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Contracts and tenancy agreements form a binding agreement between a landlord (or agency) and a tenant. This is a very specialised area of the law and you should be aware of what you are committing yourself to before signing any type of agreement. The information provided on this sheet is a brief guide only. If you require further information, please seek professional advice. Student Housing is a good place to start.
Your landlord is not required to provide you with a written tenancy but you should ask for one.
If you have a verbal agreement with your landlord, your tenancy is still bound by the legislation covering Assured Shorthold tenancies. A written agreement or contract will make the terms and conditions of an agreement clear and is particularly helpful in the case of a dispute. If the landlord lives in the same property and shares facilities with you, then you cannot be a tenant. You are a licensee (lodger) and you should not sign a tenancy agreement. If you think you are a licensee not a tenant please see advice leaflet 4.
The Housing Act 1996 brought in a requirement that, if asked to do so, a landlord must give Assured Shorthold tenants a 'statement of the terms of their tenancy'. The details the landlord is obliged to give are:
If your landlord refuses to give you a written contract you can contact the Private Sector Housing Rights Officers at Portsmouth City Council on 023 9283 4899.
Yes, there are two main types of tenancy in private sector housing: an Assured tenancy and an Assured Shorthold tenancy. The most common is the Assured Shorthold tenancy (AST). The main difference between the two is the way the landlord gains possession of the property. An AST allows the landlord to gain possession more easily than an Assured tenancy, providing that the correct procedures have been followed.
A joint tenancy happens when two or more people sign the same agreement, making them jointly and severally liable for the terms and conditions of the tenancy.
Many landlords who rent to students will ask you to sign a joint tenancy. This is a perfectly legal type of tenancy but it is important that you are aware of the implications before doing so. A joint tenancy will give tenants equal rights but also mean that they have to share responsibilities. This usually means covering someone else's rent if they are either in arrears or leave before the end of the tenancy. In a worst case scenario it could mean that one tenant ends up paying the rent for the whole house.
The landlord may ask you to provide details of a guarantor. This is generally a parent or a guardian who is willing to guarantee the tenant's rent payment and the general obligations of the tenancy. Be careful if you have a joint contract as your guarantor could be held responsible for the payment of rent for the whole property.
It is a legal requirement under Section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 that a landlord shall provide a tenant with an address in England and Wales at which official notices may be served. Generally this address is included in the tenancy agreement but it can occasionally be served as a separate document. The address need not be the landlord's home address; it could be the address of an agent or solicitor. If the landlord is not willing to provide an address or does not include it in the agreement do not sign it until you have full written details.
Some agreements are very difficult to break. If you have signed a fixed term tenancy you can only move out before the end of the fixed term if the landlord has given you (written) permission to do so. Occasionally a 'break clause' is inserted into an agreement, which allows you to give notice, but this is not common practice.
If the landlord does not agree to release you from your agreement you will be liable for the rent for the whole of the fixed term of the agreement. Falling out with your housemates or problems of disrepair are not grounds for breaking your contract (unless you can prove the landlord has committed a serious breach of the agreement).
If you want to break the contract and leave early it is advisable that you approach your landlord and ask if they will give you permission to find a replacement tenant. If you manage to find someone willing to take your place it is important that the other tenants agree to the replacement before you approach your landlord. If all parties agree, ask your landlord to assign the tenancy. This will involve you signing to say that you are moving out of the property and your replacement signing to say that they are moving in, in your place. Your rent liability should then end when you move out.
Always check that there is no cost involved: it is possible that the landlord will charge you for the raising of a new tenancy agreement.
The landlord cannot make you leave the property without taking you to court. It is illegal for them to change the locks or evict you without a court order. It is not possible for the landlord to obtain possession before the end of the tenancy, unless you are in serious breach of your agreement (i.e. owing more than two months rent or more). Even then they have to obtain a court order to do so.
Not generally, although this will depend on the specific terms and conditions in your tenancy agreement.
It is advisable that you give your landlord one month's written notice of your intention to vacate the property at the end of the tenancy to minimise the chance of a dispute. Occasionally the term of the contract will specify a 'minimum fixed term'. In this instance is it vital that you check what (if any) notice you have to give your landlord. If you move out at the end of the fixed term without giving notice and the contract contains a clause obliging you to do so, the landlord could hold you liable for another month's rent.
When a tenancy comes to the end of its fixed term, the landlord can end the tenancy if they have followed the correct procedures. Occasionally the landlord will serve notice when you sign the agreement, ensuring possession of the property at the end of the fixed term.
If you wish to stay in the property during the summer you must first agree to an extension of the agreement with your landlord. If you do not sign or agree otherwise the extension will continue under the same terms and conditions of the original agreement. It is particularly important to agree new terms if the rent has been reduced for the summer period. Possible to extend the tenancy on a month-by-month basis whereby you give one month's written notice of your intention to vacate. Likewise the landlord must give you two months' notice to end the tenancy.