Tenancy agreements and paying rent

The tenancy agreement is the legal contract between the tenant and the landlord.  Whilst a tenancy agreement can be verbal, it is recommended that they are completed in writing so that there is no dispute further down the line as to what the agreed terms were.

Length of tenancy agreements

Although as there is no ‘standard’ agreement length, most landlords and agents will issue a tenancy agreement initially for 6 or 12 months, although longer agreements can be negotiated.  At the moment, there is a move towards longer tenancy agreements to give anyone renting the security of being able to stay in their home long-term, and many landlords will now offer agreements of three years or more.  It is likely that within a relatively short period of time, landlords will be obliged to offer these long-term tenancies.

What the tenancy agreement includes

The tenancy agreement should detail the key terms of the agreement, which would include the property details, how much and when the rent should be paid, along with a list of what the landlord and tenant should do.

It should be written in normal English and not contain lots of legal terms that could be confusing.

Tenancy agreements where there is more than one tenant will refer to all the tenants as being ‘joint and severally liable’.  What this means is that you are collectively liable for the property including the payment of rent and also individually responsible.  So, in the case of a problem where the landlord needed to pursue a group of tenants for payment, they could pursue one or all of them.

The rent due for these agreements is stated as a single sum for the whole of the tenancy and would not normally specify the individual split of the payments.  The rent is only, therefore, consider paid once the full payment has been made.

Most agents and landlords will have a generic tenancy agreement with standard terms designed to cover all circumstances.  You may, therefore, see an agreement which describes the use of a garden or maintenance of a burglar alarm where in reality these do not exist.

TIP: Take a look at our tenancy jargon buster section where explain common terms you may come across.

Amending the tenancy agreement

There may be the opportunity to include specially negotiated terms such as the replacement of furniture, redecoration or specific agreement to keep a pet or a break clause.

A break clause is a specific agreement which allows either party to end the tenancy early.  It will either allow the tenancy to be ended on a specific date or any time after a specific date subject to either party giving the relevant notice.  For an AST the landlord is required to give a minimum of two months’ notice and the tenant is normally required to do the same in return.

Signing tenancy agreements

Signing the tenancy agreement can sometimes feel daunting as there is a lot of detail to read before signing up.

You should take the time to make sure that you have read and understood the agreement before signing it.  Each person named on the tenancy agreement needs to sign the agreement and all tenants must be over 18 years old.  If someone under the age of 18 is occupying the property they can be named as an occupier but not legally sign the agreement.

Agents will normally have the authority to sign on the landlord’s behalf and they will have a separate document with the landlord that gives them this permission.  Either the same copy will be signed by all the tenants and landlord or each will party will sign their own agreement and then ‘exchange’ copies with the other, so each has a confirmation of the other signing.

If the tenancy is going to be for more than 3 years, it needs to be signed as a ‘deed’, where the signatures must be witnessed by a responsible person.

There is now an established legal precedent for tenancy agreements to be signed electronically. This is perfectly legal and becoming increasingly popular as you do not need to gather everyone in the same place for signing, which helps speed along the process.

Once the tenancy agreement has been signed, you are committed to the tenancy and have no automatic right to withdraw.