Tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord. It may be written or verbal. The tenancy agreement gives certain rights to both you and your landlord, for example, your right to occupy the accommodation and your landlord’s right to receive rent for letting the accommodation.
Most landlords will give you a written agreement but even if you don’t have one, you still have rights. If the landlord accepts rent from you for living in the property, then any verbal agreement you have made counts as a legal agreement.
Your landlord can’t take away your basic rights simply by not giving you a written agreement. The rules apply to everyone renting a home and don’t have to be written down. However, verbal agreements can be more difficult to enforce if there is any dispute, so it’s worth asking your landlord to put your agreement in writing. It will be in his/her interest as well as yours to ensure that both sides understand their rights and responsibilities.
When you and your landlord made arrangements about the tenancy, these will be part of the tenancy agreement as long as they do not conflict with law. Both you and your landlord have rights and responsibilities given by law. The tenancy agreement can give both you and your landlord more than your statutory rights, but cannot give you less than your statutory rights. If a term in the tenancy agreement gives either you or your landlord less than the statutory rights, that term cannot be enforced.
So, it is good practice for a written tenancy agreement to include the following details:
- the name of the tenant(s)
- the address of the property (or room) you are renting
- the name and address of the landlord and the letting agent if there is one
- how much the rent is, when it is due and how it should be paid
- what the rent covers – does it include any bills, council tax, water rates or other charges?
- how long the agreement is for
- whether you have to pay a deposit, and if so, what it covers and what circumstances will mean you don’t get it back
- whether you can leave before the end of the tenancy, and if so, how much notice you have to give
- what furniture, if any, will be provided
- whether you can sublet
- whether there are any other rules, for example, about pets, guests or smoking.
As mentioned earlier, there are obligations you and your landlord have, which may not be set down in the agreement but which are given by law and are implied into all tenancy agreements. These terms form part of the contract, even though they have not been specifically agreed between your landlord and you.
Some of the most common implied terms are:-
- your landlord must carry out basic repairs, for example, keeping the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation in good working order
- you have the right to live peacefully in the accommodation without nuisance from your landlord
- you have an obligation to use the home in a ‘tenant-like’ way, for example, by not causing damage and by using any fixtures and fittings properly
- you have an obligation to provide access for any repair work that needs to be done.
But, what if the tenancy agreement is unfair or discriminating?
The tenancy agreement is a form of consumer contract and as such it must be in plain language which is clear and easy to understand. It must not contain any terms which could be ‘unfair’. This means, for example, that the tenancy agreement must not put either you or your landlord in a disadvantageous position, enable one party to change terms unilaterally without a valid reason or irrevocably bind you to terms with which you have had no time to become familiar. An unfair term is not valid in law and cannot be enforced.
In addition, your landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
This means that they are probably breaking the law if they:
- rent a property to you on worse terms than other tenants
- treat you differently from other tenants in the way you are allowed to use facilities such as the laundry or the balcony
- evict or harass you because of discrimination
- refuse to make reasonable changes to a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there.
If you think your tenancy agreement may contain unfair terms or discriminates against you, you could get advice from an experienced adviser or contact me.