Why a written tenancy agreement is necessary

by Tessa Shepperson


Tessa Shepperson, a solicitor specialising in landlord and tenancy work and author of Lawpack's 'The Complete Guide to Residential Letting', discusses whether landlords need a written tenancy agreement.

Having a tenancy agreement is vital for any landlord. It's so important to get the tenancy in writing as it protects your property, sets out your obligations and that of your tenant's, plus it prevents potential disputes between you and your tenant in the future.

Although there is no legal requirement for you to create an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) in England and Wales, all landlords should ensure that their tenants have signed a written tenancy agreement prior to letting them into the rental property. 

But in Scotland all landlords must have a written tenancy agreement for the tenancy to be a short assured tenancy (SAT).

The disadvantages of not getting it in writing 

  • If you make arrangements informally with your tenant, there may be arguments later about the tenancy terms, even if these were clearly discussed when the tenant moved into the property.

  • Once a tenant is in occupation, you cannot then force them to sign an agreement that varies the terms of their tenancy, so it's essential that this is done before the tenant goes in.

  • You will not be able to use the accelerated possession procedure to evict the tenant, where there is no written agreement.

The advantages of getting it in writing 

  • A formal agreement protects your position and regulates the tenant's use of the property.

  • If you intend to take a damage deposit, which has to be protected under one of the statutory tenancy deposit schemes, you will need to make an agreement.

  • If no written tenancy agreement is provided, you're required, by law, to provide the tenant with written details of the main terms of their tenancy within six months; so you may as well provide a proper written agreement to begin with.

  • Housing Benefit offices require tenants claiming benefit to produce a signed tenancy agreement.

Lettings not needing an agreement

Although all tenancies should have a formal written agreement, licences don't always need them. For example, written agreements are not necessary in the following circumstances:

But even if a formal tenancy agreement isn't provided in these circumstances, there should always be some paperwork to prove the terms of the letting, in case there is a dispute at a later date.

More information


Published on: March 28, 2012

Did you like this article? Share it!

Tenancy Agreement - Furnished

Furnished tenancy agreement advert
  • Solicitor approved
  • Expert guidance notes
  • PDF format
  • Download now

Read More