Tenants Rights

 

teanancy agreements - what you need to know

How to read and understand your contract

A tenancy agreement is a contract between the tenant and the landlord. It is very important that you read and fully understand the document before you agree to sign it. Don’t feel pressured to sign an agreement immediately. It should be possible to take the agreement away with you in order to read through it and if you wish, get it checked at the Advice Centre before you sign.


The type of agreement you have will depend mainly on:
  • The date you moved in
  • Who you live with (i.e. whether you live with the landlord)
  • Who your landlord is (private landlords, University etc)
  • the type of housing you live in (for example if services are provided by the landlord)
If you pay rent to a private landlord you will either have a tenancy or a licence. Both of these can be either written or verbal.

An agreement should tell you the type of tenancy you have, however, just because the landlord or letting agency says you have that type of agreement, the law may suggest otherwise. An agreement can give you additional rights, but it cannot take away from any rights that the law gives you. These rights will depend on the type of tenancy or licence you have.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy

Most students who do not live in the same property as their landlord will have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. If you have any doubts about what type of agreement you have you can check using Shelter’s Tenancy Checker or visit the Advice Centre to discuss this with an adviser.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) can be for either a ‘Fixed Term’ (a specific period of time e.g. 12 months) or a ‘Periodic term’ (a term that has to be continually renewed, normally weekly or monthly – usually the continual payment of rent is considered enough to renew the agreement). A periodic tenancy is usually in place when you have a fixed term AST that has now run out but you are still living in the same property without signing a new agreement.

Resident landlord (Also known as Excluded occupier)

If you share your accommodation with your landlord you have fewer rights and are an unprotected tenant, known as an Excluded Occupier – your landlord only needs to give you ‘reasonable notice’ to cease your tenancy and there is no limit to the rent which can be charged.

University Accommodation

If you are living in University owned student accommodation, in legal terms you are considered an ‘Occupier with basic protection’. You can find more information about University Accommodation here.

Joint Agreements

Generally speaking, if all tenants have signed the same agreement for use of the whole property, it is likely that a joint agreement is in place. This means that all the tenants are equally responsible as occupants of the property and are equally liable for the rent and repairs/damages. This can have serious consequences for example, if one tenant doesn’t pay their rent all the tenants would be liable even if it was only one student who had not paid.
You may be an Individual tenant if each member of the group has signed their own individual contract for a room in the property with access to shared facilities. This would limit the joint liability of the tenants.

 

If you do not have a written agreement you will still have a binding contract between you and the landlord. This includes any verbal agreements you made plus rights and obligations implied by law. However, establishing the legal consequences of an oral agreement can be difficult. You will normally have an assured periodic tenancy, unless a fixed term was agreed. Although assured shorthold tenancies can be created verbally, students are advised to insist on a written agreement to avoid subsequent confusion over what has been agreed. If you have no written agreement we would suggest seeking advice before you take any action so that you know your legal rights.

 

Providing you do not have a resident landlord then you cannot be legally evicted without a court order granting possession to the Landlord. If your landlord threatens to evict you there is a legal process which the Landlord must follow before you can be legally evicted. This can take some time and is not always successful – a judge will decide whether to grant the possession to the landlord and you will have the option to make representation if you believe you have the right to stay. You should not, therefore, feel obliged to leave the property before you have sought advice.

Resident landlord:

If you live with your landlord, you do not have the same legal rights and the landlord does not need to apply through the courts in order to evict you, they will only need to provide reasonable notice and this does not have to be in writing. If you have a written agreement this may outline the minimum period of notice that must be given. If you do not have a written agreement, there are no set rules for how long this notice period should be but could depend on the length of time you’ve been living there or the length of time between rent payments.

 

Many students wrongly believe that they are able to simply leave the property and quit the contract for personal reasons (for example not getting on with their housemates). This is very rarely the case. Your options will depend on the type of tenancy you have; it is recommended to seek advice before deciding to leave the property.

Fixed-term tenancies:

If you have a fixed-term tenancy you cannot end the tenancy before the agreement expires unless the landlord agrees to allow this (this is known as surrending the tenancy) or you have a ‘break clause’ in your tenancy agreement. A ‘break-clause’ will give details of how you can end a tenancy early and how much notice you will be required to give your landlord.

No Fixed–term tenancy:

If you do not have a fixed-term tenancy, or your fixed-term period has already expired, you can end your tenancy by giving the landlord notice to quit. To give notice to quit this must be in writing and give a minimum of four weeks/one month unless your tenancy agreement states a longer period is required. The notice period should also expire on the first or last day of the period of your tenancy (the first day is usually the day you pay your rent).

Surrendering a tenancy:

With the landlords agreement you may be able to surrender your tenancy. It is best to get the landlords agreement in writing so you have proof of agreement to end the tenancy. If you do not get the agreement of the landlord you could end up being liable for the rent until the end of the fixed date.

Joint tenants:

If you have a joint tenancy and only one of you wishes to leave early this can cause problems with the other tenants. If you wish to surrender the tenancy, the other tenants will also need to agree to this and they may need to draw up a new agreement with the landlord. Any action that one tenant takes will have an impact on the other tenants so it is always best to seek further advice before taking any action.

 

If there is a joint agreement and someone moves out then the other students may find themselves liable to pay that students share of the rent. As joint tenants the landlord can pursue any or all of the tenants for any damages or loss of rent incurred. The landlord may allow a tenant to be replaced, however, we recommend seeking further advice before taking any action.

 

Generally speaking the answer is ‘yes’. However, in some cases terms of the contract may be unenforceable if for example they are deemed ‘unfair’ in accordance with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 or if the term is considered invalid by law, e.g. if the landlord is seeking to transfer some of his legal responsibilities to the tenants. A tenancy can provide extra protection to a tenant but cannot remove rights that are stated in law. If you are unsure of the terms of your agreement we would suggest seeking further advice.

 

If you have a written agreement it should set out the rights and responsibilities of both you as a tenant and the landlord. There are certain rights and obligations that will in place regardless of what the agreement says (e.g. the landlords responsibility for repairs).

An agreement should generally include the following:
  • 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, how it should be paid and whether it includes any bills, council tax, water rates or other charges
  • how long the agreement is for
  • whether you have to pay a deposit, what it covers, what circumstances will mean you don't get it back, and if you are an assured shorthold tenant which deposit protection scheme your landlord uses
  • rules on ending your tenancy

If you are concerned that your agreement does not include enough information then please seek further advice from the Advice Centre.

 

When a landlord lets a house, flat or even just a room to a tenant, both parties are entering into a legally binding agreement and have rights and obligations towards each other. Many of the following parts will be written into your agreement if you have one. However they are also written in law and can be legally enforced whether they are stated in your contract or not. Excluded Occupiers (those who live with their landlord) will not be subject to the same legal rights. You should also be aware that as a student, you are expected to be a representative of the University and not to bring the University into disrepute. If the University receives complaints about you from landlords or local tenants, this could be considered a breach of the University Student Conduct regulations and you may find yourself being asked to meet with the Proctor.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements:
The tenant’s rights
  • To be allowed ‘quiet enjoyment’; of the property, including freedom from harassment.
  • To be put through the correct legal procedure by the landlord, including going to court, if the landlord wants to evict the tenant.
  • To take legal action against the landlord if the landlord tries to stop the tenant having ‘quiet enjoyment’
  • To use legal procedures to make the landlord do repairs which the landlord is responsible for.
The tenant should
  • Pay rent on time
  • Use property in a reasonable way- e.g. not cause damage or noise.
  • Behave in a ‘tenant-like’ manner – e.g. doing the everyday things to keep the property in good order, such as replacing a fuse, turning off the water if you are away from the property for long period of time, leaving the central heating on for a few hours each day if you leave the property for a long period of time etc.
  • Allow the landlord to inspect the property from time to time to see if repairs need doing. These visits must be arranged in advance.
  • Allow the landlord or workmen to enter the house and carry out repairs as necessary.
The tenant should not:
  • Damage the property or furniture
  • Cause nuisance to neighbours
Excluded Occupiers (Resident landlord)

Excluded occupiers have very few tenancy rights in comparison to other tenants. Your only right is to stay until your landlord asks you to go or for as long as your agreement states.

The tenant should:
  • Pay rent on time
  • Use property in a reasonable way- e.g. not cause damage or noise.
  • Behave in a ‘tenant-like’ manner – e.g. doing the everyday things to keep the property in good order, such as replacing a fuse, turning off the water if you are away from the property for long period of time, leaving the central heating on for a few hours each day if you leave the property for a long period of time etc.
  • Serve valid notice (in-line with anything written in the agreement) when they wish to leave the property.
  • Contact the landlord if the accommodation requires repairs
The tenant should not:
  • Damage the property or furniture
  • Cause nuisance to neighbours
  • Sublet or pass on the tenancy unless agreed by the landlord.
 

Where there is a tenancy of any kind (even if it is a verbal agreement), both the Landlord and the Tenant have certain rights and responsibilities as defined by law. The contract you sign should not transfer any of the landlord’s responsibilities on to the tenant; if it does these terms may have no legal effect. You should seek advice before signing your contract if you feel this has occurred. Many of the following terms will be written into your agreement if you have one. However they are also written in law and can be legally enforced whether they are stated in your contract or not. Excluded Occupiers (those who live with their landlord) will not be subject to the same legal rights.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy
THE LANDLORD’S RIGHTS ARE:
  • To expect the tenant to pay the rent on time
  • To take legal action against the tenant if damage is done to the property.
  • To inspect the property from time to time to see if repairs are needed. Advance notice (in writing) must be given to the tenant.
  • To carry out repairs in the tenant’s part of the property which are the landlord’s responsibility, making sure that advance warning is given.
  • To end the tenancy by following the correct legal procedures, including applying to court.
THE LANDLORD SHOULD:
  • Allow the tenant to have ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property. This includes freedom from harassment.
  • Give the tenant some sort of written receipt if the tenant asks for it. If the rent is paid weekly there must be a rent book.
  • Carry out certain repairs in compliance with section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (see Repairs)
  • Provide relevant Gas Safety certificates for any gas appliances in the property
THE LANDLORD SHOULD NOT
  • Enter the tenant’s part of the property without the tenant’s agreement, or without the tenant knowing.
  • Try to evict the tenant, except by following the correct legal procedures and applying to court
Excluded Occupier
THE LANDLORD’S RIGHTS ARE:
  • To expect the tenant to pay the rent on time
  • To evict the tenant by giving reasonable notice without the need of a court order.
THE LANDLORD SHOULD:
  • Not use threatening behaviour or violence while evicting the tenant
  • Give the tenant some sort of written receipt if the tenant asks for it. If the rent is paid weekly there must be a rent book.
  • Carry out certain repairs in compliance with section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (see Repairs)
  • Provide valid Gas Safety certificates for any Gas appliances in the property
THE LANDLORD SHOULD NOT:
  • Use threatening behaviour or violence while evicting the tenant

Increasing during a Fixed-Term Period

The landlord or Agent cannot usually increase the rent during a fixed-term period unless the agreement has a clause to state this can happen. If there is no clause, a rent increase during the fixed-term period can only take place if you agree to it

Rent Increases for a Periodic Tenancy:

When you have a periodic tenancy, you have no fixed-term contract, or your fixed-term period has already expired and no new agreement has been issued. You do not have very much protection from eviction if you are on a periodic tenancy and so if you do not agree to any rent increase your landlord may take action to evict you. You may have more protection if you have an assured or regulated tenancy, but this is unlikely to be the case for most students.

Rent increases for Assured Shorthold Tenancies

If you think your rent is too high you can appeal to a tribunal for rent disputes but only during the first 6 months of your tenancy. A rent tribunal will only look at whether the rent is reasonable when compared to the other market rents in your area. Many landlords will increase the rent when they create a new tenancy agreement (for example if you decide to rent the same property for a further fixed term). If you sign a new agreement you cannot apply to the rent tribunal. As an assured shorthold tenant you do not have much protection from eviction, so at the end of any fixed-term period the landlord may decide to evict you and re-rent the property to new tenants for a higher rent. You may be able to negotiate with the landlord on the basis that it may cost them to find a new tenant and to re-let the property.

Excluded Occupiers

If you have a written, fixed-term agreement with your landlord your rent cannot be increased during the fixed term period unless your agreement has a clause stating how and when this is possible.

If you do not have a fixed term written agreement there are no rules to limit the amount that your rent can be increased and the only option would be to try to negotiate with the landlord.

FIXED TERM AGREEMENTS

Most tenancies will be for a fixed period of time – usually 12 months. This means that upon agreeing a tenancy, you are agreeing to rent for the full period of the fixed term. Whilst some tenancy agreements may offer an ‘Early termination’ clause, this is not a legal requirement and if you try to leave the tenancy before the end of the fixed period, you are likely to still be liable for the payment of rent up to the end of the agreed term.