What Is a Tenancy Agreement in the UK?

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A tenancy agreement is the most important part of any arrangement between a tenant and landlord. It defines the rules and the expectations of both sides of the tenancy and helps protect both tenants’ and landlords’ rights. In this guide, we’ll go through what a tenancy agreement is and also what it should look like!

tenancy agreement

What Is a Tenancy Agreement?

After spending your time browsing rental websites to find your perfect home, you’ve probably come to the point where you’re all ready to start moving. Before you do, you should know exactly what you’re signing up for!

A tenancy agreement is a contract between a tenant and a landlord that helps define the terms and conditions of a tenancy. You will usually sign the tenancy agreement right at the beginning of your term at a property, and will last until the end of the tenancy.

The tenancy agreement will usually cover every aspect of the tenancy, including:

  • The length of the term
  • The amount of rent to pay
  • What your rent includes
  • The dates of when the tenancy starts
  • The notice period you have to give
  • Whether you need a guarantor

Whenever you’re in doubt about your tenancy, you should always check your agreement to see what it says.

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Can a Tenancy Agreement Be Verbal?

A tenancy agreement can also be a verbal contract which is also legally binding. You can agree the terms of your tenancy with your landlord without having to write it down.

This can be a problem however since you might not be able to prove things if you’re having problems, so it’s best to at least have some written evidence such as a text message or an email. If you’re renting a council house, you’ll generally have a written tenancy agreement.

What Are the Terms of a Tenancy Agreement?

There are generally two types of terms that are in a tenancy agreement. The first are expressed terms, that are written down, and the other are implied terms, that are not included in the actual agreement but are legal.

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What Are Expressed Terms?

Expressed terms usually include all the terms that are written down in the tenancy agreement. These are not necessarily the legal requirements, but they are the rules that you have agreed privately with your landlord.

You might find that expressed terms are not explicit about certain aspects of the contract. For example, if your tenancy is defined as a 12 month contract and states it will roll over, it will be a fixed-term agreement even if it says otherwise.

What Are Implied Terms?

Implied terms are conditions that aren’t written into the tenancy agreement but are defined obligations that you and your landlord have. Even if they’re not specified in the tenancy agreement, they are still legally part of the contract. These are your rights as a tenant and a landlord.

  • What Must a Landlord Provide by Law in the UK?

  • Basic Repairs
    Your landlord is legally required to carry out basic repairs on the property. They will have to make sure the structure, gas and electricity supply, and the overall condition of the property is in good shape.

  • Peaceful Tenancy
    You have a right to a peaceful tenancy while you are renting from your landlord. You have a right to be left alone and they must inform you in writing at least 24 hours before they come to visit the property.

  • Protecting Your Deposit
    Landlords also have a duty to protect your deposit so they can give it back to you after you’ve finished your tenancy.
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What Needs To Be In a Tenancy Agreement?

A tenancy agreement needs to include all the details regarding the tenancy and the people involved. Failing to have this does not mean that the agreement is void, but it’s important to have the information there so your arrangements with the landlord can be referred to in the contract.

What Should Be in the Tenancy Agreement

  • Names of both the landlord and the tenant(s)
  • Price of the rental and how it should be paid (bank transfer or cash)
  • How the rent price will be reviewed
  • Details about the deposit
  • The property address
  • The landlord’s address (must be in the UK)
  • Start date and the end date of the tenancy
  • Responsibility for the bills
  • Notice period for ending the tenancy

Unfair Terms in a Tenancy Agreement

Although there aren’t any specific illegal clauses that can be put into a tenancy agreement, it is possible for landlords to include unfair terms in the contract.

An unfair term is used more widely in trade and commerce, but for tenancy agreements an unfair term is often a clause in the contract that gives the landlord an unequal amount of power in the tenancy agreement.

Here are some examples of unfair terms in a tenancy agreement:

  1. Tenancy agreement is written in unclear language
  2. The landlord has unconditional power to visit and change the agreement
  3. Required to give unreasonably long notice period
  4. Contradictions in the tenancy agreement that disadvantage the tenant

Landlord cannot charge you fees! Landlords are not permitted to charge any fees for viewing or holding a property for you. You may only be charged for your rent, default fee, or an early termination fee. You might also be charged for replacing a lost key.

In addition to unfair terms, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against you because of your:

  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Age

A landlord could break the law if they offer you worse terms or treat you disproportionately unfairly due to any of the above.

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What Types of Tenancy Are There in the UK?

There are many different types of tenancy agreements that you can sign, but the most common for tenants is called an Assured Shorthold Tenancy which has been the standard contract since 1988 and has become the most widely used since 1998.

There are other types of tenancy agreements that are also available, so it’s important to know what the different ones are so you know what you’re dealing with.

  1. Assured Shorthold Tenancy
    Assured ShortHold Tenancies can either have a fixed-term for 6 to 12 month, or they can be periodic where they roll over from one month to the next. For the first 6 months, you will usually be liable for the rent whether you end the contract or not. At the end of the fixed-term, you will be able to end the contract.
  2. Regulated Tenancy
    If you have a regulated tenancy, you will likely have a rent price lower than the market value. You also have protections against evictions as your landlord will need a court order to be able to evict you.
  3. Excluded Tenancy
    This usually applies to lodgers who often have less rights than a normal private tenant would. Landlords will usually be able to evict you without much problem if you have an excluded tenancy.

You can also have contracts that stipulate whether you are part of a Rent to Buy programme for example.

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How Do I Change My Tenancy Agreement?

Changing the tenancy agreement can be done at any time and there are no set rules regarding the legality of changing the contract. The only rule is that a change can only take place if both you and your landlord agree to the change. If you do make a change, a new contract should be drawn up to reflect the change.

What About Rent Changes?

You will usually have a specific set of clauses in your tenancy agreement that states when there is a rent review. This usually occurs every year on the day that your contract was signed and can only be changed at this point. If your landlord decides not to change your rent for whatever reason, then they will need your agreement to raise it later.


Can I End My Tenancy Agreement?

If you’ve been in your tenancy agreement for a while, it is perfectly possible to end your tenancy agreement by giving notice to the landlord. The amount of notice you should give will be defined in the tenancy agreement, but in most cases it is 1 month’s notice.

If you’ve just started your tenancy, it is usually expected that you serve at least 6 months in the property before you decide to leave. Some tenancy agreements will include a break clause where the conditions of leaving the property early are defined.

Worried about your status in the UK after Brexit? If you’ve started a tenancy agreement in the UK and you are from Europe, you might be worried if your Right to Rent has been affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Find out more in our EU Settlement Scheme guide!

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