Tenancy agreements

Introduction

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The tenancy agreement is a legally binding document agreed between you as a 'lessee' or tenant and the landlord, applicable only to the property you are renting. It is designed to protect the interests of both the landlord and the tenants. This document should set out your responsibilities as a tenant clearly. These will vary from agreement to agreement, depending on the property and the demands of the landlord.

Make sure that you thoroughly read the small print as some clauses can unfairly favour the landlord or agent. If there is something that looks a bit dodgy or which is in legal terms that you don't quite understand, get the advice of a seasoned pro, a solicitor or the Citizens advice bureau.

NEVER SIGN ANYTHING YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND

Normally the landlord or the letting agent will provide the tenancy agreement. You must read the document thoroughly. The tenancy agreement is normally drawn up by a solicitor or according to a set model that has previously been devised by a solicitor on the lettings agent's behalf. Some people advise against landlords using off the shelf tenancy agreements.

You should never agree to rent a property without a full and legally binding tenancy agreement between yourself and either the landlord or letting/managing agent. The only possible exception to this is where two friends have a landlord and tenant relationship, but even then a written agreement is strongly advisable to protect against unforeseeable changes in circumstances.

In theory, tenancy agreements can be verbal. These should be as legally binding as written ones. In practise, relying on a verbal agreement to stand up in court is a dangerous practice. When it's your word against the landlord's it's not always the person telling the truth that wins.

All tenants will normally have joint and several responsibility under the terms of the tenancy. This means that you are individually and collectively responsible for all aspects of the property. If one of you doesn't pay your share of the rent, then by law the others will be liable for it and the landlord is within his rights to pursue all of you through the courts to recover the amount owed.

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