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What should a Tenancy Agreement include?

A tenancy agreement should include the following:

  • The names of all the people involved
  • The property address
  • The start and end date of the tenancy
  • The rental price, how and on what date it’s paid
  • Information on how and when the rent will be reviewed
  • The deposit amount and how it will be protected
  • Details of when the deposit can be fully or partly withheld (eg to repair damage you’ve caused)
  • Any tenant or landlord obligations
  • An outline of bills you’re responsible for

It can also include information on:

  • Whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done
  • Who’s responsible for minor repairs (other than those that the landlord is legally responsible for)
  • Whether the property can be let to someone else (sublet) or have lodgers

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Understanding Your Tenancy Agreement

Assured tenancies are rarely used these days, most private landlords use Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST’s) which have a fixed term (usually 6 months) at the beginning of the tenancy and then if no new tenancy is agreed, the tenancy agreement rolls over into a statutory periodic tenancy, which can go on until either party gives the other notice. Assured Tenancies are treated for the whole term of the agreement like fixed tenancies and as a result are unpopular with landlords, as it is much harder to break the agreement as they must have “grounds” to do so.

Under a tenancy, the tenant(s) acquire an interest in the land and in many respects is treated as the owner of the property during the tenancy. Entry onto the property by the landlord or their agent without permission is a trespass, even if it would be a breach of the tenancy agreement for the tenant to refuse, and may amount to harassment of the tenant and could lead to the landlord being sued. This is the case even if the tenant has not paid their rent or has otherwise breached the tenancy agreement. Also, unless the tenant voluntarily vacates the property, the landlord must recover possession through the courts using the most relevant grounds to their situation.

Tenants' rights are protected under the Housing Act 1988 and/or the Housing Act 1996. This seeks to set a balance between respecting the position of the landlord while protecting the tenant from unscrupulous landlords. However, much of the legislation does not apply if the property is let to a company as opposed to an individual or individuals.

Where more than one tenant signs the tenancy agreement they are normally jointly and severally liable for the rent and any breach of the tenancy. This means the landlord can sue any or all of them in the event of breach.

If a tenant dies then the tenancy may pass to a joint tenant. Certain tenancies carry succession rights, which mean the tenancy will pass to their spouse or a member of their family.

Tenancies must be distinguished from licences. Licensees have much fewer legal rights and can often be evicted without a court order. A classic example is a lodger.