Tenancy Agreements FAQ

Your tenant can give notice to end their tenancy agreement provided they can find an acceptable replacement tenant for you. If they can't find a replacement tenant, they will be responsible for the rent until the end of the tenancy agreement, even if they have physically left the buy-to-let property.

In any case, your tenant cannot end the tenancy agreement during the first three months of their tenancy.

  • Make a tenancy agreement with our tenancy agreement downloads.
  • Find out more about a landlord's rights and responsibilities in Residential Lettings.
  • Find out all about tenancy agreements and tenant's rights and responsibilities in Renting: The Essential Landlord's Guide to Tenant's Rights.

Repairs: Your tenants must use the property in a 'tenant-like manner', which means that they will be responsible for any repairs that are their own fault, even if they would otherwise fall to be paid for by the landlord. Generally, the tenants are responsible for the condition of the interior of the property, but you, as landlord, can restrict your tenants in the tenancy agreement from doing any redecoration. Your tenants must pay for anything that is broken or damaged in your buy-to-let property during the tenancy and you, as landlord, can deduct the cost from the tenancy damage deposit that is taken at the start of a tenancy agreement.

Outgoings: A landlord will not normally want to be stuck with paying a tenant’s bills, so tenancy agreements provide for the tenants to pay them. But if there are a number of different tenants coming and going on individual tenancy agreements, the utility accounts may have to be in the landlord's name. If there are any accounts that the landlord will pay (e.g. some landlords pay the water rates), then the tenancy agreement should be altered to show this.

Use of the property: Your tenants must use the rented property solely for residential purposes; otherwise you, as landlord, may be placed in breach of planning regulations. You, as landlord, will also want to prevent the tenant from letting anyone else live at the property, as you will only want tenants whom you have checked and approved.

Access for the landlord: This is important, as you will need to visit and inspect the rented property from time to time, to ensure that the buy-to-let property is in good condition, and to do any landlord repairs and gas safety checks. You, as landlord, will retain your keys to the rented property, but you should never use these to gain access to the rented property without the tenant’s consent, except in an emergency.

  • Make a tenancy agreement with our tenancy agreement downloads.
  • Find out more about a landlord's rights and responsibilities in Residential Lettings.
  • Find out all about tenancy agreements and tenant's rights and responsibilities in Renting: The Essential Landlord's Guide to Tenant's Rights.

If you rent out a room in your house to a lodger and you are an owner-occupier, or a tenant who is sub-letting, the first £4,250 of any income is tax free, i.e. a rent of £81.73 per week is tax free.

This means that you have in your own house access to over £4,000 income tax-free every year!

If the rent is higher than £4,250, you either elect to pay tax on the surplus above £4,250 (without relief for expenses) or you can treat the arrangement as being a furnished letting and prepare accounts.

This relief is available whether you rent out just one room to a lodger or you run a bed & breakfast business from your house.

In order to create a proper Short Assured Tenancy, you must complete an AT5 Notice of a Short Assured Tenancy which must be used with a Short Assured Tenancy Agreement.

The completed AT5 Notice must be given to the tenant(s) before the agreement is signed and dated. It can be given at any time before the agreement is entered into. But you must be able to prove that it was given to the tenant before s/he signed the agreement, so it's wise to give notice at least one day in advance.

The legal form AT5 Notice is provided free of charge with Lawpack's Short Assured Tenancy Agreement download.

In England and Wales, strictly speaking, there is no need to have signatures witnessed if the tenancy agreement is for a term of less than three years.

But it may be a good idea to have any guarantor's signature witnessed, particularly if the guarantor does not sign the tenancy agreement in front of you.

The witness can be the same person for all three signatures on the tenancy agreement.

In Scotland, it's recommended that the tenancy is witnessed, as it then becomes self-proving.

If you have a mortgage or are going to let a leasehold flat, you need to check to see if you need to obtain permission from your mortgage company or your landlord before letting.

If you don't get permission from your mortgage lender, this could have serious consequences, including the lender or landlord taking possession proceedings against you.

Your mortgage company may impose conditions for letting; needless to say, you should be careful to comply with these.

As a landlord you have a number of unavoidable obligations under the law towards your tenants. Here are the main landlord responsibilities.

Repairing covenants: Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord must look after the structure and exterior of the rented property, and the installations for the supply of services (gas, electricity, water, sanitation and heating). You'll find this in out Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement. The landlord should also look after the roof of the rented property, the drains, gutters and the garden, if there is one.

Gas safety: Under the Gas Safety Regulations a landlord must have the gas equipment at a property inspected every year by a Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI)-registered plumber and give the certificate to the tenant. Landlords should check the current regulations with their local health and safety executive, who enforces them.

Furniture, electrical equipment and general product regulations: These regulations require a rented property's furniture to be fire-resistant, and all electrical equipment and other items in the rented property to be safe. You can get further information from your local trading standards office.

Covenant of quiet enjoyment: This is part of all tenancies and it means the tenant should be able to live without interference. The landlord can't enter the rented property without the tenant's consent (except in an emergency), should keep the rented property in a proper condition, and should not do anything (or allow anyone else to do anything) which would affect the tenant's rights, for example, stopping services to 'persuade' the tenant to leave. A landlord who lets a number of separate flats in a property has a duty to his other tenants because of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. For example, if one tenant is a nuisance, the other tenants will look to the landlord to solve the problem, and if necessary evict the tenant who is causing disruption.

Insurance: The landlord has an obligation to insure the rented property and its contents (but the tenants are responsible for insuring their own possessions). The landlord should be certain their insurance policy is suitable for rented property - his normal household insurance generally will not be. Check the terms of the policy carefully, as some policies exclude cover for lettings to some types of tenant.

Yes. If you've been living in a property with a residential mortgage and intend to move out and rent out the property, you will need to inform your mortgage lender. If you were still living in your home and simply rented a room to a lodger, then you wouldn't normally have to tell your mortgage lender.

If you decide to rent out a property instead of living there yourself, the terms of most residential mortgages require you to get permission from your mortgage lender. If you don’t consult your mortgage lender, then you may be in breach of your mortgage terms – make sure that you check the small print of your mortgage. Unfortunately, most mortgage lenders will charge a fee to answer your question of whether you need to get a buy-to-let mortgage.

If you're worried that your mortgage lender will make you take out a more expensive buy-to-let mortgage, make sure you're prepared to argue your case. Inform your mortgage lender of your likely rental income and provide proof that your rental income will more than cover your mortgage payments plus the costs of maintaining the buy-to-let property and any void (empty) periods.

Some mortgage lenders will rise your mortgage rate by around 0.5 per cent and give you permission. Other mortgage lenders will insist that you switch from a residential mortgage to a buy-to-let mortgage. Unfortunately, this will probably be more expensive than a residential mortgage and you may also incur early repayment fees on your original residential mortgage.

Some banks offer a rental window – so if you’re going to rent out your property for one, two or three years, they won’t force you onto a buy-to-let mortgage immediately.

  • Find out more about a landlord's rights and responsibilities in Residential Lettings.
  • Find out all about tenancy agreements and tenant's rights and responsibilities in Renting: The Essential Landlord's Guide to Tenant's Rights.

No, it can be for any length of time. (There was a six-month minimum rule but that changed years ago.) However, if you had a troublesome tenant who you wanted to evict as a last resort, a court would not give an eviction order until six months after the beginning of the tenancy, however long the term was in the tenancy agreement.

Yes, you can. But it might be wiser if you only let it for an initial 12 months. That would allow you to (a) get rid of the tenant more readily after 12 months if they proved a nuisance, and (b) put the rent up if you created a new tenancy agreement with a new rent for the same tenant for the second twelve months. It gives you more flexibility.

It depends. If the building is made up purpose-built flats, fine, go ahead and use the Tenancy Agreement (for an assured shorthold tenancy). But if the building is a conversion, i.e. it was once a house and was converted into separate flats, no, you should not use our Tenancy Agreement.  Use our Contractual (non-AST) Tenancy Agreement instead.

In theory yes, but you must be careful because some of the clauses in the tenancy agreement cover ‘statutory’ requirements, i.e. they are written down in law and cannot be ignored. For example, landlords are required to maintain and repair the property – you cannot change this legal requirement placed upon landlords.  If you want to add specific clauses relating to the tenant’s use of the property, for example that the tenant must mow the lawn every fortnight, that would be acceptable (as long as the tenant agrees!). You can add your own clauses by typing them up on separate sheets of paper, which should be signed by both you and the tenant(s) and stapled to both copies of the tenancy agreement.

We continually review our tenancy agreements, looking at ways to improve them. In the case of guarantors, we were advised by the specialist lettings solicitors who monitor our tenancy agreements, that it would be better to remove the guarantor clause from our tenancy agreements and publish a separate guarantor agreement instead. By doing this, there was much more scope to set out the role and responsibilities of the guarantor in detail, giving better protection for the landlord.

The answer to this is that all our tenancy agreements can be used for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Whether or not a property is classed as an HMO does not affect the kind of tenancy agreement you use. HMO status is not included in the terms of a tenancy agreement, because it is not part of the contract between a landlord and a tenant. It is, however, to do with a landlord’s relationship with their local authority, who enforce the HMO regulations. If the property you want to let is an HMO, contact your local authority to discuss this, as it may need to be licensed.

When inviting a lodger to live in your home, it's understandable that you are concerned about their background.

If you find a lodger through a recognised agency, such as a foreign student, then the agency should have referenced the tenant thoroughly.

But if you have advertised for a lodger yourself, then it's important that you do tenant checks.

According to the criminal rehabilitation charity NACRO, landlords can ask a prospective tenant about their criminal past but it is up to the prospective lodger whether they disclose them. 

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 the tenant doesn't have to disclose their spent offences, but they must reveal their unspent convictions if asked.

With the lodger's permission you can do a Basic Disclosure check on them. This is the lowest level of criminal record check, which can be made on payment of a fee.

The Basic Disclosure will contain details of their unspent convictions, if there are any. It is only issued to the applicant, whether that is the lodger or you, as landlord, acting with consent.

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