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Advice for Tenants

The Tenancy Agreement

When you move into a rented flat or house, you will normally be asked to sign a tenancy agreement. This is a legally binding agreement between you and the landlord and sets out the basis upon which you occupy the property. If you are not given a tenancy agreement, you should insist on being provided with one.

The tenancy agreement should set out the following information:

  • the name and address of the landlord
  • your name (as tenant)
  • the type of tenancy agreement (normally, these days, an assured shorthold tenancy – see below)
  • the date the tenancy began and its duration (a fixed term, say 12 months, or periodic from week to week or month to month)
  • the amount of any deposit required and any rent payable in advance
  • the amount of rent payable and when an increase in rent can be expected
  • who is responsible for any other charges (such as council tax, a service charge or water rates)
  • an address to which notices can be sent to the landlord (e.g. that repairs are needed)
  • a list of conditions for the tenant to agree to (e.g. not to sublet or cause a nuisance)
  • a list of requirements on the landlord (e.g. to maintain the property in good repair)
  • a section outlining the ways the tenancy can be ended and grounds for repossession of the property

Landlords Obligations

The tenancy agreement does not always deal fully with the landlord’s obligations. Note that the landlord is legally required to do, or not do, the following.

  • provide you with a rent book if you pay rent weekly
  • allow you quiet enjoyment of the property
  • not to evict you by force
  • maintain the property in repair (although you may be responsible for certain minor repairs)

Assured Tenants

All tenancies granted these days are assured tenancies. These are tenancies expressed to be from week to week or from month to month carrying on for an indefinite period. Unless you aree to leave, the landlord can only get you out if he gets a court order and can prove one of a number of grounds for possession (such as, non payment of rent or damage by you to the property).

The most common type of assured tenancy is an “assured shorthold tenancy” which is a tenancy agreement for a fixed term (minimum 6 months). Under these agreements, the landlord is legally entitled to repossession of the property at the end of the fixed period provided he or she serves you a notice in writing 2 months prior to expiry of the fixed term of the tenancy requiring you to leave at the end of the tenancy.

Note also the following.

  • the landlord must serve a notice in writing giving 1 month’s clear notice of a rent increase providing details of it,
  • if the landlord wishes to gain repossession of the property prior to the end of the fixed term of the agreement, he or she must give you 14 days written notice and, if you do not agree to leave, he or she must get a court order requiring you to leave,
  • the court will only order you to leave before the end of your tenancy agreement if the landlord can prove grounds for repossession such as your poor treatment of the property or you have not paid the rent,
  • if you have done nothing wrong, the landlord will normally only be able to evict you before the end of your agreement if he or she can offer you reasonable alternative accommodation.

Licences to Occupy

Your landlord may get you to enter into a licence agreement instead of a tenancy ageement. This is something less than a tenancy agreement and applies where you do not get exclusive possession of any part of the property. This may occur where the agreement requires that you share a bedroom with another tenant who is not renting the place with you. Where your right to the property is by way of a licence, you will not have any rights as a tenant. Where your landlord claims this to be the case, you may need legal advice.

Accommodation Agencies

If you use one of these, note that it is illegal for them to take money from you before they have found you a place to live.

Problems with Neighbours

These can arise in a number of ways such as neighbours playing loud music during the night, barking dogs or rubbish not being properly bagged. There are a number of possible solutions.

  • if the neighbour is also a tenant of your landlord, then complain to the landlord who will have an obligation towards you not to allow his other tenants to cause you a nuisance
  • complain to the local Environmental Health Department who have wide powers to take legal action against unreasonable neighbours
  • if you are being seriously harrassed by a neighbour, then complain to the police