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Landlord and tenant FAQs

If my tenant leaves their fixed-term assured shorthold tenancy agreement early, must they still pay the rent?
Under the Lawpack tenancy agreement 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 property.
What obligations does your tenant have to you, as their landlord, and your property?
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 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.
If I rent out a room to a lodger, are there any tax breaks? Can I rent a room tax free?
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 £7,500 of any income is tax free, i.e. a rent of £144.23 per week is tax free.

If the rent is higher than £7,500, you either elect to pay tax on the surplus above £7,500 (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.
Do tenancy agreements need to be witnessed?
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.

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

In Scotland, it's recommended that the tenancy is witnessed, as it then becomes self-proving.
Do I need to get permission from anyone before letting out my property?
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.
I'm moving for a new job and can't sell my house, so I've decided to rent it out. Do I have to tell my mortgage lender and won't they make me take out a more expensive buy-to-let mortgage?
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.
Does an AST tenancy agreement have to be for a minimum of six months?
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.
I want to let my property for two years to the same tenant – can I use Lawpack's AST tenancy agreement for that?
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.
I live in the same building as the separate flat I want to let. Is Lawpack's AST Tenancy Agreement OK to use in this situation?
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.
Can I delete clauses in the tenancy agreement? Can I add my own, if the Lawpack agreement does not cover everything I need?
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.
I want a tenancy agreement for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) but can’t find one on your website. Where can I get one?
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.
Am I in my rights to find out if my prospective lodger has a criminal record?
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 or lodger about their criminal past but it is up to the prospective lodger whether they disclose them.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 the lodger 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.
I want a problem tenant to leave my property; what can I do to evict a tenant?
If you're a landlord who wants to evict your tenant, you must take steps to serve the proper form of eviction notice.

In England & Wales you will have to evict your tenant using either a Section 8 Notice, which should be used after the tenant is in rent arrears of more than eight weeks/two months (depending if the rent is paid weekly or monthly), or a Section 21 Notice (which can only be used at the end of the fixed term or after it has ended). There are separate Section 21 Notices for England and for Wales.

The Section 8 Notice has a notice period of not less than two weeks, and a Section 21 Notice has a notice period of not less than two months and it must not end before the end of the fixed term. In many cases, you can use both eviction notices.

In Scotland, you must use a Notice to Leave for tenancies created after 1 December 2017 (called private residential tenancies). You must use a Section 33 Notice and Notice to Quit for short assured tenancies created before that date.
Should I get the name of a guarantor to pay the rent in case the tenant defaults?
If you're worried about a prospective tenant's ability to pay the rent, it's wise to take a guarantee from a third party. For example, guarantees are often taken from parents of students when they sign tenancy agreements. However, you should take up references and do credit checks on guarantors, as you would on a tenant; it's no good having a guarantor who is as impecunious as a tenant. It's unwise to allow the tenant to take the tenancy agreement away to get the guarantor to sign it; it has not been unknown for tenants to forge guarantors' signatures in these circumstances. If the guarantor doesn't sign the agreement in front of you, make sure that the signature is witnessed by someone you can trust, who can vouch for their identity.
I wanted to sell my flat last year, but I couldn’t find a buyer and so I rented it out. I now want to sell it but I still have tenants in my rental property. Is that a problem?
No, you can still sell your rental property while you have tenants. If you are selling the property as a buy-to-let, then the tenants won't have to move out. But it might be a good idea to have a chat with your tenants and reassure them about the sale.

When you show potential buyers around the property, of course you will have to give your tenants notice that you wish to enter the property. Depending on the terms of your tenancy agreement, you normally have to give 24 or 48 hours’ notice to your tenants.

If you are intending to sell your property as a home that will be lived in by the buyer and are not selling it as a buy-to-let property, then you have to give your tenants two months’ notice that they have to vacate, so it might be an idea to wait until two months before the end of the tenancy before you start trying to sell. You must give your tenants a notice to terminate (using a Section 21 Notice) to ask them to leave at the end of the fixed term.

It's a good idea to show potential buyers around the property yourself and don't let your estate agent allow the tenants to show people round. Tenants usually aren't as keen as you to keep the property presentable, so it may be worth giving your tenants a discount on the rent to encourage them to keep your property in good order. Alternatively, you could hire a cleaner to make sure that it's in tip-top condition.


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