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Letting Agreement – What Tenants Need to Know

A letting agreement, also known as a tenancy agreement, is the contract between you as tenant and your landlord, which lays out the conditions of the tenancy including the rights and requirements of both parties.

The agreement may be in written form, or merely an oral agreement. It is always recommended to have a written letting agreement in place to avoid misinterpretation of the conditions of the tenancy, but regardless of whether the agreement is written or oral, you as a tenant have the same rights and your landlord has the same obligations.

Express terms and implied terms or letting agreements

A letting agreement will outline the express terms of the tenancy, that is, the conditions that both the tenant and the landlord agree to. Express terms include details such as the date when the tenancy will start, how long the tenancy will last, and how much rent is to be paid.

Any letting agreement, whether written or oral, also brings with it a number of implied rights and obligations that you as tenant and the landlord must adhere to. These include:

  • that the landlord must provide rental accommodation that is safe and suitable
  • that the landlord must ensure the accommodation is maintained in a safe and suitable condition
  • that the tenant has the right to be treated fairly, and not face harassment or discrimination
  • that the tenant must maintain the rental property in the same condition as at the start of the tenancy
  • that the tenant allows access so that repairs may be made to the property

What should be included in the letting agreement

Exactly what is included in the letting agreement will depend on factors such as the type of tenancy and how long the tenancy is arranged for, but any rent agreement should include the following:

  • names of the tenant and the landlord
  • rental amount, regularity of payment, and what that amount covers (rent only or to include certain bills, for instance)
  • how often a rent review will take place and any related details
  • your deposit – amount, how the deposit will be protected, and return or withholding of
  • the deposit
  • the address of the rental accommodation
  • starting and ending dates of the tenancy
  • responsibilities of the tenant
  • responsibilities of the landlord
  • bills that the tenant is responsible for in addition to the rent
  • landlord’s address or letting agent’s address

Other details that could be included in the letting agreement, where appropriate, include:

  • how to end the tenancy early
  • subletting
  • who is responsible for property maintenance
  • what will happen when the tenancy ends
  • any services provided by the landlord
  • how much notice is required from both parties
  • furniture and fittings provided as part of the accommodation, e.g. washing machine
  • what will happen should the accommodation become unsuitable for occupation, e.g. during repairs to the roof
  • whether pets may be kept in the house

Making changes to the letting agreement

Changes may only be made to a letting agreement where both you as tenant and the landlord agree to these changes, regardless of whether the agreement is written or oral.
Where there is a written letting agreement in place, the original must be amended and the amended clause generally initialled or signed by each party, or a completely new letting agreement drawn up.

Any changes made to the agreement must not:

  • discriminate against the tenant
  • include unfair terms
  • restrict the tenant’s rights

Discrimination and unfair terms

A letting agreement is a consumer contract. It must therefore be written in language that is easily understood and be free of unfair terms or clauses which will remove or restrict the rights of either the landlord or the tenant. Any unfair terms or clauses are not legally enforceable.

Equally, a landlord must not discriminate against a tenant on the grounds of race, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity.

Key things to be aware of when entering into a letting agreement

Where the letting agreement is oral, you must have a full discussion with your prospective landlord on all the details of your tenancy and make extensive notes of what has been said.
Where the letting agreement will be in writing, read through the agreement carefully before signing.

Key things to check and be aware of include:

Deposit

How much is your deposit? How will your deposit be held or protected? If the agreement is for an assured shorthold tenancy, your deposit must be placed in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme. How will the deposit be returned?

Accommodation condition at start and end of tenancy

How will this be checked at the start of the tenancy? Have you made a thorough check of the accommodation yourself? Have you, or will you, be provided with an inventory, including photographs of the accommodation and a list of furniture and fittings that are included in the tenancy such as the hob and oven? How will the condition of the accommodation be checked at the end of the tenancy?

Rent

How much rent are you expected to pay? When is the rent due each month or week? How often should you pay, e.g. monthly or weekly? By what method should you make the rent payment, for instance, direct debit or cash.

Notice

How much notice do the tenant and landlord have to give to end the tenancy during a fixed term arrangement or where the tenancy is periodic, rolling over from one month to another, for instance?

Property maintenance

What aspect of property maintenance are you responsible for, and what is your landlord responsible for? Landlords bear the responsibility for structural repairs and maintenance, but you will be expected to maintain the general condition of the property in the same state as when you first moved in.

Penalty clauses

Does the letting agreement included any penalty clauses, e.g. interest on late payment of rent? Are these penalty clauses unfair or discriminatory?

Access to the property

What are the conditions for the landlord, or third parties on the landlord’s behalf, to gain access to the property to make repairs? How much notice do they have to give you?

Additional bills

Will your landlord pay for any bills relating to the property, such as council tax, or are you solely responsible for the payment of bills?

Start and end dates of the letting agreement

When doe the letting agreement begin and when does it end? You may become liable to pay rent before you actually move into the property.

Point of contact

Should you need to contact the landlord or their letting agent to report a maintenance issue or because your rent payment will be delayed, for instance, who will your point of contact be? How should you contact them, e.g. by telephone or by email? What are their contact details?

Rent Review

How often will a rent review be carried out and how will this be done? What is the response process?

Unfair or discriminatory

Does the letting agreement include unfair terms or discriminate against you in any way?

End of tenancy

What will happen at the end of the tenancy period? Is there an option to transfer from a fixed term tenancy to a periodic tenancy, for instance?

Restrictions

Are there any restrictions in the agreement, for instance, no dogs, no smoking, or no hanging washing out on the balcony?

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