While a tenancy agreement will protect your rights as a tenant, there are various scenarios you may encounter which may cause issues. Therefore, it is wise to plan ahead before committing to a tenancy.
Before your search
When searching for a rental property, using an accredited letting agent can provide reassurance; look for letting agents that are members of the ARLA Propertymark or National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS).
At present there are no statutory arrangements for the regulation of letting agents. However, since 1st October 2014, all letting agents in England must be a member of a government approved redress scheme. Letting agent redress schemes provide a free and independent service for resolving disputes between letting agents and their customers (landlords and tenants).
Additionally, there are accrediting bodies that operate codes of practice and compliance controls which govern their members. KFH is a member of ARLA Propertymark and The Property Ombudsman Redress Scheme (TPO), meaning landlords and tenants are provided peace of mind when using our services.
Joint and several tenancy agreements
If you are sharing a property you will have a Joint and Several liability tenancy agreement, which means that each tenant is jointly and individually responsible for the term so, if the agreement including paying the rent. Therefore, if one person falls behind in rent payments, you and/or your guarantor, are all responsible for paying it, or any arrears that build up because of it.
Ending a joint tenancy
A joint tenancy can only be ended at the end of a fixed term or in line with a break clause agreed within the tenancy agreement - and only if all tenants act together as joint and several tenants. One tenant cannot end a tenancy for the others.
In some circumstances a landlord may agree to release one tenant if another suitable person is found to take his/her place and enter into a new tenancy, but this is not guaranteed. This will involve additional cost to the landlord who may look to you to cover this.
Similarly the landlord does not have to agree to end the tenancy early for all tenants. If they do then again they can expect to recover their reasonable costs from you.
However, it is possible for one, or more, tenants to leave the property at the end of the fixed term, but the landlord is still entitled to the full rent from the remaining tenants until proper notice is given to end the tenancy.
A landlord can only give proper notice to end the tenancy for all tenants, they cannot just evict one tenant.
Joint tenancy deposits
By law the deposit must be protected by a government approved tenancy deposit protection scheme. The deposit for a joint tenancy is treated as a deposit for all named tenants.
If any agreed deductions are to be made at the end of the tenancy, they will be taken from the entire deposit – disputes cannot be raised against individual shares. In many cases, tenants will be required to nominate a ‘lead tenant’ who will act on behalf of all tenants throughout the deposit protection process.
Rent and rent increases
Tenants must pay the rent agreed when the tenancy started. The landlord will not be able to increase the rent during the fixed term unless the tenant agrees to it or the tenancy agreement allows for it. If the tenancy is to be renewed for a further fixed term, then a new rent should be agreed at this time. Rent can be increased for ASTs during periodic tenancies by using certain notices.
Rent arrears and financial difficulty
It is important to pay your rent on time; if you do not, you may be at risk of eviction. If you are experiencing financial difficulty it is important that you speak to your landlord or agent; you may be able to reach an agreement about how to pay the arrears.
Your landlord may decide to take legal action against you, which could include losing your home and applying for a county court judgement (CCJ), which sets out what you owe and how you must pay it back. Incurring a CCJ will affect your credit rating, and may make it harder for you to rent privately in the future.
If you are unable to pay your rent but have a guarantor, your landlord or letting agent will contact them for payment.
If you are having difficulty paying your rent, you must let your landlord or agent know the reason as soon as possible as there are organisations that can provide advice. Find out more here.
Ending the tenancy
If your tenancy was fixed term (e.g. six months) and you vacate the property at the end of the fixed term, you are not usually required to give notice. If you stay on in the property anytime for after the fixed term period has expired, the tenancy will become a periodic tenancy (rolling from month to month) and the usual notice period (at least one calendar month )will apply and the notice will need to end at the end of a monthly rental period. If your rent is usually paid other than monthly, this could vary.
As above, if you want to end a fixed term agreement early, you can only do so with the permission of your landlord, or if there is a break clause in the agreement which allows for the tenancy to end early. The notice period required in the break clause will be outlined in your tenancy agreement.
If you leave without giving notice, you will be liable for paying rent up to the date the notice period should have expired. In any event, it is always sensible to speak to your landlord or letting agent when you are thinking about leaving the property.
The landlord is not legally allowed to end a tenancy within the fixed term period unless there is a break clause, or the tenant has breached the conditions of their tenancy agreement.
Deposits and disputes
At the end of your tenancy, your deposit should be returned to you in full unless you agree that your landlord may make reasonable deductions. Deductions can be claimed against your deposit if you left the tenancy before the fixed term ended, if any rent is outstanding, if there is damage to the property beyond ‘reasonable wear and tear’, if items are missing, if you have breached any of the tenancy terms or if you do not leave the property in a similar state as at the start of the tenancy, including cleaning.
If there is a dispute about deductions between the landlord or agent and the tenant, the deposit will remain protected in the scheme until the issue has been resolved. Ensuring an inventory was agreed at the start and at the end of the tenancy will help safeguard both parties against such a dispute. If you want the tenancy deposit protection scheme to adjudicate any deposit dispute then you must submit your case to them within three months of the end of the tenancy.
If you are unsure if your deposit has been placed in a tenancy deposit protection scheme, ask your landlord or letting agent, or contact the schemes directly. Click here for more information about deposits.
The landlord is legally responsible for maintaining the structure and exterior of the property, for the installations supplying the utilities, for sanitary ware, for the supply of heating and hot water and for what is agreed in the tenancy agreement. Responsibilities for other repairs may be outlined in your tenancy agreement – if you are unsure, speak to your landlord or letting agent.
It is important to report problems with the property so that your landlord can make the necessary repairs if they are the landlord's responsibility. If a problem you have not reported worsens over time or causes damage to the property, your landlord may make a claim against you for his financial loss and withhold some or all of your deposit in order to pay for the repair.
To find out more about each parties' responsibilities, read our Tenant’s rights and responsibilities guide.
The government also produce this helpful guide ‘How to rent: the checking for renting in England’ which details your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. You should be given a copy of this at the start of the tenancy.