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Glossary of Property / Legal Terms

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Responsible for the buying, selling and letting of property. More commonly known as Estate Agents.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (ADR)

The ADR service resolves disputes over deposits between landlords and tenants. The service is available once a landlord has entered into one of the Deposit Protection Schemes, which all landlords are required to do by law after accepting a deposit from a tenant.

Providing both the landlord and tenant agree to use the ADR service to solve a deposit dispute, then the service's decision is final. The deposit will be returned to the landlord or tenant or in some cases both, based on the ADR service’s decision.


When selling a house an estate agent will appraise the property to determine a current value for it.


The Association of Residential Letting Agents is the professional and regulatory body for letting agents in the UK.


Amount of rent overdue as a result of being behind in payments.

Assured Tenancy

An assured tenancy is a type of residential tenancy in England and Wales that grants a degree of security of tenure to the tenant. A tenant under an assured tenancy may not be evicted without a reason and the rent under the assured tenancy will frequently fall under the supervision of a Rent Assessment Committee.

This form of tenancy agreement is typically issued by a housing trust or housing association. They offer some security in that as long as you do not break the conditions of the tenancy agreement you may continue to live in the property.

Assured tenancies were introduced by the Housing Act 1988 and replaced tenancies protected by the Rent Acts.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy

An Assured Shorthold Tenancy is the most frequently used tenancy agreement by landlords when letting residential properties. This type of tenancy agreement is also referred to as an "AST" or "Shorthold Tenancy". For further information read our Introduction to Assured Shorthold Tenancies.



Bailiffs are officers of the court, who can in certain circumstances be used by creditors to enforce judgments by collecting debts and repossessing homes or goods.



The amount left on a mortgage from which interest is calculated.


The line of buyers and sellers linked together in the process of moving house. For example, a person selling a home is often looking to buy a home at the same time, as is the person whose house they are looking at buying. The longer the chain the less likely it is that the sale will go through.


A legal entity engaging in business. There are a number of types of company but in the UK the most common is a private limited company.


A qualified individual, either a solicitor or licensed Conveyancer who deals with the legal aspects of moving the legal ownership of a property from one person to another (Conveyancing).


Legal work involved in buying and selling a house. 


The terms of a tenancy agreement, or the rules governing a property.

Custodial Deposit Protection Scheme

This is a deposit protection scheme into which landlords are required to pay deposits, within fourteen days of receipt from the tenant. The deposits are held by the scheme until the end of the tenancy. There is no charge to the tenant or landlord when using this type of scheme, as the interest which accumulates on the deposit whilst held pays for the running costs of the custodial scheme.



A deed is a legal document signed, sealed and delivered to convey the transfer of a property and to show the legal right to possess it. Different from a Deed Poll which is executed by only one party and usually used to change one's name.


In a rental agreement this is the money that a tenant is required to pay a landlord before moving into a property. It is typically one or two months' rent. Under new rules tenants' deposits must be protected. For further information you can read the following Guide to Tenancy Deposit Protection.


Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

An EPC or Energy Performance Certificate provides an energy performance rating for a building.


Refers to both the property and the possessions of a deceased person.

Estate agent

A property professional responsible for the buying, selling and letting of property.

Exchange of Contracts

The point at which buyer and seller are legally bound to the sale and purchase of the property.


First time buyer

A buyer who has not previously purchased a property.

Fixed Tenancy

A fixed tenancy runs for a fixed period which is agreed in the rental agreement (usually six months or one year). A tenancy could be fixed term even if rent is paid each week. If the fixed term ends and no new tenancy agreement is drawn up then tenancy agreement becomes a periodic tenancy.


Absolute ownership of property and land.


Guaranteed Possession

This refers to an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, where after the initial agreed period, which is usually six months, the landlord has the right to repossess the property, under the Housing Act 1988.


A person who guarantees to pay rent or mortgage payments should the tenant fail to do so and to take legal and financial responsibility for any damage which may occur to the property.

Guide Price

The price that a property is likely to sell for.



A House in Multiple Occupation, which could be any of the following:

  • a house split into separate bedsits
  • a shared house where occupants have separate tenancy agreements (including student houseshares)
  • a hostel that isn't only used for holidays
  • 'bed and breakfast' accommodation that isn't only used for holidays.


The Health and Safety Executive is a governmental organisation that works to to protect people against risks to health or safety arising out of work activities. Some HSE regulations apply to residential properties.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

The HHSRS is an official procedure for assessing the health and safety risks in residential properties in England and Wales. The regulations, which came into force in 2006, identify 29 specific hazards. When properties are found to have the highest level of risks, councils have a statutory duty to take enforcement action against the property owners.


Insurance Based Deposit Protection Scheme

This type of deposit protection scheme requires the landlord to register the deposit with an insurance based scheme, within fourteen days of receiving the deposit from the tenant.

The insurance scheme will register the deposit and the landlord will then retain the deposit for the duration of the tenancy. The insurance based scheme means that the tenant has a guaranteed right to receive the deposit back at the end of the tenancy, provided they are entitled to it. There is a fee for a landlord to join an insurance based scheme, which is set by the particular scheme chosen.


Joint Tenancy

When two or more people rent or own a property together.


Land Registry

Land Registry is a government department responsible to the Lord Chancellor. It is responsible for keeping and maintaining the Land Register of England and Wales. The department registers title to land in England and Wales and records dealings such as sales and mortgages with registered land. Conveyancers will request searches from the Land Registry as part of any property transaction.

Laws of Intestacy

When a person dies the Laws of Intestacy will dictate who will inherit their a house if they have not made a will to express their wishes.


Document in which the owner of a freehold property lets out their premises to a named party at a certain price and for a specified time.


The ownership of a lease.


A person or company that lends money for an agreed time period. They expect to have the money repaid with interest added. A mortgage company is an example of a lender.

Lender's Arrangement Fee

A charge made by the lender to the buyer for arranging the loan.


A person who leases a property as a tenant.


A person who grants a lease of property as a landlord.



An offer, usually below the asking price, made on a property.


When a property is bought before the building work has begun, or has been completed.

Oral Tenancy Agreement

A legal agreement between landlord and tenant, where no written contract is used but the terms of the tenancy are discussed and agreed verbally. This is also referred to as a Verbal Tenancy Agreement.

Periodic Tenancy

A periodic tenancy rolls from week to week, or month to month. This includes tenancies that were originally for a fixed term that have ended and no new fixed term agreement has been drawn up. If you have a periodic tenancy the rules regarding how it can be ended are different compared to those for a fixed tenancy.

Public Liability Insurance

Insurance which covers any injuries or deaths to anyone in or around your property.



This could be a written document that provides proof of a transaction, a birth certificate or anything that can provide information about past events.


When a mortgage is paid off in full.

Regulated or "Protected" Tenancy

This is a type of tenancy agreement which is likely to be in place if a tenant began renting a property before the 15th January 1989. This form of tenancy provides the tenant with the most protection against eviction and increased rent.


An agreed charge for the use of an asset, usually property.

Rent Assessment Committee

A committee consisting of a panel of three people - usually a lawyer, a property valuer and a lay person - that decides on a reasonable market rent for a property. A Rent Assessment Committee may be used by a tenant who feels their rent is excessively high compared to similar properties in the area or if their rent increases. The committee is responsible for deciding the highest legal market rent a landlord may charge.

Rental Agreement

More commonly referred to as a Tenancy Agreement, it is a legal document setting out the terms and conditions of the agreement.


When the mortgage lender takes away your home because you have fallen too far behind on your mortgage repayments.


Section 8 notice to quit

A 'Section 8 Notice to Quit', so called because it operates under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, is the notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property during the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy if the tenant is in breach of certain rules.

Section 21 notice to quit

A 'Section 21 Notice to Quit', so called because it operates under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, is the notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property at the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

Sole Agent

When there is only one agent responsible for selling a property.

Stamp Duty

Tax that must be paid to the government on the purchase price of property.

Statement of Terms

A tenant may request the landlord to provide written proof of the terms of the tenancy agreement if an oral or verbal tenancy agreement is used. The terms agreed are known as a Statement of Terms.


The person who carries out a structural survey of a property, examining the structure and general state of the house.


Tenancy agreement

A legal agreement to protect the rights of the tenant and landlord and setting out all the terms and conditions of the rental arrangements. Sometimes referred to as a 'rental agreement'.


A temporary possession of a property owned by another person or party.

Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme

This scheme was introduced through the Housing Act 2004, to ensure that tenants receive their deposits back, when entitled to them. The scheme requires all landlords and letting agents to protect the deposits they receive from tenants, by entering into one of the government based Deposit Protection Schemes. For further information you can read the following Guide to Tenancy Deposit Protection.


One who has paid for the right to occupy a property owned by another party.


Valuation Survey

The survey undertaken on behalf of the lender to ensure the house value is high enough to secure against any mortgage.

Verbal Tenancy Agreement

This is a legal agreement between landlord and tenant, where no written contract is used but the terms of the tenancy are discussed and agreed verbally. This is also referred to as an Oral Tenancy Agreement. For further information read our page on Verbal Tenancy Agreements.