It is really important to have a strong legal tenancy agreement in place, landlords are advised not to buy this off the shelf as they may not include everything required.
Here are our tips.
What should be included in a tenancy agreement?
The tenancy agreement should include the following information:
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
When the deposit can be fully or partly withheld, e.g. to repair damage caused by tenants
The property address
The start and end date of the tenancy
Any tenant or landlord obligations
Which bills the tenants are 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
The terms of the tenancy must be fair and comply with the law.
They cannot have anything in your tenancy agreement that may indirectly discriminate against the tenants.
Changes to tenancy agreements
Landlords must get the agreement of their tenants if they want to make changes to the terms of their tenancy agreement.
Landlords can’t discriminate against or harass their tenants on the grounds of:
Disability (or because of something connected with their disability)
Religion or belief
Being a transgendered person
The tenant being pregnant or having a baby
For example; tenants may need a guide dog in the house but a term in the tenancy agreement says no pets are allowed. This must be changed to allow guide dogs in the property, unless there is a very strong reason not to, e.g. another tenant in the property has a serious allergy to dogs.
Ending a tenancy
If the landlord wants their tenants to leave, they must give them notice in the appropriate way, including providing certain information and warnings. This depends on the type of tenancy agreement and its terms.
Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs)
In some circumstances, landlords can take back their property without giving any reason. To do this, all of the following must apply
Then tenants’ deposit is protected in a deposit protection scheme
The tenants have been given at least 2 months’ written notice that the landlord wants the property back (‘notice to quit’) and the date they must leave.
The date they must leave is at least 6 months after the original tenancy began (the one they signed on first moving in).
They have a periodic tenancy – or they have a fixed-term tenancy and the landlord isn’t asking them to leave before the end of the fixed term.
During the fixed term
If they’re still in the fixed term, they can only ask their tenants to leave if they have a reason for wanting possession that’s in the Housing Act 1988.
Examples of reasons include:
The tenants are behind with rent payments (‘in arrears’)
The tenants have used the property for illegal purposes, e.g. selling drugs
The landlord wants to move back into the property
The notice period you must give varies from 2 weeks to 2 months, depending on the reason you’re using.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has information on reasons for possession for a property let on an AST.
Landlords will need to use one of the reasons for possession in the Housing Act 1988.
Excluded tenancies or licences
If you live with a lodger and share rooms with them, you’ll often have an excluded tenancy or licence.
In this case, you only need to give ‘reasonable notice’ to quit. Usually this means the length of the rental payment period – so if you collect rent weekly, you’ll need to give 1 week’s notice.
The notice doesn’t have to be in writing.
Non-excluded tenancy or licence
You can end the agreement at any time by serving a written ‘notice to quit’. The notice period will depend on the tenancy or agreement, but it’s usually at least 4 weeks.
If there’s a break clause in the tenancy agreement, you can give your tenants notice after this. However, you don’t have a guaranteed right to possession during the first 6 months of the tenancy.
If your tenant doesn’t leave the property
You can’t remove your tenants by force. If the notice period expires and your tenants don’t leave the property, you can start the process of eviction through the courts.
If your tenants want to leave
The tenancy agreement should say how much notice your tenants need to give before they can leave the property.
Tenants are responsible for paying rent for their entire fixed-term tenancy. They can move out early without paying rent for the full tenancy if:
There is a break clause in their tenancy agreement
You agree to ending the tenancy early
They can also leave if their tenancy is up after giving their notice (whether it is fixed-term or not).
If the licence automatically runs out after a specific date and your lodger wants to end the agreement, they should let you know this before the licence runs out.
If your tenant dies without an executor or a will
The tenancy is transferred temporarily to the Public Trustee if a tenant dies:
Without a will
With a will but without an executor
You can’t take back a property automatically even if the tenancy was due to end.
You may be fined if you try to repossess a property without following the rules.
Reclaim your property
You must do the following:
Post or deliver a letter to the tenant’s last known address saying you’re giving written notice – you don’t need to get proof of this
Send a copy of the notice and a completed NL1 form to the Public Trustee
Register the notice with the Public Trustee
Address the written notice to: “The Personal Representative of [full name of the tenant who died] of [last known address for the tenant who died]”.
Order a paper version of the NL1 application form to register a notice.
The form costs £6.05. You’ll get it by post.
You can’t use a photocopy of the form to make your application but you can make your own version of the form as long as it’s laid out in the same way and includes all the relevant information.
It costs £40 to register the notice. Pay by cheque or postal order in UK sterling only, made payable to ‘The Public Trustee’.
Post your documents
Send the Public Trustee all of the following:
A copy of the written notice
The completed application form to register the notice
Your payment for the application to register
The Public Trustee
PO Box 3010
Get a decision about your application
The Public Trustee will register or reject your application.
You’ll get a letter telling you one of the following:
Your application is registered – you’ll be told the date it was put in the register
Your application is rejected, e.g. because your application is incomplete – you’ll be told why the Public Trustee can’t register it
You should get a letter within 15 working days of the Public Trustee getting your application and payment.
You can search the Public Trustee’s register if your notice is registered, e.g. to check that you can legally rent the property again or sell it.