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:
Assured Shorthold tenancies
The most common form of tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (hereinafter AST). Most new tenancies are automatically this type of tenancy.
A tenancy can be an AST if all of the following apply:
A tenancy can’t be an AST if:
There are other tenancies that aren’t as common as ASTs, including:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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. Different rules apply for different tenancy agreements.
Rules for periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)
Rules for fixed-term ASTs
During the fixed term, your landlord can only evict you for certain reasons - for example:
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.