Assured shorthold tenancy agreements are complicated legal documents that protect a landlord’s rights and property, so it’s important to understand what the terms and conditions mean to you and your tenants.
Although a tenancy agreement is one of the most essential papers a landlord and tenant will sign, few read the details.
Ten things you should expect in your tenancy agreement
If you are a buy to let landlord or rent a home from one, the most common tenancy agreement is an assured shorthold tenancy (AST).
With an AST, the tenant gains the exclusive use of a home, and unless there are exceptional circumstances, the landlord may not enter the property without the tenant’s permission.
The AST should contain these ten pieces of information. Do not sign the contract and ask a solicitor to check out the terms and conditions if any are missing.
Landlord and tenant details
Landlords and tenants should swap names, addresses, and contact details, like email addresses and telephone numbers. The AST should also list the contact details of anyone else involved in the letting, like an agent or guarantor.
The contract date is not when the tenant moves in but the day the tenant starts paying rent.
For example, the AST might start on the first day of the month, but the tenant may not move in until a week or so later.
Data protection statement
A clause limiting who can share a tenant’s personal information.
Property details on an assured shorthold tenancy agreement are often added as an appendix. They would cover information like:
- The extent of the property
- A list of fixtures and fittings
- An inventory
- Details of utility suppliers
- Manuals for using and maintaining white goods, boilers and installed technology
- Emergency contacts
The inventory should include video or images of the property, including the state of the décor.
Security deposit details
A clause in the AST should say how much security deposit the tenant must pay and details of the scheme holding the deposit on protection.
Standard information about:
- How much rent the tenant is paying
- When the rent is due
- What happens if the rent is in arrears
- How the rent can increase
Giving tenants notice to quit
With an AST, a landlord cannot evict a renter while they are within the first six months of a tenancy.
The general notice periods are two months for the landlord and one month for the tenant. However, the government changed the deadlines during the coronavirus pandemic to ban evictions at one point and to extend the landlord notice period.
The current notice periods landlords must give are:
- Until September 30, 2021 – Four months’ notice
- From October 1, 2021 – Two month’s notice
These deadlines apply to landlords letting homes in England. Scotland and Wales have different deadlines.
The government has indicated that the deadline may change if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. Therefore, the situation is due for review by March 25, 2022.
This is the section of the AST that lays out how a tenant should treat their rented home. Standard clauses deal with things like cleaning windows, gardening and putting out the rubbish.
Who to contact if a repair is needed.
Signing the tenancy agreement
The signature block at the end of the agreement is most important.
The agreement only becomes binding when all the parties have signed. The terms can only be changed in writing and must be signed by all parties to the document.
Do landlords need a written tenancy agreement?
An assured shorthold tenancy agreement does not have to be written, providing the fixed term runs for less than three years.
The main reason for having a written AST is security for both landlord and tenants. A written agreement should clearly outline the terms and conditions of the contract for both sides. If a dispute should go before a court, the judge will want to read the AST.
Another important reason for having a written agreement is the option to start accelerated possession proceedings if a landlord wants to evict the tenant. Accelerated possession lets a landlord repossess property without a court hearing if the tenant fails to leave by the date indicated in a Section 21 notice to quit.
Assured Tenancy Agreement FAQ
Can I download a free, model assured shorthold tenancy agreement template?
Yes, a free model tenancy agreement is available from the Ministry of Housing. The agreement is designed to cover rental terms of three years or more but can be edited to cover shorter lets.
Beware of free online downloads from unofficial sources – the contracts may be out of date and breach the law, like the tenant fees ban.
What is a fixed tenancy?
A fixed tenancy is when the AST lasts for a specific time, generally six months or a year. The terms of the AST will make this clear.
What is a periodic tenancy?
Once the fixed term of the AST ends, the contract generally renews every month. This is called a rolling or periodic tenancy. The switch from fixed to periodic tenancy does not need a new AST; the old one rolls on under the same terms.
Can a landlord raise the rent during a periodic tenancy?
Yes, under the terms and conditions of the original tenancy agreement. If that allows a rent rise, then the details apply to the periodic tenancy. No new tenancy agreement is needed, but the landlord should write to the tenant at least a month before the proposed hike to tell them of the increase.
Should the tenancy agreement come with any other documents?
The tenancy agreement is a standalone document that can come with an inventory, which is likely if you move into furnished accommodation.
Otherwise, the landlord must give you gas and electrical safety certificates, an energy performance certificate, a copy of the government’s How to Rent guide, and details of any money placed on deposit protection.
Want to find out more? Read our blog on Letting Agent Fees Explained – Tips for Landlords Included!