LETTING & ESTATE AGENT

The assured shorthold tenancy agreement: What it is and how it affects you

The assured shorthold tenancy agreement: What it is and how it affects you

So, you're looking to rent a home or are in the process of renting one. Chances are you will have come across the 'Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement'.

Essentially, this is the agreement between you and your landlord. It provides legal protection for both parties, so it's well worth knowing in advance what it should include and how the wording affects you as a tenant.

Understanding this key document can ensure that you are protected from any kind of dispute with your landlord and can help your tenancy run as smoothly as possible.


What is a tenancy agreement?

The assured shorthold tenancy agreement (AST) is the most common in the UK. It's the legal contract between a private landlord and their tenant.

All the terms and conditions of the tenancy will, or should, be in this document, ranging from the length of the tenancy, the amount of deposit paid by the tenant and more in-depth details regarding things like pets, smoking and other tenant responsibilities.

The specifics of what's included in an AST agreement are down to the landlord and they can include as much or as little as they wish. They just need to ensure the terms of the tenancy are both legal and fair.

 

What is usually included in an AST?

The following key details should be included in the agreement:

  *  Full names of everyone who will be living in the property (adults only)

  *  The property address

  *  The start date and end date of the tenancy agreement

  *  The amount of monthly rent and how it will be paid, as well as whether it will be paid in advance or at the end of each month

  *  Details on bills for the property and who will be paying them

  *  The total deposit paid by the tenant and in which deposit scheme it is protected

  *  Detailed reasons on why some or all of the deposit amount could be withheld at the end of the agreement

  *   Full details on tenant and landlord responsibilities

  *  Terms under which the tenancy may be terminated before its end date. This could include a break clause.

  *  Terms regarding sub-letting

  *  Details on smoking, pets or other conditions specific to the landlord

 

Specific clauses as given by law are sometimes added into the tenancy agreement, which could include:

  *  The landlord must carry out property repairs in a timely manner

  *  The landlord must maintain installations that supply water, gas, electricity, sanitation, and heating


Who drafts an AST?

If your landlord is letting their property through a lettings agent, such as Martin & Co Camberley, the agent will generally supply the AST along with the landlord.

But some landlords letting properties privately often find AST templates online. A quick Google search for "assured shorthold tenancy agreement template" throws up a host of results and AST examples to download.

As a tenant, knowing what should and shouldn't be included in an AST is useful in this case as many downloadable AST templates contain out-of-date or irrelevant terms. In some cases, landlords insert their own terms into the template, which can be unfair and, in many cases, not legally enforceable.


Does the property I'm looking to rent need an AST?

Not always. It depends on the type of property you are looking to rent.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMO), for instance, require a different tenancy agreement.


Other types of property that should not be let with an AST include:

  *  Properties that earn an annual rent of more than £100,000 per year

  *  Properties that do not command a rent payment

  *  Holiday homes

  *  Properties let to limited companies

  *  Properties owned by the government or Crown


Are all ASTs written?

Strangely, not always. In the eyes of the law at least, an oral agreement is considered legally binding.

But without a written agreement, it's extremely obvious the problems a verbal agreement could cause. After all, how can the tenant or landlord prove what was agreed.

As a tenant, always demand a written agreement and ensure you and every other adult in the property has a signed copy of the AST.


AST renewals and changes to terms

In order for an AST to be renewed, both the tenant and landlord need to sign new contracts, even if the terms remain the same.

If both landlord and tenant agree, the terms of an AST can be changed during the fixed term of the tenancy, but changes should be made in writing and the updated agreement must be signed by both parties.


Can my landlord increase the rent?

The rent on your property cannot be increased during the initial fixed term of the AST unless an agreed clause is in the contract.

In the event of an AST running until the end of it's term and no renewal being taken, the contract becomes a periodic agreement (month by month) and the landlord can raise the rent with a month's notice.


Where does my deposit end up?

Private landlords must lodge their tenant's deposit with one of three government-backed schemes - the Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits or Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

The scheme being used should be outlined in the AST and deposits should be protected within 30 days of the tenancy beginning.


Can my landlord end the AST?

At the end of the fixed tenancy term, yes.

But landlords must following the law when doing so.

By law, landlords must give tenants two months' notice to vacate - they can't simply turn up on the last day of the tenancy and ask you to leave.


That's the most important detail you need to know about ASTs. If you need further advice or information, pop into Martin & Co Camberley, 7 High Street, or call us on 01276 691510.