Would your tenancy agreement stand up in court?

More and more we are hearing stories of landlords who are having their fingers burnt with tenancy agreements that don’t quite cut the mustard - does yours meet the regulations?

With increasingly more legislation coming into effect, a shoddy contract is no longer good enough to secure safety for you, or your tenant, and you need to make sure that your tenancy agreement is not only watertight for you, but up to date with all of the new rules and regulations that you have to abide by as a landlord in the UK.

In England and Wales it is not the law to provide a tenancy agreement – although it is best practice and does provide a safety net should anything turn sour with your tenant - however landlords in Scotland cannot proceed without one.

What does my tenancy agreement have to include to be sure that it’s legally binding?

In every tenancy agreement, there are certain boxes that must be ticked. Failing to cover these bases will mean that your tenancy agreement isn’t worth the paper it is written on, and in the case of a dispute, you may not be able to rely on it as the legally binding document that it’s
designed to be.

The standard information that you must include:

  • All parties involved in the transaction including (landlord(s), tenant(s), guarantor(s)
  • Address of the property being rented
  • Start and end date of the tenancy
  • Name and address of the landlord
  • Name and address of any letting agent who may be involved
  • Amount of rent to be paid, and the date of payment
  • Method of payment
  • Any additional charges to be paid
  • Whether a deposit must be paid
  • How the deposit will be protected
  • When the deposit can be fully or partly withheld
  • Whether the tenancy can be ended early by the landlord or tenant – and how much notice must be given
  • Who is responsible for minor repairs
  • Whether a tenant is able to sublet
  • Whether a tenant can have lodgers
  • Whether the tenancy may be passed on to anyone else
  • Any tenant or landlord obligations
  • What bills your tenants are responsible for
  • Information on how and when rent will be reviewed

As well as this required information, a tenancy agreement can include as many bespoke clauses as necessary – after all, every property and situation is different, it’s likely that yours may have notes to highlight to tenants that are not covered in a standard agreement.

However, you must be careful to ensure that any clauses that are included in a tenancy agreement
could not discriminate against existing or potential tenants.

What’s the next step?

Once you have drafted your agreement, and are sure that it not only includes all the standard information but any bespoke clauses you would like to include, you must get it signed by your tenant. If you have more than one tenant, each should receive an individual copy of the agreement. A digital signature is a great way to make sure that your tenancy agreement is signed by all parties, and you also build a great digital audit trail to show exactly when it was signed, and by whom using IP and email addresses.

One of the key factors to ensuring that the agreement is legally binding is that your tenant has read, understood, and signed the agreement.

Your tenant does not have to sign straight away, they are entitled to raise a question about any of the clauses within the tenancy agreement, before either agreeing to the terms or negotiating with you if you agree.

How do I amend the document?

If you need to make any changes to the tenancy agreement once it has been signed, the easiest method is to reissue the whole document to your tenant, with a new date and the amendments made.

Make sure that your tenant signs the new document in the same way that they signed the original, and be sure that you, and they, keep all copies for reference.

Do make sure that any amendments are fully discussed and agreed with your tenant before you proceed with issuing a new tenancy agreement though, it could be quite a shock otherwise!

Looking for more information on tenancy types?

For more information on the types of tenancies available, and to make sure you are using the correct tenancy agreement for your let, why not sign up for our free Tenancy Types webinar, in conjunction with the National Landlords Association.

This free webinar, which takes place on April 4th, 2019, will cover an overview of the different types of tenancies available to you, from the standard AST, to Excluded Tenancy Agreements and Company Lets. Our friends at the NLA will talk you through the documents you need in place for each, as well as the benefits (and potential pitfalls!) of choosing a certain type of tenancy.

Register for free here

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