Tenancy Contracts Explained

A tenancy agreement between a tenant and landlord is required before a tenancy can be legally binding. For most rented property this will be in the form of an assured shorthold tenancy. The key point to realise with these sorts of tenancies is that they are for a minimum of 6 months. That applies to both the landlord and the tenant. Sometimes this minimum period can be longer so check the arrangement with your landlord carefully, particularly if you think you may want to leave early, or if the Landlord is threatening to end the tenancy early.

This rental agreement can be oral or written. However, an oral agreement can be lead to misunderstandings so it is advisable to request a written agreement. Your tenancy agreement establishes the rights, duties and responsibilities of the tenant and landlord and the nature of the tenancy.

A tenant's right to a written assured shorthold tenancy agreement differ across the UK. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland tenants in the private rental sector do not have a right to a written tenancy agreement. In Scotland a landlord must provide the tenant with a written tenancy agreement. If you are in any doubt about a tenancy agreement then for piece of mind it may be worth asking a solicitor to check it.

A written 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 keeping the property in good condition and paying bills.
  • Whether animals are permitted
  • An inventory or furniture and other good provided with the rental property.
  • The duties of the landlord to ensure the home is kept in good repair

Written tenancy agreements also include implied terms that are not specifically written down. These include the right to live peacefully without nuisance from the landlord. The landlord must also not discriminate against you based on race, sex, sexuality, disability or religion.

If you are renting with friends try to enter separate agreements for each room with the landlord. If all of you rent the whole property, you will be jointly and severally liable, and you may be responsible for other people's rent if they stop paying the landlord.

Renting a Room in Someone's Home

People renting a room in private residences are usually treated by the law as lodgers or licensees, so they do not have the same degree of legal protection as a normal residential tenant. In particular the lodger does not usually have a fixed six month period before their agreement can be ended and the lodger does not have the same protection from eviction as a residential tenant and can be evicted once they have had suitable notice. Although not essential, it is probably best for both parties if a formal agreement is drawn up. These agreements usually stipulate a notice period of one month and contain other useful terms to make sure the arrangement gets off to a proper start. There are various professionally drafted lodgers' agreements available online.