Understanding my contract - Private Renters in Camden
Understanding my contract
What is a tenancy agreement?
Before letting a property most “good professional” landlords or managing agents will ask you to sign a written tenancy agreement. This contract is a legal agreement between the landlord and a tenant. It sets out the terms and conditions of the rental and the rights and obligations of both the landlord and tenant.
Signing the agreement
Remember that a tenancy agreement is legally binding on both parties, just like any other contract. Once you've signed it, you've committed to paying rent until the agreement ends. Take your time to ensure that you understand everything. You shouldn’t sign any legal contract until you're happy that you understand it and can comply with it. Ask if you don’t understand anything.
All tenancy contracts must be signed by both the landlord and tenant and any witnesses present where applicable.
What to look for in the agreement?
You should look out for the following terms and information in your tenancy agreement. If some are missing or not correct, ask your landlord to include and/or change them.
- Landlord, Managing Agent (if used) name and contact details, including emergency contact
- Tenant/s - your name and contact details and others sharing with if joint tenants
- Property address
- Rent - how much and when it is due? Who to pay and how?
- Council Tax – who pays and how
- Utility bills – who pays and how
- Any other payments – check if you have to pay any other charges i.e. late payment of rent or keys replacement
- Length of the tenancy – when it starts and ends. If it’s a fixed term tenancy it should state when the tenancy ends (if no date it will be six months)
- Ending the tenancy – is there a term which allows you or the landlord to end tenancy early “break clause”. The period of notice you or landlord need to give for leaving early
- Tenancy Deposit information - how much is it and what scheme is it protected in
- Repairs - what your landlord is responsible for and what you are, as well as how to report repairs
- Restrictions on the property – check if there are any restrictions on e.g. smoking, pets, overnight guests, decorating the property
- Rent increases – check to see if the landlord is allowed to increase the rent, usually with a fixed term rent they cannot do this until the term ends
- Flatmates – if you’re moving into a shared house check for a term that makes you “jointly and severally” liable. This means that you are both individually and equally responsible for the property. So if someone leaves and stops paying the rent, the landlord can pursue you and other tenants to cover the amount
Verbal tenancy agreements
These can be used but it is recommended that you ask for a written agreement. It makes it easier to prove what has been agreed. Landlords or managing agents are legally required to provide one if the tenant asks.
What type of tenancy do you have?
There are three types of tenancy agreements:
Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
This is the most common type of tenancy agreement. You would usually be an assured shorthold tenant-
- If your tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989
- Your landlord does not live at the property
- You have exclusive possession of the property as your main or principal home
- You pay rent periodically i.e. weekly or monthly to the landlord
If the tenancy started before January 15 1989, then it is likely to be an assured tenancy. Assured tenancies are today mostly used only for properties let by a housing association or by a housing trust. If you have an Assured tenancy, you will have a higher level of security than with an Assured Shorthold tenancy, as it allows you to remain in the property as long as you comply with and do not breach the terms of the agreement.
Regulated or ‘Protected’ Tenancy
Some tenancies that started before 15 January 1989, could be regulated agreements, which gives you the highest level of protection against eviction and rent increases and also gives you succession rights. Regulated tenancies are now very rare to come by.
Other Agreements - Lodgers and Licenses
If you live with your landlord in their property or in hostel accommodation, you would either be a lodger or licensee and deemed an excluded occupier. You will unfortunately have far less security than an assured or assured short hold tenant and can easily be evicted by your landlord.
If you are a lodger living with your landlord, there is no obligation for them to provide you with a written agreement. If you have a written agreement, it could be a weekly or monthly rolling contract, which the landlord can end by simply providing you with reasonable notice to quit.
Further information about lodger's rights can be found here.
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