Tenancy agreements in England & Wales are controlled by statutory rules together with long established common law rules which means that the grant, content and termination of tenancy agreements is heavily regulated. Landlords can very easily fall foul of their obligations if they do not keep up to date with the law so it is always a good idea to take legal advice before granting a new tenancy – and always make sure that the tenancy agreement is in writing!
Assured Tenancies and Shorthold Tenancies
Assured Tenancies and Assured Shorthold Tenancies or “ASTs” are the most common type of tenancy agreements used. An Assured Tenancy is mostly used by housing association and registered social landlords. However, they are also used by private landlords. ASTs are more commonly used by private landlords as the tenant has fewer legal rights to stay at the end of the agreed tenancy period than they would with an Assured Tenancy. In addition, a landlord may be able to remove a tenant by Court Order if any of the terms of an AST agreement are breached.
Many Letting Agents will have a standard form of AST agreement available that you can use when granting a new tenancy. These are typically only suitable for rental periods of between 6 and 12 months. If you are considering granting a fixed term of longer than 12 months, it is always a good idea to ask a solicitor to review or prepare a tenancy agreement for you.
Key legal requirements to remember!
Whilst ASTs are the most common form of letting in the rental market it is important to understand the law governing such tenancies before you grant them as your actions could have unintended consequences. Here are some key things to remember:
- You can ‘accidentally’ create a tenancy – a tenancy agreement will automatically come into existence if you give possession to someone of a property that you own and begin accepting rent from them – a written agreement is not needed for a tenancy to come into existence.
- ‘Right to Rent’ checks – it is a legal requirements that you check the immigration status of new tenants before granting a residential tenancy. Government guidance explains what you need to do.
- Gas Safety Certificate, EPC and ‘How to Rent’ – It is a legal obligation to provide your proposed tenants with an EPC , a Gas Safety Certificate and a copy of the Government guidance “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England” before they sign the tenancy agreement.
- Protect your tenant’s deposit – any deposit taken from the tenant in connection with the tenancy must be placed into a government-approved deposit scheme. Otherwise you could find yourself paying back to your tenant three times as much by way of compensation.
- Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors – you must install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors if there are solid fuel appliances at the property.
- Insurance and Repairs – you must insure the building to cover the costs of damage from flood or fire and you must keep the property in repair. This includes:
♦ the property’s structure and exterior including drains, gutters and external pipes;
♦ basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains;
♦ heating and hot water;
♦ gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation;
♦ electrical wiring; and
♦ any damage you cause by attempting repairs.
However, fulfilling your legal requirements will only get you so far. Remember that the best thing you can do when granting a new tenancy is to choose your tenant carefully. A good letting agent will be able to check references, employment status and credit rating on your behalf.
And a proper inventory of the condition and contents of your property will prevent future disputes over repair and furnishings.
The Everyman Legal team acted promptly and with us in mind. We were treated as an important client even though the services for the transaction were fairly routine. They always went the extra mile to keep the process moving efficiently.