You should always have a Written Tenancy Agreement

Why is it important to have a written tenancy agreement?

In England and Wales, many landlords in the private residential sector are not required by law to have a written agreement in place, with many tenancies agreed verbally.

However, a verbal tenancy agreement carries significant risk and room for misinterpretation which can lead to headaches (and expensive costs!) down the line. Which is why we advise all landlords to have a written tenancy agreement signed by the tenants before they move in, even when letting to family or friends.

There are many benefits to having a written tenancy agreement:

  • It is much easier to prove what was agreed between the parties. Without a written agreement it is difficult to prove what the parties agreed at the beginning. Having an agreement in writing can therefore prevent future disputes, and if a dispute does arise, a written agreement can help to resolve the issue quickly.
  • Both parties know exactly what is expected of them. A written tenancy generally includes terms which prohibit sub-letting, requires tenants to notify the landlord as soon as reasonably possible about disrepairs, sets out what utilities are payable by the tenant, requires the tenant to keep the property in a good and clean condition, and will also clearly state how much notice the tenant needs to give to the landlord to bring the tenancy to an end.
  • A landlord is required to provide the tenant with an address in England and Wales at which notices may be served by the tenant. If this notice is not given to the tenant, rent is not deemed to be due from the tenant until the landlord complies with their obligation to provide an address. Whilst a written tenancy is not required to provide the address, it is a simple way to evidence that an address has been given and was received by the tenants.
  • Additional clauses can be inserted. For example, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 caps any interest claimed against rent arrears at 3% above the Base Rate of England. In order for a landlord to claim interest on rent arrears there must be a term within the tenancy agreement. Further, some tenancy agreements include a term that the tenant is liable to pay the landlord’s reasonable costs incurred by the landlord as a consequence of any breach of the agreement or in respect of court proceedings for possession. Without this term in a written tenancy, it is unlikely that a landlord will be able to recover their costs.
  • It is an opportunity to provide, and evidence service of, the Gas Safety Certificate, How to Rent: the Checklist for renting in England, Energy Performance Certificate, and Deposit Prescribed Information.
  • Some insurance providers will require a written tenancy agreement to offer a policy for landlords.

The law in this area is fast evolving and specialist advice and assistance should be sought to ensure that Landlords are adequately protected and all agreements are up to date with the current law. We have come across several tenancy agreements that have actually made the landlord’s position worse because they didn’t take the time to consult a solicitor while creating them and this can be a costly and stressful mistake if things don’t go to plan with a tenant!

Contact our specialist solicitor, Katie Jones for further information on preparing a written Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. You can either click here to email Katie or call 0800 118 1500.