A tenancy agreement between a tenant and landlord is required before a tenancy can be legally binding. The most common form of tenancy agreement regarding rented property is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. This can be oral or written. However, an oral agreement can be hard to interpret properly, so it is advisable to draw up a written agreement. This assured shorthold tenancy agreement establishes the rights, duties and responsibilities of the tenant and landlord and the nature of the tenancy. It also sets out the landlord's right to have the property back at the end of the tenancy.
An assured shorthold tenancy is for a minimum of six months. The tenancy can be set up so that it expires at the end of a fixed period (for more than months) or continues to exist on a month by month basis until either party chooses to end the arrangement with written notice. If rent is paid monthly usually the landlord has to give two months' written notice and the tenant one month.
A written assured shorthold tenancy agreement should include the follow details:
- The landlord's name and your name
- The address of the property
- The length of the tenancy and the notice period
- The amount of rent and when this is due, including any payments in advance and whether it includes bills such as council tax and water rates
- Whether the tenancy is for a fixed term or is open ended. If open ended the tenancy agreement should include details of when the rent can be increased
- Details about the deposit, what it covers and when the tenant will get it back
- Obligations of the tenant, such as making sure they look after the property and paying bills
- The duties of the landlord to ensure the home is kept in good repair
- There are precedent assured shorthold agreements available online
Landlords need to be aware that tenants are not usually liable for fair wear and tear under an assured shorthold tenancy and should factor in a maintenance program in their budget. The tenants also have access to a property tribunal if they feel the rent is higher than the usual market rate for that area.
There are other forms of residential tenancy but these are increasingly rare. Great care needs to be taken where a residential tenant has been in occupation of a property continuously since prior to 28th February 1997. Older residential tenancies can grant the tenant security of tenure and rent control and lead to 'sitting tenants'.