Legal help, services and support for private residential landlords
Tessa’s Ten Top Tips on Tenancy Agreements
Make sure you are using the right type of tenancy agreement. In particular, if you are letting to a limited company, if you live in self-contained accommodation in the same building, or if you are letting rooms in a shared house, a ‘normal’ tenancy agreement form will not be suitable for you. If you are not sure which tenancy agreement to use, follow the Landlord-Law Which Tenancy Guide
Do not use an old form of tenancy agreement and be careful about downloading free forms from the internet. All legal publishers have to amend their tenancy agreements from time to time to take account of changes in regulations. Some clauses previously in common use will now be deemed unfair and unenforceable. Plus you may be missing out on essential protective clauses that have only become necessary in recent years.
Do not make the initial fixed term too long unless you know and trust the tenants (or you may have to wait a long time before you can get them out). Six months is a good trial fixed term period for a new tenant.
Make sure that the tenancy gives an address for the landlord in England and Wales – otherwise, the agreement will not comply with section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 which means that rent will not be payable by the tenant. The address can be that of an agent if the landlord is living abroad or in Scotland. NB Once the notice has been given, all the rent will fall due so this is not a permanent problem.
If the tenancy agreement is signed before the right to rent check is done, the tenancy must be conditional upon a satisfactory check being done before the tenants move in
The agreement should state clearly which payments (such as water rates, council tax and utilities) should be made by the tenant and which by the landlord. If any are payable by the landlord, provision should be made to increase the rent if these payments are increased, so the landlord is not out of pocket. Remember weekly tenants must be given a rent book.
Do not try to amend an agreement yourself without taking legal advice. You may find that the clause you have amended has actually been invalidated, for example, because you have not taken into account the unfair terms rules.
If you are taking a deposit you will need to have a proper deposit clause otherwise you may find that you are not authorised to make any deductions.
Before giving the tenancy agreement to the tenants to sign, check it carefully to make sure there are no mistakes. Once it is signed it can only be changed with the agreement of the tenants – they may not be willing to do this if, for example, the rent is given as £700 rather than £750 pcm as agreed!
Finally – make sure the tenants have signed the tenancy agreement and that (unless you are using an online signing service) you hold the tenancy agreement with their original signatures (i.e. not photocopies, or a faxed or scanned copy) before you hand over the keys and they are allowed to occupy the property. Tenants should be given a copy of the tenancy agreement with your original signature on it.