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Understanding Tenancy Agreements

April 16, 2013

Tenants are now staying in rental properties for significantly longer periods, according to the latest research from the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). An upward trend has been firmly established with the average length of stay reaching 19 months at the end of 2012, compared with just 15 months five years ago.

Ian Potter, Managing Director, ARLA, says: “Tenancy agreements are a fact of life for tenants and landlords, but all too often they are not fully understood, if properly read at all. Before signing anything both tenant and landlord should always ensure they understand the agreement and negotiate any changes with the landlord or agent before finalising the document.

“Ignorance of the terms outlined in a tenancy agreement is no defence against losing a deposit, or being saddled with an unexpected bill. Tenants can therefore save a good deal of time and money by familiarising themselves with the terms they are likely to see in a document like this. Renting should ultimately be a positive experience and a basic level of understanding, combined with good communication with landlords and letting agents should ensure this is the case.”

ARLA has created the following checklist to help prospective tenants:

1. Always negotiate on paper

A tenancy agreement can be altered before it is signed, if both the tenant and landlord agree to the proposed changes. Make sure any agreement to carry out specific repairs or provide additional furniture is put into writing to ensure no disputes arise.

2. If in doubt, seek professional help

It is worth remembering that, in England and Wales, it isn’t a legal requirement for tenants to have a written tenancy agreement. Despite this, you should always ask for one to be provided by the letting agent or landlord.

3. Protect your cash

It is a legal requirement for tenancy deposits to be protected by an approved deposit scheme, and this should be explicitly referenced in the tenancy agreement.

4. Your right to quiet enjoyment 

When you rent from a private landlord, or through their agent, you have a legal right to use the property in a reasonable fashion without being disturbed by either party. If the landlord or letting agent would like to access the property, they should give at least 24 hours notice to comply with this requirement.

5. Who pays the bills?

The tenancy agreement should clearly outline what utility and household bills you will be responsible for, and if there is any uncertainty, be sure to clarify this with the landlord.

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