Before signing a short term tenancy agreement it is important to know exactly what you are signing, not only in terms of your contractual rights under the agreement, but also your responsibilities.
What is a short term tenancy?
A short term tenancy is commonly referred to as either a shorthold tenancy or an assured shorthold tenancy. This is essentially a legally binding agreement between you and your landlord to occupy the property, including the terms under which you will be living there, for example, for how long and for how much rent.
A short term tenancy is the usual form of tenancy agreement used for private tenants, such as yourself, whether this be for a house or a flat, so long as the property is let to you as separate accommodation and this is your main home.
In most cases, unless your landlord has served you with a written notice stating that the agreement is to be treated as a long term tenancy, ie; an assured tenancy, or there is written provision within your agreement to this effect, it will be classed as a short term tenancy agreement.
In the event that you are charged no rent, or a very low or high rent, or you will be sharing part of the accommodation with your landlord, this is unlikely to be a short term tenancy agreement.
In these circumstances, you will not be afforded the same legal rights as an assured shorthold tenant and you may want to seek professional advice here.
What should a short term tenancy agreement look like?
A short term tenancy agreement need not be in writing, it can in fact be agreed verbally, although typically your landlord will provide you with a written agreement. This agreement will often be a standard form agreement, containing clauses applicable to all short term tenancies.
The agreement will very often run to several pages, and even though your landlord is under an obligation to make sure it is written in plain and intelligible language, it may contain legal jargon that is hard to understand.
In the event that you are unsure about what you are signing, you may want to seek professional advice, either from a solicitor or an organisation such as Shelter or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
In the event that you do not have an agreement in writing, your landlord must still provide you with a written statement of terms, including the start date of the tenancy, the rent payable and rent due date, any rent review clause and the length of any fixed term agreement.
What should a short term tenancy agreement contain?
A short term tenancy agreement should contain details of both you and your landlord, together with the address of the property. Further, the agreement should also contain a list of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, together with those of your landlord.
Examples of common terms under a short term tenancy agreement are as follows:
The term of the tenancy
The term of the tenancy refers to the length of the short term tenancy agreement. The tenancy can either be set for a fixed term, for example, six or twelve months, or run on a weekly, monthly or even quarterly basis. This is known as a periodic tenancy, although a fixed term tenancy is more common.
In the event that your tenancy is for a fixed term, unless you have broken the terms of your short term tenancy agreement, your landlord will not be able to regain possession of the property until the end of the fixed term. Your landlord is also obliged to provide you with notice that s/he will be seeking possession.
In the event that you have a fixed term tenancy and this comes to end without notice having been given by your landlord seeking possession, the tenancy will continue to run on the same rent and terms under on what’s known as a statutory periodic tenancy.
Your short term tenancy agreement should specify the term of your tenancy and, where applicable, will provide an end date.
The rent payable
The short term tenancy agreement should specify the amount of rent payable, including when and how often this will fall due. The agreement should also provide information on how and when the rent will be reviewed, although typically this type of clause only tends to appear in agreements with a fixed term of more than two years.
The tenancy agreement should also specify the amount of any deposit payable by yourself, together with how this deposit will be protected. By law, your landlord is obliged to place your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme if you rent your home under a short term tenancy agreement that started after 6 April 2007.
The tenant’s obligations
As a tenant under a short term tenancy agreement you will not only be responsible for paying the rent but typically, for paying council tax and other utility bills, such as gas and electric.
You may also be responsible for some upkeep of the property, including redecoration, changing light bulbs or even unblocking sinks. This will all depend upon the terms of the short term tenancy agreement.
The landlord’s obligations
Under a short term tenancy agreement, as with any other tenancy agreement, you landlord will be required to provide you with quiet enjoyment of the property. This means that they must provide you with written notice, typically 24 hours, if they want to gain access to the property to carry out an inspection or undertake necessary repairs.
Your landlord is also obliged to carry out certain repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, as well as to any sanitary, heating and water installations. This includes repairs to the roof and walls, external windows and doors, as well as any wiring and plumbing. Further, any clause that seeks to restrict or exclude this responsibility should not be included in your short term tenancy agreement.
In addition, the landlord must carry out an annual gas and electrical appliance safety check, and provide you with an EPC certificate prior to the start of the tenancy.
Your security of tenure
The short term tenancy agreement should specify what notice your landlord is required to give you in the event that they seek possession of your property. If this is following the end of a fixed term, typically you should be given a minimum of two months’ notice.
Under a short term tenancy your security of tenure, ie; your right to remain the property, is limited. That said, even though your landlord does not need a reason to evict you, s/he must still obtain an order from the court in the event that you refuse to leave the property after any notice period has expired.
However, where you have allegedly broken the terms of your tenancy agreement during any fixed term, the landlord can also seek possession through the courts during this period, although s/he must still provide you with notice of their intention to issue proceedings.
Your short term tenancy agreement should set out the grounds upon which possession can be sought during any fixed period.
What are the risks when signing a short term tenancy agreement?
By signing a short term tenancy agreement you are, on the face of it, contractually bound by the terms of that agreement. It is therefore important to be sure about exactly what you are signing.
You may feel that the short term tenancy agreement contains clauses that are either unfair, for example, making you fully responsible for repairing the property, or in some way discriminatory towards you, for example, where the agreement prohibits pets but you are registered blind and have a guide dog.
Any provision within the short term tenancy agreement, or other treatment towards you, that constitutes discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, sexuality or religion is illegal. It is also unlawful for a landlord to seek to exclude their statutory obligations towards you as a tenant, for example, to carry out structural repairs to the property.
In the event that you have any concerns about the terms of your short term tenancy agreement you should seek professional advice.
What should I check before signing a short term tenancy agreement?
Prior to signing a short term tenancy agreement you should always thoroughly check the terms of the agreement so that you are happy with the rights and responsibilities for both yourself and your landlord as set out by that agreement.
In particular, you should check the start and end date, ensure that both parties’ details are correct, carefully take a look at your contractual obligations and make sure you agree, check the rent amount, as well as who is liable to pay any bills, and make sure that the contract allows for general wear and tear.
In the event that something looks odd to you, or you want to correct part of the contract, then don’t be afraid to bring it up with the landlord or lettings agent.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law and should not be treated as such.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.
Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.