Tenancy agreements for private tenants
When you move into a private rented property, your landlord should ask you to sign a tenancy agreement outlining the terms of your stay. This will usually be a written document, but it can also be a verbal agreement. If you don't have a written agreement, you still have rights as a tenant.
Do I need a written tenancy agreement?
If your landlord doesn't give you a written tenancy agreement, you still have legal rights as a tenant. You may have an assured tenancy, based on the behaviour of both yourself and your landlord, for example paying and receiving rent.
All assured and short assured tenants (see 'what kind of tenancy will I have below') are entitled to a written agreement, so if your landlord refuses to give you one you can go to the sheriff court to ask for a lease to be drawn up.
What should a tenancy agreement include?
Tenancy agreements have to include:
- Landlord details -the name of the landlord and his contact details
- Tenant details - the tenant's name
- Rental address - the address of the property to be rented
- Rent - the amount of rent to pay
- Term - how long the lease is for (if this isn't specified it will be assumed to be one year).
Agreements should also include:
- the kind of tenancy being offered (for example, assured or short assured)
- whether the rent covers services (such as gas and electricity) or whether these are extra, and who is responsible for council tax (usually the tenant, unless there is a resident landlord)
- when the rent should be paid (for example, the first of the month) and how it should be paid (for example, by cheque or direct debit)
- the amount of deposit to be paid and in what circumstances it will not be returned
- what your obligations are to repair and decorate the property
- whether any furniture is provided
- what the conditions are for ending the lease: how much notice you need to give the landlord before moving out, and how much notice they must give you before asking you to leave. Remember, this cannot reduce your legal rights to stay in the property - get advice if you're concerned about this.
- whether you are allowed to take in lodgers or sublet the property
- whether you are allowed to pass the tenancy on to someone else
- any other terms, for example whether you need to look after the garden, whether you are allowed to keep pets, etc.
The page on tenancy agreements has more information on what a fair tenancy agreement should contain.
What if I'm not happy with the terms of the tenancy agreement?
Your landlord may be willing to negotiate on some terms (for example, if they have a 'no pets' rule they may relent and let your hamster move in with you) but could well prove inflexible on other points.
If you're not happy about signing the tenancy agreement your landlord gives you, you can take it to a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice and ask an adviser to check it over for you. Use the Advice Services Directory to find help near you. If you're a student, you can ask your Student Accommodation Officer to check it for you.
They will be able to tell you if any of the terms are unfair, and can probably negotiate with your landlord on your behalf to get the terms changed.
What are my rights as a private tenant?
As a private tenant, your rights come from:
- the law
- your tenancy agreement.
Your legal rights will depend on the kind of tenancy you have.
What kind of tenancy will I have?
- If you rent from a private landlord, you will probably have either:
- If you share with your landlord, for example rent a room in their house, you will probably be a common law tenant, and have different rights.
- If you started renting from your landlord before 1989, you will probably have a regulated tenancy, again with different rights.