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Tenancy agreements

A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord that sets out your rights to live in a rented property. This page explains what a tenancy agreement should contain and you can also download a tenancy agreement template.

What is a tenancy agreement?

It is a contract between you and your landlord which sets out both of your rights and responsibilities while you are renting the property. Your rights depend on the kind of tenancy you have. If you're not sure about what kind of tenancy you have use our online tenancy checker to find out. If you're still unsure, you can ask an adviser. Use our Advice Services Directory to find help in your area.

Does a tenancy agreement have to be in writing?

When you move in your landlord should give you a written tenancy agreement. However, you don't need to have a written tenancy agreement to have rights. If your landlord has given you permission to live in the property and accepts rent from you, a contract can be said to exist between you.

Download a tenancy agreement template from The City of Edinburgh council.

Where do tenancy rights come from?

Your rights as a tenant come from:

  • the law
  • your tenancy agreement.

Your legal rights cannot be taken away, no matter what your tenancy agreement says. This means that sometimes you have more rights than what's in your tenancy agreement.

For example:

  • Paying your rent late: your tenancy agreement might say that if rent is so many days late then you have to leave. This is simply a scare tactic. Not paying your rent is a ground for eviction, however, your landlord needs a court order before they can evict you.
  • A week's notice to leave: your landlord may put something in your tenancy agreement which says they can give you a week's notice to leave the property. This is also unenforceable, because the law gives you at least four weeks' notice before you can be made to leave the property. In addition your landlord must get a court order to make you leave. The section on eviction has more information on when your landlord can ask you to leave.

Your tenancy agreement can also add to your rights. For example, it may say that you can keep pets, or redecorate.

What should a tenancy agreement contain?

A tenancy agreement should list the terms and conditions you and your landlord need to stick to while you're renting the property. It should state:

  • the name and address of your landlord
  • the address of the property you're renting
  • how much rent you will pay
  • how long you can live in the property for.

If you haven't agreed on these four things with your landlord (for example, if you don't pay rent) you may not have a legal tenancy. If this is the case you may be a non-tenant occupier, with fewer rights than a tenant. If you're not sure about your tenancy status use our online tenancy checker.

What else can a tenancy agreement include?

A tenancy agreement could include the following:

  • Rent - when it's due, how it should be paid (e.g. by cheque, standing order etc) and what it covers (e.g. does it cover bills and/or council tax? Are there extra charges for cleaning etc?)
  • Deposit - whether you have to pay one, and if so, what it covers and what circumstances will mean you won't be able to get it back
  • How to end the tenancy - e.g. can you leave before the end of the fixed period?
  • Furniture - what, if any, will be provided
  • Decorations - are you responsible for internal decorations? (Your landlord will be responsible for external and structural repairs)
  • Subletting - whether you can sublet
  • Taking in a lodger - whether you can have lodgers
  • Passing on the tenancy - whether you can pass the tenancy on to anyone else

As well as any other relevant information or house rules, for example about pets, guests or smoking.

How can I make sure my tenancy agreement is fair?

Your tenancy agreement should be written in straightforward language and easy to understand. It shouldn't contain any unfair terms. Examples of unfair terms might be something stating that:

  • your landlord can change the terms of the tenancy agreement whenever they like and that you will have to accept the new terms
  • you have to pay for repairs that should be your landlord's responsibility
  • your landlord can enter the property whenever they like, without giving you notice.

Unfair terms are not legally binding. If you think your tenancy agreement may include unfair terms or if your landlord is holding you to something you don't think is fair, you can ask a housing adviser to look at the agreement for you. Check what you need to know about landlord access to the property and your rights.

Gov.UK has more information on unfair terms and how to complain about them. The City of Edinburgh council have an example of a tenancy agreement and what it should contain.

What if I share my rented accommodation?

If you share a flat or house, you will have one of the following tenancy types:

  • Joint tenancy - this means that everyone in the flat or house is on the same tenancy agreement and you are all responsible for paying the rent and bills. If one of you doesn't pay the rent, the others will have to pay it.
  • Sole tenancy - this means that one person in the flat has signed the tenancy agreement with the landlord and is responsible for paying the rent and bills. Everyone else in the flat will still have to pay their share, but if someone doesn't pay, the person on the tenancy agreement is ultimately responsible for coming up with the money.
  • Separate tenancy - this means that everyone in the flat or house has a separate tenancy agreement with the landlord and is responsible for paying the amount of rent that's written in their agreement.

Our page on your rights if you share and the section on sharing accommodation has more information on things you should think about before moving into a shared house or flat.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

The important points

  • A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord.
  • When you move into a property your landlord should give you a written tenancy agreement.
  • You legal rights cannot be taken away no matter what a tenancy agreement says.
  • Tenancy agreements should be written in plain English and be easy to understand.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us

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