Model tenancy agreement: Guidance notes
- Why should you read this?
- Why are we giving you this information?
- What is a Tenancy Agreement?
- What makes these Tenancy Agreements different?
- What do owners and students want?
- When does a tenancy start?
- Is it alright to sign a joint tenancy?
- Solving Disputes, whose responsibility
- Is it alright to be classed as the ‘lead tenant’?
- What should my house look like?
- What if my landlord wants to end my tenancy early?
- What if I overstay my tenancy?
- What about the deposit?
- When is my first instalment of rent due?
- What is included in my rent?
- Can I afford this property?
- Can my landlord charge extra if my rent is late?
- What about other additional charges?
- Can my landlord agree a payment plan for late rent?
- Post-dated cheques, can they be cashed early?
- What does it mean if I have an Agent?
- What about damage to a property?
- Should I get things in writing?
- Access in an emergency
- My house mate left and I have found someone else, what do I do?
- My landlord is carrying out works at the property, what can I do?
Unipol have consulted with landlords and student tenants to develop our own online Tenancy Agreements. It is important to remember that the Tenancy Agreement you sign becomes legally binding and is a complex legal contract, which can be confusing and difficult to understand. That is why we have provided guidance and information on what to expect and what things mean. Please read these notes and also remember to read your Tenancy Agreement before you sign it.
By producing and you reading these notes we aim to help landlords and tenants to understand what they are committing to by signing a Tenancy Agreement and to avoid some common misunderstandings and pitfalls.
A Tenancy Agreement is the contract you read and sign when you have found a property you want to move into. All landlords should provide you with time to read your tenancy agreement before you sign it, you should read it and its fine to ask questions and query any parts that you don’t understand.
Unipol has provided four types of Tenancy Agreement:
- Assured Shorthold Tenancy for Shared properties
When all students in a shared house sign the same agreement
- Assured Shorthold tenancy for Single Rooms in a Shared Property
Where tenants in a shared house all sign separate individual tenancies
- Assured Shorthold Tenancy for a Self Contained property
Where a tenant lives in a bed-sit or small flat
- Tenancy for Owner-Occupier Properties
The Unipol tenancy Agreements;
- Are free
- Are fair
- Are written in plain English
- Are available with information and notes to aid understanding
- Have been developed in consultation with landlords and students
In general, what a student wants;
- Is a clean and safe house
- To be treated courteously
- To have repairs and legitimate complaints to be dealt with promptly
In general what an owner wants;
- Is for tenants to pay the rent on time
- Behave considerately
- Hand back the property in a condition that would be acceptable to an incoming tenant
The tenancy starts from the date written on the tenancy agreement, you can move into a property from this date. Unipol tenancy Agreements also state the end date, this is the day you need to return your keys to the landlord and have moved all your stuff out.
Tenants and Landlords should discuss the start and end date before signing as once a tenancy is signed neither side can end it without consequences.
Yes, most student houses will have a shared or joint tenancy. Only sign up to a joint tenancy if you are confident that your fellow tenants won’t let you down.
If more than one person is named as the “Tenant”, the tenancy will be treated by the landlord as a joint tenancy. As well as having collective responsibility for the property, each person named as a tenant can be held individually liable for the property, as far as the landlord is concerned.
Landlords should not use a joint tenancy agreement letting rooms individually in a shared house. Joint Tenancy agreements are only suitable for occupiers signing up as a group.
Most students in houses of multiple occupancy sign Joint Tenancies, that’s where all tenants in a shared house sign the same Tenancy Agreement. Students intending to share a property should be aware that if only some of them sign the agreement, they will be liable for the full rent if their friends who haven’t signed let them down and decide not to move in.
Students who move in accept the terms of the agreement and have a liability to pay, whether or not they have signed.
Under a Joint Tenancy, the landlord does not have to intervene in any disputes you may have with your fellow tenants– you will have to sort out any quarrels among yourselves.
In a dispute over rent, the occupiers may agree among themselves that each will pay a proportion of the rent and any additional charges, but the landlord is not bound by that arrangement.
Non payment of rents, or payment for damage in shared tenancies
Whilst the landlord cannot charge more than once for the same thing, the landlord can charge any person in the group for the full amount owed by the group. That person must then try and re-claim from the other occupiers any amount that they feel they are owed.
In the same way, any one member of the group can be held liable to pay for the damage caused by another member of the group, or by someone else’s guest.
Students- make sure you can trust all the occupiers in your group to pay their share of the rent and bills, and for any damage they cause. If they let you down, you could be liable.
Yes although it does mean you have extra responsibility.
The lead tenant has:
no greater financial obligation to the landlords than all the other tenants have
will be the landlord’s point of contact for matters relating to the deposit. will be responsible for returning a share of the deposit (if returnable) to the other tenants
The property should be fit for you to live in.
It is best to discuss with the landlord when the deep clean of the property will take place, and to get him to confirm that it will be done before the start of the tenancy, or at least within a few days of the start of the tenancy.
What if its not, or if your owner hasn’t done what they said they would?
If you are not happy with the condition of the property;
- Take photographs and get in touch with the landlord straight away.
- Make a note of your conversation, and if the landlord agrees to put things in order, write to the landlord confirming what s/he has agreed to do and when.
If the landlord does not agree to put the house in order, or agrees but then does not carry out the work within a reasonable time, contact your students’ union adviser who will advise you of your rights.
This is a technical sections, but important to know if you are facing your Tenancy ending.
If the landlord wants to end the tenancy before the fixed letting period has expired, s/he must serve notice setting out the grounds for possession, and the grounds must be at least one of those set out in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988.
If the tenant wants to end the tenancy before the fixed letting period has expired, this must be by agreement with the landlord. The landlord is only likely to agree if the tenant has found a suitable replacement.
If the landlord wants the tenancy to end on the last day of the fixed letting period, s/he should serve notice, at least 2 months in advance, requiring possession on that day. Some landlords serve this notice at the start of the tenancy.
If the tenant wants to the tenancy to end on the last day of the fixed letting period, the tenant should leave the property (in the condition required by the agreement) and return the keys to the landlord by the date and time stated in the agreement as “the end date”.
If nobody has terminated the tenancy on or before the end of the fixed letting period, the tenancy will continue after the end date, as a statutory periodic tenancy. This tenancy means the tenant can stay in possession after the end of the fixed letting period. All the terms of the tenancy are deemed to be the same, except that instead of a fixed letting period, the tenancy rolls on from week to week, month to month or year to year until either the landlord or the tenant ends it by serving a valid notice.
How long each period of a statutory periodic tenancy is will depend on how frequently rent was payable during the fixed letting period. The Housing Act 1988 (s 5(3)(d) states that “periods of the tenancy are the same as those for which rent was last payable under the fixed term tenancy”.
The most straightforward situation is where rent is payable monthly on the same day of each month. In such a case, a monthly tenancy arises, and the rent continues to be payable on the same day each month. The end of a period of the tenancy is the day before the rent day.
Where rent is payable quarterly, a quarterly tenancy arises, and rent continues to be payable on the quarter days. The end of a period of the tenancy is the day before the rent day.
The statutory periodic tenancy will continue until terminated in one of the following ways.
Either the landlord must serve at least 2 months’ notice, and the notice has to state that possession is required on the last day of a period of the tenancy, ie on the day before a Rent Day.
Or the tenant must serve notice of at least one period of the tenancy (if rent is paid monthly, one month’s notice; if the rent is paid quarterly, one quarter’s notice).
Tenants have the right not to be evicted unless the landlord serves the proper notice and obtains a court order authorising the landlord to take possession.
Watch out owners are entitled to claim compensation if the tenants do not leave the property when they should. This could be a month’s, or a quarter’s rent if a new period of the tenancy has started. Be especially careful if your landlord has stipulated the time by when you must leave the property – you could be liable for extra rent if you have not handed back the keys by that time.
The tenant is liable to pay the landlord’s net loss of profit if the agreement is terminated early because the tenant is at fault, or if the tenant leaves before the end of the initial fixed term. However, the landlord has an obligation to try and keep costs and losses to a minimum, for example by trying to let the property to someone else, and the tenant will not be responsible for any rent which the landlord receives from a replacement tenant.
By law the landlord must hold the deposit in an approved protection scheme (unless the annual rent is over £25,000). No opting out of the scheme is allowed. Landlords must complete Section D of the agreement and should attach information about the scheme, including how tenants can claim their deposit back, to the agreement. Tenants should read that information before signing.
If your landlord does not protect the deposit and give the tenant the Prescribed Information within 14 days of receiving the deposit, the tenant may be entitled to a refund of the deposit and three times the value of the deposit in compensation.
The landlord will usually require the first instalment of rent to be paid before the keys are handed over.
Landlords and tenants should take time before finalising the agreement to discuss exactly what is included in the rent, and what is excluded. For example, does “television” mean a TV aerial point, a TV set, a set-top box, cable or Sky?
The landlord must not increase the rent more than once every 12 months.
By signing this agreement, you are making a significant financial commitment. Before you sign, do this calculation:
Amount of monthly rent for the full house x number of months in the tenancy
Plus utility bills
The landlord should show the tenant utility bills in support of any claim for increased energy payments, if energy charges are included in the rent.
Yes, Landlords are entitled to charge interest, and pass on bank charges they have incurred, if rent is paid late. They may make an additional charge for the time they spend chasing for rent. The rent days are important for another reason. If the tenant continues in occupation after the end of the initial fixed term of the tenancy, a periodic tenancy arises. The period of the tenancy will be the same as the periods for which rent was payable under the fixed term. So, if rent is payable monthly, a monthly tenancy would arise. If rent is payable quarterly, a quarterly tenancy arises.
Landlords and tenants should take time to discuss exactly what is included in the rent, and what is excluded. Where tenants incur extra charges for breach of the tenancy, it is usually better for all concerned if invoices are raised promptly and not left to accumulate till the end of the term.
Landlords are entitled to make a reasonable charge for failed payments, to compensate them for the extra administration involved and loss of interest. Excessive charges are not enforceable.
Landlords and tenants do not have to agree a payment method, but it can help both to organise their finances if they do.
Tenants should be aware that if they make out a post-dated cheque, their bank will not necessarily refuse to cash it if it is presented early.
If the agreement names an agent, this is the person tenants should contact for all matters relating to the tenancy.
Record what a property was like at the start of the tenancy
Landlords and tenants should think about how they would prove, in the event of a dispute, what condition the property was in at the start of the tenancy. If there is no record, the landlord will find it difficult to prove at the end of the tenancy that the tenant is liable for any damage or deterioration in the property or contents. The tenancy deposit protection schemes encourage the use of inventories, but schedules of condition and/or photographs can also be helpful. Any claims the landlord makes must take into account any damage, or damaged or missing items which the tenant reported to the landlord within 48 hours of the start of the tenancy, or damage etc which occurred after the tenant viewed the property but before they moved in.
To avoid causing damage to the property or to the contents, and to avoid cleaning charges, tenants should make sure they clean the shared areas of the property regularly, as well as their rooms, and don’t allow grime to accumulate. Tenants should also make sure there is always plenty of ventilation, especially if drying washing, to avoid damage being caused by condensation.
Each occupier in a joint tenancy is responsible for their house-mates and their house-mates’ guests. This means that if a friend of one of the occupiers damages the property, for example by carelessly causing a fire or drilling through a water pipe, the other occupiers may find themselves liable for the damage, and without any right to compensation from the landlord if any of their belongings are damaged or if the property becomes uninhabitable. Only sign the agreement if you completely trust your house-mates.
Landlords should insure the property, but tenants may want to check with the landlord what risks are covered by the buildings insurance and what excess applies to the policy. Landlords do not usually insure tenants’ possessions.
If the property is partially damaged by an insured risk, so that some occupiers cannot use their rooms, but others can use their rooms and the shared areas, there will be no right to terminate the tenancy, but the occupiers affected should receive a refund of their rent and rent will be suspended for as long as they cannot occupy their rooms. This can be used to find accommodation elsewhere, but occupiers should not book temporary accommodation for longer than they need it, because the liability to pay rent will resume if the property is restored before the end date.
Landlords and tenants can agree things without putting it in writing, but it will always be difficult to prove what has been agreed if there is no written record of it. For example, if a landlord wants to charge a tenant for failing to keep an appointment with a workman at the property, the landlord will need to be able to show that the tenant agreed to that appointment.
If the agreement requires the tenant to obtain landlord’s consent, and consent is not given in writing, the tenant is advised to record the consent in a letter to the landlord.
An “emergency” is a situation where it is suspected that someone inside the property is dangerously ill or at serious risk, or where a defect in the property requires repair to avoid a danger to health, a risk to the safety or the residents, or serious damage to the buildings or to residents’ belongings. Examples of “emergency” situations are fire; flood; water or gas leak; subsidence - but this is not an exhaustive list.
The landlord is entitled to know who is living at the property, and s/he has only agreed to allow the people who signed the tenancy agreement to live there. If one or two residents constantly have guests, this often leads to friction among the tenant group, and causes more wear and tear on the property, so it is in everyone’s interests to have some limits on the number and frequency of guests. Some properties are only licensed to take up to a certain number of occupants and the local authority may take action if this number is exceeded.
The agreement sets out a procedure for changing one or more of the occupiers – it is important to follow this procedure. Unless the landlord and the other occupiers agree otherwise, the leaver will continue to be liable to pay rent until the end of the tenancy (which may be longer than the initial fixed period, if the others do not vacate then), no matter when the leaver vacates or hands back their keys.
If the other occupiers unreasonably refuse a replacement occupier, and the landlord claims the leaver’s share of rent from them on the basis of the joint tenancy, the other occupiers may find it difficult to recover a share of the rent or other charges from the leaver. A court could hold that the remaining occupiers should have cut their losses by accepting the replacement.
The landlord can make a reasonable charge for having to prepare a new tenancy agreement, as this is an expense the landlord would not have had to incur if none of the occupiers had left during the tenancy. The landlord does not have to agree to accept the new occupier or agree to a new tenancy agreement, as long as the landlord acts reasonably in making that decision. If the landlord unreasonably refuses to accept a replacement occupier, the landlord may find it difficult to prevent the replacement entering and remaining in occupation if the replacement is invited to do so by the tenant.
The tenancy deposit protection scheme may prescribe how the deposit must be handled when someone leaves. The simplest way is for landlord and leaver to sign deposit repayment forms, the replacement to pay a sum equal to the leaver’s share of the deposit to the landlord and for the landlord to notify the scheme administrator. If doing this, make sure that any likely charges against the deposit have been allowed for.
If the landlord is carrying out work at the property during the term (this means alterations and improvements, or rectifying a major fault, rather than day-to-day repairs), the tenant may be entitled to compensation for (a) a fault in the property and/or (b) disruption, but whether compensation is payable and, if it is, how much, will depend on the facts of the individual case. Ask the landlord whether s/he intends doing any work at the property and ask them to specify this in the “Special Letting Terms” section of the tenancy agreement. Ask the landlord to specify when the work will be done, and negotiate with the landlord to ensure the work will be done at a time that will not disrupt you more than necessary.