy. It can be written down or oral.

A tenancy can either be:

  • fixed-term (running for a set period of time)
  • periodic (running on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis)

Tenancy types

Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs)

The most common form of tenancy is an AST. Most new tenancies are automatically this type.

A tenancy can be an AST if all of the following apply:

  • you’re a private landlord or housing association
  • the tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989
  • the property is your tenants’ main accommodation
  • you don’t live in the property

A tenancy can’t be an AST if:

  • it began or was agreed before 15 January 1989
  • the rent is more than £100,000 a year
  • the rent is less than £250 a year (less than £1,000 in London)
  • it’s a business tenancy or tenancy of licensed premises
  • it’s a holiday let
  • the landlord is a local council

 

Other tenancies

There are other tenancies that aren’t as common as ASTs, including:

  • excluded tenancies or licences
  • assured tenancies
  • regulated tenancies

 

Excluded tenancies or licences

If you are a lodger with a live-in landlord and share rooms with them, like a kitchen or bathroom, you may have one of these. This usually gives you less protection from eviction than other types of agreement. The distinctions between different arrangements are as follows:

  • Non-excluded tenancy: house divided into self-contained flats, occupier lives in one and landlord in another
  • Non-excluded licence (unusual): landlord has right to choose new sharer for occupier's self-contained flat or has unrestricted access to it for cleaning
  • Excluded tenancy: 'house share' arrangement, where landlord lets room(s) in his or her home and shares lounge etc. with the occupier; bedsit arrangements where landlord is not servicing rooms
  • Excluded licence: 'lodgers', where the arrangement includes cleaning the room; stay by a friend on a casual basis; room is a let as a 'room share' with existing occupant.

 

Assured tenancies

Tenancies starting between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997 may be assured. Your tenants have increased protection from eviction with this type of agreement.

 

Regulated tenancies

Tenancies starting before 15 January 1989 may be regulated. Your tenants have increased protection from eviction and can apply for a ‘fair rent’.


Implied or express terms

Written tenancy agreements

In England and Wales, most tenants do not have a right in law to a written tenancy agreement. If you have a written agreement, it should indicate the type of tenancy you have.

The tenancy agreement should be signed by both you and your landlord. Each tenant, if there are joint tenants, should receive a copy of the agreement.

Your landlord is obliged by law to give you their name and address, regardless of whether or not you have a written tenancy agreement.

It is good practice for a written tenancy agreement to include the following details:

  1. your name and your landlord’s name and the address of the property which is being let
  2. the date the tenancy began
  3. details of whether other people are allowed the use of the property, and if so, which rooms
  4. the duration of the tenancy, that is, whether it runs out on a certain date
  5. the amount of rent payable, how often and when it should be paid and how often and when it can be increased. The agreement could also state what the payment includes, for example, council tax or fuel
  6. whether your landlord will provide any services, for example, laundry, maintenance of common parts or meals and whether there are service charges for these
  7. the length of notice which you and your landlord need to give if the tenancy is to be ended. Note that there are statutory rules about how much notice should be given and these will depend on the type of tenancy and why it is due to end.

The agreement may also contain details of your landlord’s obligations to repair the property, although it is rare for agreements to go into details. Your landlord’s obligations to repair depend on the type of tenancy.

 

Oral tenancy agreements

A tenancy agreement exists even if there is only an oral agreement between you and your landlord. For example, you and your landlord may have agreed at the start of the tenancy how much the rent would be and when it is payable, whether it includes fuel and bills such as water rates or whether your landlord can decide who else can live in the accommodation.

Oral agreements can be difficult to enforce because there is often no proof of what has been agreed, or a particular problem may have arisen which the agreement did not cover. If you are thinking of disputing or are trying to enforce an oral agreement with your tenant or landlord you should seek legal advice.

 

Implied terms of tenancy agreements

There are obligations you and your landlord have which may not be set down in the agreement but which are given by law and are implied into all tenancy agreements. These terms form part of the contract, even though they have not been specifically agreed between your landlord and you.

Some of the most common implied terms are:

  • your landlord must carry out basic repairs, for example, keeping the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and heating water in good working order
  • you have the right to live peacefully in the accommodation without nuisance from your landlord
  • you have an obligation to use your home in a 'tenant-like' way, for example, by not causing damage and by using any fixtures and fittings properly
  • you have an obligation to provide access for any repair work that needs to be done.

Ending a tenancy agreement

Your tenancy agreement should say how much notice you need to give your landlord before you leave the property.

You’re responsible for paying rent for your entire fixed-term tenancy. You can move out early without paying rent for the full tenancy if:

  • there is a break clause in your tenancy agreement
  • your landlord agrees to end the tenancy early

You can also leave if your tenancy is up after giving your notice (whether it is fixed-term or not).

If the tenancy has no fixed term, you must give your landlord reasonable notice in writing of your intention to leave. You must give at least 4 weeks' notice if you pay your rent on a weekly basis and at least a month's notice if you pay rent on a monthly basis.

If you are a lodger, you can end the tenancy by giving your notice to the landlord. You will not be able to do this during the fixed term unless there is a break clause.

The amount of notice you need to give depends on the lodger's agreement, if there is one. Otherwise, it is usually at least 4 weeks (if you pay rent weekly) or 1 month (if you pay rent monthly).


Is my tenancy unfair?

The tenancy agreement is a form of consumer contract and as such it must be in plain language which is clear and easy to understand. It must not contain any terms which could be ‘unfair’.

This means, for example, that the tenancy agreement must not put either you or your landlord in a disadvantageous position, enable one party to change terms unilaterally without a valid reason or irrevocably bind you to terms with which you have had no time to become familiar. An unfair term is not valid in law and cannot be enforced.

If you think your tenancy agreement may contain unfair terms you should seek legal advice.


Discrimination in tenancy agreements

Your landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

This means that they are probably breaking the law if they:

  • rent a property to you on worse terms than other tenants
  • treat you differently from other tenants in the way you are allowed to use facilities such as a laundry or a garden
  • evict or harass you because of discrimination
  • refuse to make reasonable changes to a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there.

The rules about discrimination generally don't apply if your landlord lives in the same property as you. However, if your landlord does live in the same property as you, they must not discriminate against you because of your race.


Eviction

Your landlord must follow strict procedures if they want you to leave their property, depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have and the terms of it.

If they don’t, they may be guilty of illegally evicting or harassing you.

 

Rules for periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

Periodic tenancies run on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis with no fixed end date.

If you have one of these, your landlord must usually give you ‘notice to quit’ - they must do this in a certain way depending on your type of tenancy agreement and its terms.

If you don’t leave at the end of the notice period, they must apply to the court for a possession order, which gives them the right to evict you and take possession of the property.

If the court gives your landlord a possession order and you still don’t leave, your landlord must apply for a warrant for possession - this means bailiffs can evict you from the property.

A possession order won’t take effect until you’ve been living in the property for at least 6 months.

 

Rules for fixed-term ASTs

During the fixed term, your landlord can only evict you for certain reasons - for example:

  • you haven’t paid the rent
  • you’re engaging in antisocial behaviour
  • there’s a ‘break clause’ in your contract - this allows your landlord to take back the property before the end of the fixed term

A possession order won’t take effect until you’ve been living in the property for at least 6 months.

 

Eviction at the end of the fixed term

At the end of the fixed term, the landlord doesn’t need a reason to evict you. As long as they’ve given you correct notice, they can apply to the court for a possession order.

If the court gives your landlord a possession order and you still don’t leave, your landlord must apply for a warrant for possession - this means bailiffs can evict you from the property.

 

Rules for excluded tenancies or licenses

If you have an excluded tenancy or licence (e.g. you live with your landlord), your landlord doesn’t have to go to court to evict you.

Your landlord only needs to give you ‘reasonable notice’ to quit. The notice doesn’t have to be in writing.

There are no set rules about what’s reasonable. It depends on:

  • how long you’ve been living there
  • how often you pay the rent
  • whether you get on with your landlord
  • how quickly the landlord needs another person to move in

They can then change the locks on your rooms, even if you’ve left your belongings there. However, they must give your belongings back to you and they have to keep them for up to 28 days before disposing of your belongings.

If you don’t think you’ve been given enough warning to leave, contact us for advice. We can take action if your landlord has evicted you illegally.

 

Rules for assured and regulated tenancies

If your tenancy started before 27 February 1997, you might have an assured or a regulated tenancy. Your landlord will have to follow different rules to evict you and you’ll have increased protection from eviction.


Further information

For more information on your rights and responsibilities please contact our Tenancy Rights Team on 02392 688 369.


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