Tenancy Agreement

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    Tenancy Agreement

    The first step to creating a tenancy is to enter into a contract, known as the tenancy agreement. Your tenancy agreement can be written or verbal and makes up one part of a two-step process to entering into a tenancy. Regardless of the type of tenancy you have, you will always have a tenancy agreement.

    Top Tip: Read our guide: Entering into a Tenancy to find out all the steps on how to create a tenancy.

    Right to rent check

    Before you can enter into a tenancy agreement, your landlord or letting agent must check that you have the right to rent. This will involve providing an identity document (ID) to prove that you have the right to rent in the UK. Your landlord might also want to know if you are a suitable tenant by requesting a reference check, this is in addition to the right to rent check.

    What is a tenancy agreement?

    The tenancy agreement is the contract between you and your landlord, which can be written or verbal. Once you enter into your tenancy agreement, both you and your landlord are agreeing to become legally liable for the terms in the agreement, for the duration of your tenancy. If you don’t follow the terms in your tenancy agreement, your landlord could take you to court or charge you fees, so it’s important that you know and understand the terms within your contract.

    Top Tip: Read our guide: Terms in a Tenancy Agreement to find out what kind of terms you’ll be responsible for during your tenancy.

    Who is the agreement between?

    The tenancy agreement is between you, the tenant (or joint tenants) and your landlord. Your landlord can be an individual or a company, such as a letting agency. Your landlord might also be the property owner – known as the freeholder – or a tenant (or long leaseholder) with a longer-term tenancy – known as the head tenant. The owner of the property has the ultimate right to their property, regardless of how many sub-tenants are underneath.

    Sometimes, a tenant can change during the tenancy, for example if you transfer your tenancy to someone else, or a joint-tenant drops out of the tenancy and is replaced by a new tenant. Your landlord can also change during your tenancy, although this is rare and usually only happens when the owner sells the property while your tenancy is still running.

    As a tenant, you need to be satisfied that your landlord is entitled to give you a tenancy. So, only enter into a tenancy agreement if you are sure the landlord is entitled to the property. Your university will usually have a list of accredited landlords in the area.

    Top Tip: Read our guide: Tenants, Landlords and Letting Agents for more information.

    Shared housing

    If you are renting a shared house or flat, then you’ll need to decide how you will hold the tenancy before signing or verbally agreeing the tenancy agreement. You can either hold the tenancy as individual tenants with separate tenancy agreements or as joint-tenants with one tenancy agreement between you. In some cases your landlord may want to decide how the tenancy will be held, this can be negotiated between you.

    Joint agreements

    If you are moving into a shared house with friends or even students that you don’t know, then you might choose to have a joint tenancy agreement. Your landlord might insist on giving everyone in the shared house a joint tenancy, but you can still ask your landlord for a separate tenancy, though they are not obliged to give you one.

    Having a joint tenancy agreement means that you will each:

    • sign one tenancy agreement, at the same time
    • agree to be jointly responsible for the terms of the agreement
    • have joint access to all parts of the property
    • end your tenancy by moving out at the same time

    Separate agreements

    If you are planning to move into a shared house with students that you don’t know, then it’s a good idea to sign separate tenancy agreements. If you are moving into a shared house with friends but you want your tenancy to start on a different date or for a different duration (for example a fixed-term tenancy or a periodic tenancy), then you can ask your landlord for a separate agreement, at their discretion. You will each have separate tenancies with your landlord, and be responsible for the terms within your own agreement.

    Having separate tenancy agreements means that you can choose:

    • the start date of your tenancy
    • the bedroom that you will stay in
    • the duration or end date of your tenancy

    If you have a separate tenancy then you will share the common areas of the property with the rest of your housemates.

    Duration of the agreement

    The duration of your tenancy is known as the term, which can be fixed or periodic. The initial duration of your tenancy that you agreed to in your tenancy agreement is known as the contractual term, and is the minimum amount of time that you agree to live the property.

    The term of your tenancy can often last longer than your contractual term, for example if you choose to stay in the property under a statutory periodic tenancy for Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs).

    Top Tip: Find out how you can stay in the property after your contractual term has ended by reading our guide: Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

    You might be able to end your tenancy early if you have a break clause in your tenancy agreement that allows you to do this. You should check your tenancy agreement first before attempting to end your agreement early. Your landlord might be able to end your tenancy early, using a forfeiture clause if you fail to pay rent, for example.

    Written agreements

    Most tenancy agreements are written which means that you and your landlord will both sign and be given a physical (or digital) document. Anything that is written in your tenancy agreement becomes a part of your tenancy. It’s best practice to always have a written tenancy agreement. Having a written tenancy agreement is ideal because:

    • It provides you with an official document of the terms of your agreement
    • It can help prove that you have a tenancy and not some other type of living arrangement
    • It can be used as evidence if you or your landlord have a dispute about your tenancy or need to access universal credit

    Verbal agreements

    Short-term tenancies that are less than three years (including periodic tenancies) can be entered into using a verbal agreement. Whatever you and your landlord verbally agree to becomes a part of your tenancy. If you have a verbal AST agreement then you can request a written statement of the main terms in your tenancy agreement from your landlord, who is legally required to provide that to you.

    Regardless of whether your tenancy agreement is written or verbal, you still gain basic rights as a tenant, epsecially if you have an AST, which provides students with the most security against eviction and rent increases. These tenant rights can’t be changed by you or your landlord.

    Top Tip: Read our guide: Types of Tenancy to find out where tenant rights come from and why they can’t be changed by your landlord.

    Reviewing your tenancy agreement

    Your tenancy agreement will usually take the form of a pre-written standard document. Your landlord should provide you with enough time to read through your tenancy agreement, giving you an opportunity to raise any questions that you might have about the tenancy, before signing your agreement.

    Top Tip: Read our guide: Terms in a Tenancy Agreement to find out what kind of terms you’ll agree to and how to negotiate them before signing your tenancy agreement.

    Signing your tenancy agreement

    After reviewing the terms in your agreement, both you and your landlord or letting agent will sign the tenancy agreement and each will recieve an identical copy of the agreement. Once you sign your tenancy agreement, you and your landlord are now liable for the terms under it.

    After signing the tenancy agreement, your landlord must provide you with specific information relating to your tenancy (for ASTs only) and you may need to pay a deposit and first month’s rent in advance.

    Keeping your agreement safe

    If you have a written tenancy agreement, then you need to keep it safe for theduration of your tenancy, along with any other documents that your landlord has given to you (TDS specific information, specific info your landlord must give you: EPC, Gas and Electric checks, How to Rent checklist etc).

    If anything goes wrong during your tenancy, you can provide written proof of the documents, which you may need in order to help prove or disprove a claim. If you decide to pass your tenancy on to someone else, known as assigning your tenancy, then you should still keep copies of all documents as these may come in handy if any dispute arises.

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