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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, intelligible language with no unnecessary jargon. 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. It is signed by both the landlord and tenant and a copy given to each.
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 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 wants 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, ie. if the tenants walk away, they still have to pay the rent until their existing contract expires. 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.
What can I do to improve the rental value or the chances of finding a tenant?
Keep the property professionally clean. A clean and tidy property will not only be easier to rent, it will also mean that a fair rent is justified. Think about whether you would want to live there or not. You might also decide to furnish the property – this should be at a level you would be comfortable yourself. Remember to allow for reasonable wear and tear on any furnishings that you provide. No matter what level you decide on, carpets/flooring and curtains/blinds (of a decent standard) must always be provided.
How can I be sure a tenant will not destroy my property?
Any good, honest letting agent will advise there is always a risk. It is our job to minimise that risk when letting out your property. We take every care possible utilising our extensive tenant vetting procedures for all tenants.
What happens if I need my property back at short notice?
The minimum lease period is normally a 6month fixed term tenancy agreement, giving either party the option to extend thereafter. The earliest occupancy could be returned would be the end of the first lease term.
What if I want to lease my property long term?
The same type of lease would be used. There is no maximum time limit on a fixed term tenancy agreement and this type of lease gives you, the landlord, the best protection. Signing longer leases for more than one year could make it difficult for possession to be recovered.
Do I need to inform anybody else that I am letting the property?
You must inform and have consent from your mortgage lender and freeholder* (if you are a leaseholder or a management company). Keep any written consents safe along with any other documents regarding the property. You must also inform the insurance company and receive their consent to the tenancy. You must also advise the Inland Revenue that you are renting the property.
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 a landlord to insure the building and his/her contents, fixtures and fittings.
The tenants are responsible for insuring any of their own possessions. There are various specialist insurance products designed for landlords and tenants and rented property: – Buildings, Contents, Legal Expenses, Emergency Repair cover, Rental Guarantee cover etc
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 for 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.