General guidance for landlords and tenants
Golden Rules for Landlords and Tenants:
Read such important documents as tenancy agreements and terms of business carefully; never sign anything you don't understand - ask questions and seek advice.
Don't have unreasonable or unrealistic expectations.
If in doubt about what to do, or your obligations and responsibilities in any particular circumstances that arise - communicate, seek clarification.
Confirm important issues in writing - keep a copy.
What about Insurance?
Landlords and tenants should take care to review any existing policies when renting or letting a property for the first time as some standard insurance products will either not provide cover or might place restrictions on cover, for rented property and/or its contents. A failure to inform your insurer that you are renting/letting a property could invalidate any subsequent claim. It is for the landlord to insure the building and its contents, fixtures and fittings. Tenants are responsible for insuring their own possessions.
What about Agents' fees & charges?
These will vary dependent upon local market conditions and the particular services being provided by the Agent. However, whether dealing with a landlord or a tenant, an Agent should provide clear information on what costs would be incurred, including any potential future financial liabilities to the agent. (This is a legal requirement since 27 May 2015.)
What about an Inventory?
This is an absolutely essential document that provides a written benchmark which should be amended, updated and re-created before the beginning of each new tenancy. A properly constructed Inventory details the fixtures and fittings and describes their condition and that of the property generally. Landlord and tenant often share the costs involved in preparing and checking the inventory; such costs should be seen as a necessary investment that helps protect the interests of both parties.
What is a Tenancy Agreement?
A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract between a landlord and tenant that sets out both the legal and contractual responsibilities and obligations of the two parties. It should be written in plain and intelligible language and its terms and clauses should be fair and balanced, taking account of the respective positions of the parties and should not mislead about legal rights and responsibilities. Landlord and tenant should take care to individually negotiate any particular terms or conditions that are important to them or especially relevant to the particular let or property.
What kind of Tenancy Agreement will be used?
The most common form of tenancy agreement used is an "Assured Shorthold" (an AST) under the 1988 Housing Act (amended 1996). This type of tenancy offers the most flexibility to both landlord and tenant; has straightforward notice procedures for bringing the tenancy to an end and a special Accelerated Possession court procedure should tenants fail to vacate.
If certain specific conditions are met relating to the proposed letting, a "contractual" non-housing act tenancy must be created. One example of this would be what is commonly referred to as a Company Let where the tenant is a bona fide registered company; another would be where the annual rent equates to over £100,000.
Very rarely, a prospective tenant may be offered a full "Assured" tenancy that gives very significant and potentially long-term security of tenure to a tenant and, for which a landlord can only get possession in very limited circumstances.
Most ARLA member firms will have their own "in-house" tenancy agreements.
Joint and Several - What does that mean?
Mostly, where there is to be more than one (adult) person living in the property, the tenancy will say they are "jointly and severally" responsible. This expression means that, jointly, the tenants are liable for the payment of all rents and all liabilities falling upon the tenants during the tenancy, as well as any breach of the Agreement. Individually, each tenant is responsible for payment of all rent and all liabilities falling upon the tenant, as well as any breach of the Agreement, until all payments have been made in full.
What about the tenancy deposit?
It is quite common for a deposit of an amount equivalent to between four to six weeks' rent to be required to be held during the tenancy against the satisfactory performance by the tenant of all the various obligations under the tenancy agreement - particularly those relating to the cleanliness and condition of the property.
In accordance with new Government legislation as of 6th April 2007, Express Property Services is part of TDS (Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme) - one of the approved Government schemes. TDS has been developed to ensure that deposits are protected and that disputes about their return are resolved swiftly, inexpensively and impartially.
What is a "Break-Clause"?
This is a clause sometimes inserted in a fixed term tenancy, typically if the initial fixed term is for a year or more. A break-clause will usually be worded in such a way as to allow either landlord or tenant (or both) to give two months' written notice at any stage after a particular date or period of the tenancy, thus terminating the tenancy earlier than the end of the original fixed term.
What happens if either party (Landlord or Tenant) unexpectedly want to end an existing tenancy early?
There are only limited ways in which this can happen; the landlord cannot make the tenants move out, nor can the tenants lawfully walk away from their obligations to fulfil the contract. Either party might request of the other that a formal "surrender" of the tenancy be allowed. It would then be up to the parties to agree the terms and conditions of such a surrender. This might include some financial compensation for inconvenience or costs incurred.
How often can the rent be put up?
In general terms, rent of an existing tenancy can only be increased once every twelve months. When an assured shorthold tenancy holds over as a statutory periodic tenancy, a specific prescribed form (a section 13 notice) must be used to notify tenants of a proposed increase in rent.
It is usual, if creating a longer fixed term tenancy at the outset (or one with a binding option to renew), to include a clause that allows for an increase of the rent on an annual basis, typically linked to, or as a multiple of, something like the Retail Price Index or similar.
What about renewals and extensions of a tenancy?
This is a very common situation and the Agent will normally negotiate between the parties and prepare the necessary formal documentation for a replacement tenancy or fixed term extension.
If no further fixed term is created to follow on from the end-date of the original term, and assuming notice to end the tenancy has not been served, the tenancy can simply hold over as a "periodic tenancy" e.g. rolling on with the same terms and conditions and in line with how the rent is due to be paid. This is usually monthly.
How is a tenancy terminated?
The Law around ending a tenancy is relatively straightforward, as long as the correct timescales and procedures are followed. The timescales, procedures and format will vary dependent upon the type, and the status of the tenancy at the time you wish to end the tenancy. Your ARLA Agent will be able to provide guidance.
What happens if the tenant doesn't move out after the end of a tenancy?
First, try to quickly establish the reasons why. However, if a tenant does not move out after a tenancy has been lawfully terminated then the landlord can apply to the Courts for a possession order. Discuss this with your agent / solicitor first.
What about Safety Regulations for rented property?
There are specific legal obligations and responsibilities on a landlord with regard to fire safety; gas safety; electric safety; legionella; smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Are Tenants entitled to know the name and address of their Landlord?
Yes, it is an offence for an agent (or whoever is collecting the rent) to fail to provide, without reasonable excuse, this information within 21 days of formal written request by the tenant.
Maintenance and access
What about rights of access to the property, what are the rules?
A landlord, or his agent, or someone authorised to act on his behalf has a right to view the property to assess its condition and to carry out necessary repairs or maintenance at reasonable times of the day. The Law says that a landlord or agent must give a tenant at least 24 hours prior notice in writing (except in an emergency) of such a visit. Naturally, if the tenant agrees, on specific or odd occasions to allow access within the 24 hours prior written notice, that is acceptable. (A clause in the tenancy agreement which tries to diminish or over-ride a tenant's rights in this respect would be void and unenforceable.)
What about Repairs & Maintenance Issues?
A landlord, in very general terms, has a legal responsibility to repair the structure and exterior of the property, including drains, gutters and external pipes; to keep in working order the installations for the supply of gas, electricity and water; and the installations for the provision of space and water heating. The landlord also has other legal responsibilities relating to the safety of such items as gas, electricity and furnishings as well as the general standard or fitness of the property for habitation.
A tenant has an implied covenant to act in a "tenant-like manner". Broadly, this means to report disrepair promptly; to take reasonable steps to ensure that neither the tenant nor guests damage the property, its fixtures and fittings; to do the minor day to day things any home-occupier would normally do, e.g. replace light bulbs, fit a new battery in a smoke or CO2 detector, tighten an odd screw which has come loose on a door handle, etc; to keep the property reasonably warm and aired to help prevent condensation or freezing of pipes; to leave the property secure when absent from it; to keep the garden and other areas reasonably tidy and free from rubbish.
The Association Of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
What is ARLA?
The Association of Residential Letting Agents, ARLA, is the only professional body that is solely concerned with the self-regulation of letting agents and since 1981 has been actively promoting the highest standards across every aspect of residential lettings and management in the Private Rented Sector.
ARLA is viewed by government, consumer groups, think tanks and the media as the leading voice in the industry. ARLA member firms are seen as being at the forefront of the Private Rented Sector; ready, willing and able to comply with existing and anticipated government legislation.
Why should a Landlord or Tenant seek out an ARLA member firm?
Probity and Protection - ARLA leads the industry in setting and regulating the highest standards in the industry and demands certain levels of professionalism and commitment to customer service from its membership.
ARLA member firms are required to work within a robust Code of Practice, which covers the key stages in letting and managing a property. There are comprehensive membership Byelaws which include compliance with such issues as handling and accounting for Clients' money; the mandatory ARLA Client Money Protection Bonding Scheme; Professional Indemnity Insurance; Dealing with Complaints and Disciplinary Procedures.
ARLA keeps its members up to date with changes in legislation and provides wide-ranging training and guidance to help members understand and interpret all aspects of letting and managing a property.
This information is believed to be accurate; however, it should not be relied upon in place of formal legal advice.