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Tenancy Agreements - Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any information or documentation that a landlord is required to provide for a tenant?

By law, there is certain information and documentation that landlords are required to provide for a new tenant.

In England and Wales if the tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy created from March 1997, a landlord must provide written terms of the agreement within 28 days of such a request being made.

If a tenant requests the name and address of their landlord it is an offence not to provide them with this information within 21 days. The landlord must provide the tenant with their name and UK contact address.

If the tenancy is a periodic tenancy a landlord is required by law to provide a rent book or a similar document.

If a landlord is letting under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and accepts a deposit they are required to provide the tenant with details of the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme in which the deposit is registered. A landlord is also required to have an Energy Performance Certificate EPC and a gas safety certificate before letting a property; the tenant should be given copies of this. The gas safe certificate should be renewed on an annual basis prior to expiration of the previous/current certificate.

For further information see the page on Tenants' Rights.

Is a verbal tenancy agreement legal?

Yes, verbal tenancy agreements are a legal method of tenancy agreement.

These types of agreement are not recommended as the tenant and landlord can find problems occur, for example, with rent payments and deposits. This type of agreement can be difficult to enforce because there is often no proof of what has been agreed. If a dispute escalated to the courts, there would be no written tenancy agreement as evidence, so this could result in one of the parties not getting the rights they believe were verbally agreed upon at the start of the tenancy.  You can download a tenancy agreement here.

However, as with written agreements, oral agreements also provide the landlord and tenant with certain rights; the difference is that they could be more difficult to enforce.

For more information see the page on Verbal Tenancy Agreements.

What is a fixed tenancy agreement?

A fixed agreement is for a defined period of time (usually six or twelve months) which is stated in the tenancy agreement. A tenancy can still be a fixed term agreement even if rent is paid weekly or monthly.

Once the fixed term ends the agreement becomes periodic if no new fixed agreement is drawn up.

The rules regarding ending a tenancy agreement differ for periodic and fixed tenancies.

What is a periodic agreement?

If no fixed length of time has been agreed on for the tenancy in the rental agreement then the tenancy is periodic. This means it rolls from one week to the next or one month to the next.

At the end of a fixed tenancy if no new fixed term has been agreed by the landlord and tenant then the tenancy automatically becomes a periodic tenancy. A periodic agreement is in place if an Assured Shorthold Tenancy has ended and the tenant remains in the property and the landlord continues to accept rental payments.

My tenancy has ended and I am not renewing the agreement. When will I receive my deposit back?

After you move out of the property, the landlord will need time to check that no damage has been caused and any furniture in the property at the start of the tenancy is still there and in good order. The landlord will also check that there are no overdue bills or payments to be made.

If there are no disputes over the amount of deposit to be refunded the tenant will receive the deposit back. If both the landlord and tenant agree that the deposit is to be returned it must be returned to the tenant within ten days. More on tenancy deposits here.

What can a tenant do if a landlord refuses to return their deposit?

If there is a dispute over whether or not the deposit should be returned then the Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (ADR) may be able to help resolve the problem. The Alternative Dispute Resolution Service is available to all landlords and tenants where the deposit for the tenancy has been protected by one of the three Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes.

As long as the tenant and landlord agree to use the service any disputes over the deposit can be settled. Once the ADR makes a decision about the deposit this is binding and neither the tenant nor landlord can then take the dispute to the courts.

However, if the tenant or landlord refuses to use the ADR service then the dispute is resolved through the courts.

The courts or ADR service will be responsible for deciding whether the deposit should be returned to the tenant in part or in full.  More on tenant deposit disputes here.

What can I do if my landlord has not given me information on the Deposit Protection Scheme my deposit is registered with?

If after thirty days of your landlord receiving your deposit, you have not been provided with information on the Deposit Protection Scheme you may take court action by applying for a court order.  Find out more here.

As a tenant you have the right to seek compensation if your landlord does not provide you with information about the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme used, or if your deposit has not been protected by either an insurance-based or custodial scheme within that 30 day period.

If the court finds that the landlord has not complied with the aforementioned requirements, the court will also order that the landlord pays the tenant an amount equal to up to three times the initial deposit amount.

As a landlord do I have to accept a deposit and enter into a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme?

As a landlord you do not have to accept a deposit from a tenant. There are alternatives to deposits, such as having a guarantor. By having a guarantor, a landlord ensures that if the tenant is unable to meet rent payments or other requirements of the tenancy agreement, the guarantor will do so.

Another alternative would be to take out an insurance policy. Insurance can be taken out to cover missed rent payments and tenants who fail to abide by the terms of the tenancy agreement.

However, if you do decide to accept a deposit, you would be required by law to protect the deposit through one of the government backed Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes.

What happens if the tenant is behind on their rent?

If a tenant is in rent arrears they are in breach of their tenancy agreement and it may be possible to end the tenancy agreement early. You will need to issue them with a Section 8 notice to quit exploring how many weeks/months their rent payments are in arrears.

The notice should state the intention to seek possession of the property and state the grounds for possession as listed under The Housing Act 1998 (as amended by the Housing Act 1996). 

There are 17 grounds altogether; grounds 1 to 8 are mandatory grounds and grounds 9 to 17 are discretionary grounds. The landlord may cite as many grounds as s/he wants- however it is advisable to include at least one mandatory ground; should the landlord subsequently need to apply to the county court for a possession order then this should be easier if a mandatory ground is listed.

The notice must be laid out in a prescribed format and must specify which grounds are intended to be used to gain possession and the reasons for relying on these particular grounds.

It is important to be careful and avoid error when issuing the Section 8 notice as this could cause delays to the landlord gaining possession.

When issuing a section 8 notice it is important to ensure that the ground(s) you wish to rely on for possession are also listed as grounds for possession/early termination in the tenancy agreement.

Can a landlord increase the rent during the tenancy?

The rent can only be increased after the initial fixed term and providing the tenancy agreement has guidelines for a rent increase. The rent increase is either mutually agreed by the two parties, or by the landlord giving written notice of the intended increase and the change to the terms of the tenancy.

If a landlord wishes to increase the rent and there is no such clause in the agreement, he is required to issue the tenant with a section 13 notice. The notice will state the proposed rent increase and the date that the new rent will be payable.

With an Assured Shorthold Tenancy the landlord can choose to increase the rent when the agreement is renewed after the initial period. If the tenant does not agree to the increase in rent the landlord can choose to evict the tenant rather than agree to accept a lower rent by serving a s21 notice. If the tenant is keen to remain in the property, they may decide to agree to the rent increase.

Can a landlord increase the rent during the initial fixed term of the tenancy?

The landlord is not able to increase the rent during the initial fixed term (unless specifically agreed otherwise through a rent review clause), which is usually six or twelve months, as the rent is fixed during this period. During the first six months of the tenancy, excessively high rents under an Assured or Assured Shorthold Tenancy can be referred to the Rent Assessment Committee.

After this initial period has ended there are ways in which the landlord can increase the rent. If a new fixed agreement is put in place the landlord is able to increase the rent without issuing a section 13 notice to the tenant.

How much notice is required before an increase can be effective?

For a monthly, weekly or fortnightly tenancy one month’s notice of the intended rent increase is required. If a yearly tenancy is in place then a period of six months' notice is required before the increase can take effect. The date on which the new rent is due must be the same day on which the tenancy started, for example if the rent is due on the 1st of the month, the proposed increase in rent should also be payable on this day of the month.

What can I do if a tenant refuses to move out at the end of the tenancy?

If the tenant refuses to leave at the end of the term stated in the tenancy agreement you should issue them with a Section 21 notice to quit giving them two months' notice to leave the property.

As a landlord you have the legal right to regain possession at the end of a tenancy but you must follow the correct legal procedure, which requires serving a section 21 notice. This notice must be given in writing to the tenant. A notice can be issued more than two months before the end of a tenancy but you should not date it to expire on or before the last day of the tenancy.

The tenant is not required to give up possession of a property until a minimum of two months after the Section 21 notice to quit was served.

If after the two months' notice is up the tenant still has not left the property you can gain a possession order from the courts ordering them to leave. Provided you have followed the correct procedure when issuing the Section 21 notice, the court will have no choice but to grant the possession order for the tenant to leave your property.

What happens if the tenants decide to leave during the tenancy?

If a tenant leaves the property or posts the keys through the letterbox this is called 'abandonment' and will not end the tenancy agreement. The agreement will continue even though the tenants have left, and the landlord has the right to continue to charge rent.

The landlord may consider attaching/posting an abandonment notice; this is usually not a popular/advisable option as it may result in the tenant alleging that s/he has been illegally evicted.

A landlord is able to apply for a court order to make the tenants pay what is owed. It should be noted that if the property has since been let out, rent can only be claimed for the period before the new tenant moved in; the landlord is under an obligation to mitigate his/her own potential loss.

The period of time that rent can be charged after a tenant leaves depends on the type of agreement.

In a fixed term agreement rent can continue to be charged up until the date when the term ends.

If the agreement is periodic, rent can be charged up until the time when the agreement would have ended had the tenant given the agreed period of notice.

Does a landlord have to carry out repairs if they have not received a written notice?

The landlord is not required to carry out any repairs to the property until they receive notice under the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act.

A tenant may give a verbal or written notice of the repair work required, but it is advisable for a tenant to provide the landlord with a written notice. If no written notice is presented to the landlord then the tenant will not have any evidence if they take the landlord to court over repair work which has not been carried out.

What action can be taken if a landlord has not carried out the necessary repair work?

After having received notice the tenant must give the landlord sufficient time to organise and carry out the repairs and if necessary provide them or contractors with access to the property.

If the landlord fails to address the repairs then this may amount to harassment under the Housing Act 1988 and Protection from Eviction Act 1977; the tenant may report this to the local authority and/or consider making a claim for damages in the county court.

If a tenant decides to take their landlord to court over repair work not being carried out, they are required to have given the landlord written notice of the repairs needed.

Due to the lack of protection Assured Shorthold Tenants have during and especially after the initial fixed term period, it is possible that the landlord may chose to legally evict the tenant rather than carry out the repairs to the property.

What if the tenants are causing damage to the property and issuing a notice of repair to the landlord?

If a tenant causes damage to furniture or the interior of the property then the landlord is able to charge the tenant for any repair work carried out or replacements bought, through deducting damage costs from the deposit.

If the tenant is not behaving in a "tenant like manner" and is not abiding by the terms of the tenancy agreement then the landlord may be able to evict the tenant by firstly issuing a section 8 notice citing the following discretionary ground [as well as any other applicable ground(s)]:

Ground 12 - This ground covers tenant’s in breach of their contractual (lease or tenancy) agreement conditions, other than rent payments.

If the fixed term of the tenancy has not ended and the landlord feels that the damage to the property is too extensive to wait until the end of the term, then a section 8 notice to quit may be issued. The following discretionary grounds for possession could be used in such circumstances: 

Ground 13 - This ground covers waste, neglect or default concerning damage to the tenant’s accommodation or common parts. This ground also covers the acts of sub-tenants, lodgers, tenants family or visitors.

Ground 15 - This ground covers cases where landlord’s furniture has been ill-treated.

Who is responsible for dampness in the property?

Dampness can be the responsibility of either the landlord or tenant depending on the particular circumstances.

If the property is damp as a result of leaking pipes, a damaged roof or wall or an existing damp proof course which is no longer effective, then the landlord would be responsible to carry out the necessary repairs.

However if the dampness has been caused by condensation through not drying clothes properly or improper use of heating and windows then the landlord would not normally be responsible to re-decorate as a result of the dampness. In these circumstances the tenant would be required to use the windows and heating systems correctly and re-decorate the areas of the property affected by the dampness.

Is a landlord allowed to ask a tenant to leave the property for repairs to be carried out?

Depending on the extent of the repair work to the property the tenant can be asked by the landlord to move to alternative accommodation. If the tenant refuses to leave the property, then the landlord can force them to leave the accommodation by evicting them, or seeking a court order.

However, if the tenancy has not ended, then the tenant can try to claim back the alternative accommodation costs from the landlord.