Tenancy Agreement Template
When agreeing to let a property to new tenants, prudent landlords should always draw up a written tenancy agreement template.
Although private renting, as the term implies, is a private agreement between a tenant and landlord, landlords do not have complete carte blanche as to what is included in tenancy agreements. This is controlled by legislation, including the Housing Acts and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts (Amendment) Regulations 2001 and by Office of Fair Trade guidance on unfair terms in tenancy agreements.
The general rule is that the greater the number of restrictions and conditions that are placed on tenants and the more limitations put on landlord liability, then the greater the likelihood that the tenancy agreement will be open to challenge.
Legally it makes no difference whether the property is to be provided ‘furnished’ or ‘unfurnished’ or somewhere in between. The tenure, the right to occupy the property, will be the same.
Government advice (‘Assured and Assured Shorthold Tenancies: A guide for landlords’ – www.communities.gov.uk) is that landlords may draw up their own agreements, but, if they do so, they must make sure that the terms are fair and do not conflict with the duties imposed on landlords by legislation (which will automatically override anything included to the contrary). However, “if you do decide to draw up your own agreement you are strongly advised to seek legal advice. For this reason it may be better to use standard tenancy agreements”.
The exact coverage and content of a tenancy agreement will, of course, depend in large part on the form of tenancy. In most instances new tenancy agreements be assured shorthold tenancy agreements (ASTs).
ASTs put landlords in the driving seat when it comes to ending tenancies. Although things can, and sometimes do, get messy and protracted, landlords should never have to wait more than a few months to regain possession of their properties even from the most delinquent and crafty tenants.
An AST can be for any period but, regardless of this, tenants have security of tenure for the first six months. During this time they can only be required to leave if they breach the terms of the agreement in such a way as to give grounds for possession. After the expiry of six months, or at the expiry of the fixed term of the tenancy, if longer, landlords may require tenants to leave simply by giving two months’ (‘section 21’) notice.
For this reason ASTs are most commonly for six month periods only. Tenants can then be asked to leave at the expiry of the six months. Alternatively, when the fixed term expires, the landlord may grant the tenants a further fixed term tenancy agreement, or simply allow them to stay on under the same terms. In such circumstances there is no need for additional paperwork; the tenancy simply becomes a ‘periodic tenancy’. Tenants can quit periodic tenancies by giving the landlord one month’s notice, and may be required to leave on receipt of two months’ written notice.
Tenancy agreements provide landlords and tenants with both the express rights and obligations spelled out in the agreement (always provided these are not at odd with the Housing Acts – so for example, a landlord may not require tenants to give longer periods of notice than is laid down, or claim the right to give shorter notice that required by legislation) and with implied rights. The latter may or may not be referred to, but are included in statute or are common law rights.