Being a landlord can be difficult, but also very rewarding.
Landlords have a responsibility on their shoulders and it is their job to ensure the residential property they provide tenants is in a suitable condition.
The tenant will also have certain responsibilities, and they need to be aware of these responsibilities just as much as landlords should be of theirs.
That is where a tenancy agreement comes into play.
Tenancy agreements outline responsibilities for both landlords and tenants to ensure no disputes arise in the future.
Do landlords have to provide a tenancy agreement?
It is not a legal requirement to provide a written tenancy agreement. However, while it is not required by law, having a tenancy agreement in place can benefit both landlords and tenants.
Some landlords will have verbal tenancy agreements in place, but doing so can lead to misinterpretations. If a tenancy agreement is written down, there is no room for this to happen.
A tenant – landlord agreement is legally binding between you and the tenant, so when a written agreement is drafted, both parties are clear on what is expected of them.
They can also see what the consequences are if either doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
What is the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST)?
The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) Agreement is a type of residential tenancy agreement commonly used in England and Wales for privately rented properties.
It is the default form of tenancy agreement for most residential rentals in these regions. The AST was introduced as part of the Housing Act 1988 and has undergone subsequent amendments over the years.
What you should include in your residential tenancy agreement?
A comprehensive residential tenancy agreement helps establish clear expectations and responsibilities for landlords and tenants.
Here’s a list of key elements you should consider including in your tenant and landlord agreements:
Parties to the Agreement
Clearly state the full names, contact details, and addresses of both the landlord and the tenant.
Describe the rental property’s address, including unit number (if applicable), and any relevant details that identify the property.
Agreement of Lease Term
Specify the start and end dates of the lease, including any provisions for renewal or termination. Clarify whether it’s a fixed-term lease or a month-to-month arrangement.
Rent and Payment Details
Clearly outline the monthly rent amount, due date, and acceptable payment methods. Address late payment penalties or fees.
State the amount of the security deposit, the purposes for which it can be used (e.g., damages, unpaid rent), and the procedures for its return.
Utilities and Services
Define which utilities and services (e.g., water, electricity, internet) are included in the rent and which are the responsibility of the tenant.
Maintenance and Repairs
Detail the responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant for maintenance, repairs, and property upkeep. Include guidelines for reporting and addressing maintenance issues.
Specify rules or restrictions regarding smoking, pets, noise, subletting, and other behaviour-related clauses.
Entry and Inspections
Clarify the landlord’s right to access the property for inspections, repairs, or other legitimate reasons. State the required notice period.
Termination and Eviction
Describe the procedures and notice periods required for the landlord and the tenant to terminate the lease. Include any circumstances that might lead to eviction.
Alterations and Improvements
Define whether the tenant is allowed to make alterations or improvements to the property and under what conditions.
Outline the parties’ responsibilities for obtaining and maintaining insurance coverage (e.g., renter’s insurance, property insurance).
Ensure the agreement complies with local laws and regulations. Include any required clauses specific to your jurisdiction.
Provide space for both parties to sign and date the agreement. Signatures confirm that both parties have read, understood, and agreed to the terms.
Include any additional documents, such as an inventory checklist, move-in/move-out inspection forms, or relevant addendums.
This ensures the tenant cleans appropriately before they leave the property.
Include provisions for delivering notices and communications between the landlord and the tenant.
Depending on your circumstances, you may need to include clauses related to parking, garden maintenance, specific property rules, or service charges and administration charges.
What happens if you haven’t got a tenancy agreement?
If a tenancy agreement is not written down you can still have a verbal agreement with a tenant. Although as discussed, a written tenancy agreement allows for no ambiguity and can ensure disputes about each other’s responsibilities are resolved quickly.
As soon as a tenant moves into your property and pays rent for a term, a tenancy is automatically created, even if it is not verbally agreed or not written down.
This means a tenant is still covered by The Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
The act is a piece of legislation in the UK that provides legal protections to tenants against unfair eviction and harassment by landlords.
If there is no tenancy agreement then a tenant cannot be evicted using a Section 21 notice.
When removing a tenant, the landlord must use a Section 8 notice instead. In the absence of a written tenancy agreement, a landlord will need to apply to the courts for a possession order to get a tenant evicted.
What happens when the agreement ends?
When a fixed-term tenancy agreement ends, three scenarios can happen.
- Agree on a new fixed-term agreement with the tenant – If there have been no issues with the tenant up until the time of renewal, then this option is usually the most welcomed one. The tenant does not have to renew if they don’t want to, which means you will need to find a new tenant to take over the lease.
- Rolling or periodic tenancy – A fixed-term agreement becomes a rolling or periodic agreement if a new agreement has not been signed yet. The type of rolling agreement will depend on the previous agreement, e.g. If a tenant pays monthly, then the agreement is a monthly rolling agreement. This is a popular option when the tenant is in the process of signing a new tenancy agreement or is in the process of buying their property.
- Tenant moves out – The tenant may wish to leave the property at the end of an agreement for whatever reason. As a landlord, you may want a checklist of inventory to tick off once the tenant moves out. That ensures you can charge the tenant appropriately should there be a need to.
Expert advice on tenancy agreements between landlords and tenants
At Brown Turner Ross, we have been helping landlords with tenancy agreements and other tenancy-related issues for several years.
Our experts are on hand to give the best advice on matters landlords may face, including what to do if a tenant leaves without paying rent.
For more landlord legal support, get in touch with our team today.