Let’s be realistic — you won’t hire a lawyer to look over your tenancy agreement — it’s too expensive and the tenancy agreement is usually a standard form anyway.
However, standard agreement or not, it is still useful to actually understand what you’re signing.
Tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord and it may be either written or verbal. The tenancy agreement gives certain rights to both you and your landlord - for example, you gain the right to live at the property, and the landlord gains the right to receive payment for the duration of the tenancy.
Majority of the tenancies in England will be Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) if you rent from a landlord or an estate agent. It means that your landlord does not live with you, and the live-out landlord has to fulfil certain obligations to you as their tenant.
ASTs can be either for a fixed term (for example 6-12 months) or periodic (rolling weekly or monthly). It is also common for an AST to start as a fixed term tenancy and then move onto a periodic one, for example if your contract contains a clause that the letting is for a minimum of 6 months and unless a month’s notice has been given, the tenancy will be rolling.
In your contract, the landlord must state the following information:
- start date of tenancy
- rent payable and rent due date
- any rent review clause
- the length of any fixed term agreement
- the name and address of your landlord.
- What the rent includes, for example internet, council tax or parking space
- What services the landlord provides, for example cleaners of communal areas every fortnight
Furthermore, your landlord is under an obligation to give you the latest gas safety certificate and an energy performance certificate for the building.
Important point to note — the energy performance is measured on a scale A-G, and if the building scores lower than E, the landlord is not normally allowed to let the property in the first place.
Similarly, the higher the EPC rating, the better insulated your future home is — which means a smaller energy bill!
Break clause & Notice period
Some landlords include a break clause as standard in their agreements. But it is possible to negotiate for a break clause to be included before signing the contract.
It might not be labelled as a 'break clause'. When reviewing a tenancy agreement, look for anything about giving notice or terminating the tenancy early.
A break clause should state clearly:
- when you can give notice
- how much notice you should give
Check the wording carefully and give notice in the way the break clause tells you to. This is sometimes called exercising or activating the break clause. If the clause isn't clear, ask your landlord or agent to explain it in writing.
An example of a break clause may look like this:
"This agreement may be ended by landlord or tenant giving at least 2 months' notice in writing, to expire at any time after 6 months from the start of this agreement."
In translation, the tenant in this example must live in the flat for a minimum of 6 months before they are allowed to give notice. They will have to pay rent for 2 more months from the day they’ve handed in their notice, which means they can also live there for 2 more months.
Remember, your tenancy and right to live there end when your notice ends. You won't be liable for ongoing rent and you can't usually withdraw a break clause notice so make sure you have somewhere to go before giving notice.
Fixed term tenancy
If your tenancy is for a fixed term - for example your contract says that you have the right to occupy the tenancy from 1 January 2022 until 31 December 2022, you have a 12 months’ fixed term tenancy. It is very common for student properties to be fixed term tenancies.
If that’s the case, the contract usually will not include a break clause and you will be required to pay rent on the property until your contract expires.
You will not be required to hand your notice in either — as per the above example, your last day of the tenancy is 31 December 2022 and that’s the day you’d have to remove all your belongings and hand your keys in.
If you want to leave the property part way through the fixed term, you may consult with your landlord whether they’d allow for someone else to take over your tenancy for the remaining period.
However, be mindful that the landlord might ask you to pay any legal fees relating to change of the contract.
Need more help?
It is important to have a general understanding of your tenancy agreement before you sign it.
If you find a clause in your contract that you’re unsure about — Repit is here for you to provide advice and help with tenancy agreement negotiations.