Tenancy Agreement Top Tips!
For Tenants, whether it’s their first time renting or their tenth, the legal in’s and out’s of a Tenancy Agreement can be quite bamboozling!
It is so important to read the Tenancy Agreement thoroughly and carefully BEFORE signing it, even though it can seem like a long and boring task. Once the Tenancy Agreement has been signed, it can be nearly impossible to have any particular clauses changed if you are not in agreement with them.
You should ensure you read the Tenancy Agreement in full to understand all of your obligations before signing but, to help guide you through the minefield of clauses, here is a list of what you should be looking for;
1. Property Address – this may seem obvious, but you should always check the address you are signing to rent is correct. Mistakes can happen, even estate agents are only human!
2. Tenant/Landlord Names – check that all named Tenants are detailed correctly on the Tenancy Agreement. Anyone over the age of 18 who intends to live at the property should be included and always check names are spelt in full and correctly! Also check to see that your Landlord’s name is detailed on the agreement.
3. Rent Amount and Payment Schedule – ALWAYS check that the rent amount detailed on the Tenancy Agreement is stated correctly in line with what was originally agreed; you don’t want to be paying £100’s more by accident! If you sign the agreement with an incorrect rental amount, the Landlord may not be willing to change this later.
You should also check the payment schedule of when these payments are due, don’t assume that rent payments are always payable monthly, as they can also sometimes be payable weekly, fortnightly or four-weekly.
4. Deposit– for Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements, check that the deposit amount detailed on your Tenancy Agreement is correct and that it gives details of the government approved Deposit Scheme where your deposit will be lodged until you vacate. Your Landlord/Managing Agent should provide you with the registration details of the deposit lodged in the scheme within 30 days of receiving the deposit; this should include a Registration Certificate and Prescribed Information.
5. Tenancy Length – check that the length of the Tenancy detailed is correct. This could be shown as a number of months, i.e. 6 or 12 months. Alternatively, you may have agreed a fixed end date with the Landlord, i.e. 1 January 2018.
6. Bills – the Tenancy Agreement should also detail within who is responsible for payments of the bills. In some cases, Tenants will be responsible for all bills payable at a property. In other cases, the Landlord may pay for the Council Tax and other utilities like gas, electric and water, whilst the Tenant pays for any other bills, such as phone line/broadband. You don’t want any surprise bills through the door, so make sure you know what you are paying!
OTHER IMPORTANT BITS
1. Rent Liability – this is very important! If you are renting with one or more other persons, i.e. friends, you must be aware that if the other Tenants refuse to pay their share of the rent, then you are legally responsible for the FULL amount! This is known as ‘joint and several liability’. This means that the Landlord can claim for the full amount of rent from each of the Tenants individually, irrespective of whatever payment arrangements the Tenants have made between themselves. You could even still be responsible for rent after you have left the property if the other Tenants remain on the same Tenancy Agreement (the original agreement which still has your name on it!).
2. Common Law Tenancies – if your Landlord lives in another part of the same building, such as another flat in a converted house (though not if this is a purpose built block of flats) or if the rent totals over £100,000 per annum, the Tenancy will be a Common Law Tenancy and not an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Common Law Tenancies do have some key differences, most notably that a Tenancy Deposit does not need to be registered in a government approved deposit scheme.
3. Tenancy Expiry – when your Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement reaches the end of the fixed term, it does not mean that you no longer have an agreement or are no longer a Tenant and are just free to leave the property. Your Tenancy will continue to run but on a month by month basis if you pay monthly, or week by week if you pay weekly. This ongoing agreement will still be subject to all of the original terms and conditions outlined in your Tenancy Agreement. This is known as a Periodic Tenancy and it will continue on this basis until either a new Tenancy is signed, or the appropriate Notice is served by the Tenant or Landlord. *this is not necessarily the case for Common Law Tenancies.
4. Property Requiring Works/Furnishings – exercise caution when agreeing to rent a property that is missing furniture/other items, or requires refurbishment/redecoration works. The Landlord may say that they are going to do it but, where is the guarantee? Before moving in, make sure you get it in writing on the Tenancy Agreement from the Landlord/Agent that certain works will be carried out, or furnishings added/removed within a specified time frame as agreed.
5. Pets – if you are moving into a property and have made agreements with the Landlord that you can have your pet living in the property, make sure this is written within the Tenancy Agreement. It may have been agreed that a higher deposit amount is taken to cover any potential damages caused to the property by the pet, so if this is the case then make sure this clearly detailed. Alternatively, it may be written in that any damages caused to the property by the pet will be remedied by the Tenant prior to vacation. Whatever you have agreed with the Landlord, make sure it is in writing!
Checking for all of the above should help you to avoid any nasty surprises later down the line.
An informed Tenant is a happy Tenant!