It is critically important for landlords to have a written tenancy agreement.
While it is possible to create a tenancy without a written agreement, it is certainly not a good idea. Here are four good reasons why you should always have a written agreement:
1) With a written agreement you can prove what was agreed between you and the tenants. Otherwise your tenants could claim, for example, that the rental figure is less than you actually agreed, and without a written agreement you wouldn’t have any evidence to the contrary.
2) You wouldn’t be able to evict your tenants using the faster and cheaper accelerated possession procedure without a written agreement.
3) There would be no point in you holding a tenancy deposit, because you would not be able to make deductions from a deposit without an appropriate clause in a written agreement.
4) You may want to insert special clauses, such as a break clause, or a ‘no pets’ clause.
A written agreement is not enough
However, it’s not enough to have a written agreement. It also needs to be properly drafted.
You can download standard tenancy agreements for free from a number of websites, but how do you know if they’re any good? Or in fact, even legal? Taking a chance and trusting to luck with a free, poorly drafted agreement could end up costing you thousands if it all goes pear-shaped.
You also need to be careful about adding clauses yourself, because they could be considered ‘unfair’, and therefore invalid, if poorly worded. To give you an example, a clause stopping your tenants from keeping pets would be considered unfair, and therefore invalid, unless it stated that the tenants can request permission for keeping a pet, and that the landlord must not unreasonably refuse. Even if you know you would never give permission for a pet, your ‘no pets’ clause would be invalid if it omitted that wording. Your tenants would therefore be entitled to keep a pet without even getting your consent!
Protect yourself and your property from pitfalls such as these by getting a properly drafted tenancy agreement. Make sure it is appropriate for the circumstances of your tenancy (eg. common law tenancy, assured shorthold tenancy etc.) The best option is to speak to a solicitor specialising in residential landlord and tenant law, or to contact a reputable letting agent, ideally one who is regulated by ARLA or RICS. Please let us know if you’ve had any experience of any of the above, (you can remain anonymous if you wish), but it may help someone about to make a similar mistake.