A tenancy agreement is an agreement that is a contract between you and a landlord.
It lets you live in a property as long as you pay rent and follow the rules set out in the contract. It also sets out the legal terms and conditions of your tenancy. It can be written down (which is the most usual kind) and the standard tenancy is what is called an AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy) or oral (ie. a spoken agreement).
A tenancy can either be:
- Fixed-term (running for a set period of time)
- Periodic (running on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis)
Rights and responsibilities
Its good to note that both you and your landlord have certain rights and responsibilities, whether or not you have a tenancy agreement.
2/ Tenancy types
Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)
As mentioned the most common form of tenancy is an AST. Here at Beacons Estate Agents we issues ASTs. Most new tenancies are automatically this type.
A tenancy can be an AST if all of the following apply:
- The property you rent is private
- Your tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989
- The property is your main accommodation
- Your landlord doesn’t live in the property
Its important to note that a tenancy can’t be an AST if:
- It began or was agreed before 15 January 1989
- The rent is more than £100,000 a year
- The rent is less than £250 a year (less than £1,000 in London)
- It’s a business tenancy or tenancy of licensed premises
- The property is a holiday let
- Your landlord is a local council
There are other tenancies that aren’t as common as ASTs, including:
Excluded tenancies or licences
You may have an excluded tenancy or licence if you lodge with your landlord and share rooms with them, like a kitchen or bathroom. You’ll usually have less protection from eviction with this type of agreement.
Tenancies starting between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997 may be assured. You’ll have increased protection from eviction with this type of agreement.
Tenancies starting before 15 January 1989 may be regulated. You’ll have increased protection from eviction and can apply for a ‘fair rent’.
Shelter has information on the different types of private tenancies and a tenancy checker so you can check which tenancy you have.
3/ What should be in a tenancy agreement
A tenancy agreement should include:
- The names of all people involved
- The rental price and how 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 (for example to repair damage you’ve caused)
- The property address
- The start and end date of the tenancy
- 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
Its important to note that the terms of the tenancy must be fair and comply with the law.
Your tenancy agreement can’t have anything in it that may indirectly discriminate against you.
The Government Guidelines suggests that if you are in any doubt are that you should get legal advice before signing an agreement if you’re unsure of any terms. Once you’re happy with it, sign the agreement and get a copy of it.
Citizens Advice is another good source of support and has a guide on tenancy agreements.
4/ Changes to tenancy agreements
Both you and your landlord must agree in order to change the terms of the tenancy agreement.
The Government Guidelines stipulate that you can’t be discriminated against or harassed by your landlord because of:
- Sexual orientation
- Disability (or because of something connected with your disability)
- Religion or belief
- Being a transgendered person
- Being pregnant or having a baby
You might need a guide dog in the house but a term in the tenancy says no pets are allowed. Your landlord must change the terms to allow guide dogs in the property, unless they have a very strong reason not to (if another tenant in the property has a serious allergy to dogs, for example).
5/ How to end your tenancy
Your tenancy agreement should say how much notice you need to give your landlord before you leave the property.
You’re responsible for paying rent for your entire fixed-term tenancy. You can move out early without paying rent for the full tenancy if:
- there is a break clause in your tenancy agreement
- your landlord agrees to end the tenancy early
You can also leave if your tenancy is up after giving your notice (whether it is fixed-term or not).
If your license automatically runs out after a specific date and you want to end the agreement, you should let your landlord know this before your license runs out.
7/ Your landlord wants to end your tenancy
If your landlord wants you to leave, they must give you notice in a particular way, including certain information and warnings. This depends on the type of tenancy agreement and its terms.
Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs)
In some circumstances, your landlord can take back their property without giving any reason. To do this, all of the following must apply:
- They’ve protected your deposit in a deposit protection scheme
- They’ve given you at least 2 months’ written notice that they want the property back (‘notice to quit’) and the date you must leave
- The date you must leave is at least 6 months after your original tenancy began (the one you had on first moving in)
- You have a periodic tenancy – or you have a fixed-term tenancy and your landlord isn’t asking you to leave before the end of the fixed term
- You haven’t made a complaint to the council about the living conditions in the property that resulted in the council serving a notice to the landlord (for tenancies starting after 30 September 2015)
If your tenancy started after 30 September 2015 your landlord can’t evict you unless they’ve given you:
- A copy of the leaflet ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’
- An energy performance certificate
- A gas safety certificate
They have to use the form ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (Form 6a)’.
During the fixed term
If you’re still in the fixed term, your landlord can only ask you to leave if they have a reason or ‘grounds’ for wanting possession that’s in the Housing Act 1988. Examples of the grounds include:
- You’re behind with your rent payments (‘in arrears’)
- You’ve used the property for illegal purposes, like selling drugs
- Your landlord wants to move back into the property
The notice period they must give varies from 2 weeks to 2 months, depending on the grounds they’re using.
Your landlord will need to use one of the reasons or ‘grounds’ for possession in the Housing Act 1988.
Excluded tenancy or license
Your landlord can end the let at any time by serving a written ‘notice to quit’. The notice period will depend on the tenancy or agreement, but is often at least 4 weeks.
If there’s a break clause in the tenancy agreement, your landlord can give you notice after this. However, your landlord doesn’t have a guaranteed right to possession during the first 6 months of the tenancy.
If you don’t leave the property
Your landlord can’t remove you by force, however if the notice period expires and you don’t leave the property, your landlord can take legal action and start the process of eviction through the courts.
Please see Government Website for more details