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22 May 2018

I am renting a flat for 12 months. It has been a few years since I last rented a flat. What should I look out for in the tenancy agreement?

This article was first published by City AM, Thursday 17 May 2018

While you do not say specifically, I assume the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), which is the most common form of tenancy applicable for renting a home.

An AST is not suitable where the rent is more than £100,000 (£25,000 in Wales) a year or less than £250 a year (or less than £1,000 in London), is a business tenancy or the landlord lives in the same property or the tenant is a limited company, for example.

Often the tenancy will require the tenant to abide by the terms of the headlease ie the lease the landlord has entered into in respect of his flat. You should request and check these terms are consistent with the tenancy. For example, the headlease may not allow pets whereas the landlord may in the tenancy agree for pets to be kept at the property.

Where a landlord requires a rent deposit, you should check the deposit has been placed in the relevant designated scheme because a failure to do so may mean you can apply to a County Court to repay the deposit or transfer the deposit to a special tenancy deposit protection scheme. The Court may also order the landlord to repay up to three times the original deposit, as well.

If the terms of the tenancy are too onerous or unfair, there are certain legislation and regulations (Consumer Rights Act 2015) which will deem the provisions unenforceable or void. For example, a tenancy which contains the ability only for a landlord to break the tenancy, or a fixed tenancy which requires a tenant to still give two months’ notice, or a clause containing an unreasonable financial penalty could all be at risk of being unfair.

If there are two or more proposed tenants, they should think about whether an AST of a whole flat or individual ASTs of rooms, with right to use shared parts, is appropriate.

The Housing Act 1988 sets out the main ways in which a landlord can regain possession of the property including specific reasons (grounds) to seek possession. The tenancy should contain the full text of each ground for possession. Parties sometimes assume these are statutory grounds and do not need to specially set them out in the tenancy, which is not the case. With more people renting and ongoing change in the sector, it is important to seek professional advice before entering a tenancy.

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