Understanding Your Tenancy Agreement
Regardless of the type of tenancy you are interested in, before any tenancy begins an agreement must be reached with the property owner as to the rights and responsibilities of each party involved. This agreement may simply be an oral agreement, or it may be formalised and written down. The resulting document may be called any number of things including a lease, a rental agreement, a letting agreement or a tenancy agreement. Though written tenancy agreements are not required by law for all types of tenancies in the UK, it is good practice for everyone involved to have identical, written and signed tenancy agreements for whatever letting/tenancy terms are agreed.
Express Terms of a Tenancy AgreementThe express terms of a tenancy agreement are those that have been written out in a document or discussed in an oral agreement. Most written tenancy agreements include terms such as:
- The type of tenancy
- The name and address of the landlord and all tenants
- The address of the property being let
- The start and end date of the tenancy
- Whether, and how, other people are allowed to use the property
- The amount of rent to be paid per week or month
- The date and manner in which rent will be paid each week or month
- Whether rent includes “extras” such as utilities and/or council tax, or if they will be paid separately by the tenant
- The manner, and time, in which the landlord must be notified before the tenant leaves the property
Implied Terms of a Tenancy AgreementThe implied terms of a tenancy agreement are those that may not necessarily be written in a tenancy agreement or discussed in an oral agreement, but are in effect nonetheless due to the law or by “custom and practice” (meaning that these terms have become common and accepted practice). Common implied terms include:
- That the landlord will carry out basic repairs to the premises and property as required
- That the landlord will keep equipment for utilities (such as heaters, boilers, etc.) in working order
- That the landlord will not become a nuisance or harass the tenants during the tenancy
- That the tenant will take proper care of the premises and property during their tenancy and report necessary repairs as required
Changing a Tenancy AgreementAfter being signed or orally agreed, a tenancy agreement can usually only be changed if both the landlord and tenant agree to the changes. If this is the case, then a new tenancy agreement should be written and signed to reflect the changes, or a written amendment should be drawn up and signed for the same purpose. Oral agreements can also be amended, though without documentation it may be harder to prove. Witnesses who heard the new terms agreed, or a precedent by which the new terms are accepted (for example, by the rent being collected on a new day each week/month) can act as evidence of a new agreement if needed.
Understanding a tenancy agreement can be difficult if you are new to tenancies and unfamiliar with common terms involved. If you have any questions regarding your tenancy agreement, do not hesitate to ask for clarification before making an agreement or signing documents. A Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or private solicitor should be more than able to advise you on tenancy agreements, and most estate agents should also be able to clarify common terms. If you are unhappy with the terms expressed in a tenancy agreement, then discuss them with those involved or consider looking for a new tenancy rather than remaining uncomfortable with the terms of your living arrangement.