Legally you need to have a contract to rent a property which outlines all the rules and guidelines you and the landlord must abide to. Some of the rules will be basic good etiquette, such as keeping windows clean and disposing of rubbish in the appropriate place. Other rules will state the obvious: that you aren’t allowed to wilfully damage anything, plus anything that is damaged will be paid for out of your deposit.
Common sense items will be in the contract: everything from having to inform the landlord (or managing agent) when problems come up, to the amount of rent you must pay and on which date every month. Contracts will specify that landlords are restricted from entering the property without giving notice and seeking prior permission and that they must maintain the property and remedy faults.
Assured Shorthold Tenancy
This is the name given to the ‘standard’ contract that 99% of all landlords or agents will use. AST’s (as they are known) can be used for rental agreements that allow the tenant between 6 months to 3 years occupation. More or less than this and specific contracts are drawn up, however 1 year tenancies are the norm. Most of the terms, conditions and clauses in an AST are standard, making comparison of contracts easier and cheaper.
Most important to check are: the length of tenancy, the landlords notice to repossess the property (often 2 months, after the initial term of 6 months or so), your notice period and the first date at which a rent review (change in rental price) can occur, which usually only occurs on renewing the contract.
The Key to an AST from the landlords perspective is that they can take back the property at the end of the agreed rental period. In the past tenants had the right to stay in the property (if continuing to pay rent) as long as they wanted. Should you want a different type of contract, or if you want to learn about all the varying contracts that are available (especially if you are not offered an AST) then click here for a guide to ASTs and other contracts.
Sometimes an AST is not viable. For example if you want the tenancy contract to be in the name of a company you own (rather than your own name), if you are paying over £100,000 a year in rent, or if you are paying no rent (!), or if the landlord lives in the property.
AST – Your Rights
Take comfort that if you sign an AST agreement your landlord has to provide a fair standard of living for you by agreeing to honour the following:
A minimum length of stay in the property
Right to quiet possession (i.e. others can’t come and go in the property, just because you don’t own it)
Keep the property structure in a state of ‘good repair’. This means doors, windows, outer walls and the roof externally. Internally all the ‘utilities’ must be in good order (heating, electric supply, water and waste drainage).
Want to learn more about ASTs and your rights? Click here for the Shelter Advice Guide.
You or your landlord may wish to add extra clauses to the tenancy agreement. You must request any additions you want in advance. We suggest some of these in our negotiation tips page, scroll down and you will see them under the ‘clauses’ subheading.