What you need to know about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, as well as key points you need to be mindful of when reviewing your tenancy agreement.In our Sherpa’s Corner series, we have covered various topics including Defining your Dream Home Profile and Preparing Your Personal & Reference Check Documentation. In this blog, let’s look at the rights and responsibilities for tenants, as well as how to review your tenancy agreement carefully.
First things first, you should always make sure that there is a written tenancy agreement between you and the landlord. The most common agreement in the UK is called Assured Shorthand Tenancies or AST. ASTs are superseded by the law, so in the event of a dispute, the law takes precedence over any wrongly drafted clauses in the agreement.
Key points you need to watch out for in your tenancy agreement
- Agreed rent per month and mode or payment. This is an obvious one – just pay attention to the rent amount that it has been calculate accurately, specially the conversion from per week rent (that’s how rents are often advertised) to per month (there are more than 4 weeks in a month).
- Tenancy start and end dates, and the process for ending the tenancy early. There should ideally be a notice period of 1 to 2 months depending on the tenancy period.
- Break clause. It is common to have a break clause in long-term tenancy agreements. We recommend to have this clearly spelt out so that you have flexibility to move out easily in the even of change of circumstances for you.
- Process for periodic rent review. We have seen agreements that have an inflation linked rental price increase every year.
- Deposit amount and how it will be protected, along with details of when the deposit can be fully or partly withheld (e.g. to repair damage you have caused, deducted when you are vacating the property). The landlords are now required to put the tenants’ deposit into a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme and provide the receipt to the tenant within a few days of giving the deposit account. The landlords loose some rights (related to tenant eviction) in case they do not put the deposit amount into a tenancy deposit scheme.
- Property management. This can be a topic of contention during the tenancy, so pay special attention to this. It’s not uncommon for landlords to hand over regular repairs and maintenance work to private agencies - make sure you have their full contact details, including emergency phone numbers. If your landlord plans to take care of property management, make sure to talk to him / her in advance on how quickly he / she can respond to emergencies - for example, if there is a water pipe leakage in the middle of the night, or there is a major issue when the landlord is living abroad or away on holidays in a remote location.
- An outline of the bills you are responsible for. Typically all utility bills and council tax are payable by the tenants, while any building management fee is paid by the landlord. Occasionally, gas heating in the flat may be covered by the landlord if there is a central heating system in the building.
- Pets. Most landlords are adamant that they will not allow pets to reside in their property. Sometimes, if the property is part of a purpose-built apartment block, this can be dictated by the regulations of the building, leaving no margin for discussion. Make sure you are fully aware of the rules that apply to the property regarding this matter.
There are various public sources available for information on tenants’ rights and responsibilities that you may want to review...
...before you start your negotiations or discuss a tenancy agreement with the agent / landlord.
- Understand your rights & responsibilities:
- UK government website: https://www.gov.uk/private-renting/your-rights-and-responsibilities
- Scottish government website: tenant information pack for private rentals: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2013/02/8719/0
- Renters’ Right London with advice for tenants, information and links to local councils for support with private residential renting: http://www.rentersrightsorg
- The Tenants’ Voice, community offering free help and advice, working with tenants, agents, landlords and associated service providers: http://www.thetenantsvoice.co.uk
- Understand the tenancy agreement (Assured Shorthand Tenancies or AST)
- UK government website - Information on tenancy agreements for private renting: https://www.gov.uk/private-renting-tenancy-agreements/overview
- Citizen’s advice information pack on tenancy agreements (covers England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland): https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/tenancy-agreements
- Understand the Tenancy Deposit Protection
- UK government website: https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection
We also recommend that you consult landlord organisations' websites and blogs...
...as this can give you more insight into concerns / constraints they may have and their overall thought process, putting you in a better position to approach negotiations fairly.
- Residential Landlord Association, representing over 30,000 landlords with a combined portfolio of more than quarter of a million properties, across England and Wales: https://www.rla.org.uk
- National Landlord’s Association, supporting 65,000 Members and Associates, with a network of regional representatives and branches: https://www.landlords.org.uk/about-nla
- Landlord News, publishes independent news pieces and analysis covering current issues affecting landlords and agencies including market trends and legal topics: https://landlordnews.co.uk
- The Landlord Blog, created in 2006 and managed by Tessa Shepperson, a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law, offers wide-ranging advice for both landlords and tenants: http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/
- Landlord Today, offering the latest news on the rental property market for landlords (https://www.landlordtoday.co.uk) and agencies (https://www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk or https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk)
If ever in doubt on the tenancy agreement, make sure to consult a specialist. Our professional Sherpas are also very well-versed in these matters and can support you throughout the negotiation and tenancy agreement discussion process.
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