Are There Any Rules For A Landlord Or letting agent About What Comes With A Property If It’s Fully Furnished, Furnished, Part Furnished Or Unfurnished?
No, there are no strict rules for and landlord or letting agent but both expectations and reality can vary in different areas of the country and even within different niche sectors within the local markets.
Generally, a property offered by a letting agent as ‘fully furnished’ would come with all the main fixtures, furnishings and fittings, white goods etc., plus the standard crockery, cutlery, glassware, pots and pans etc., that a reasonable tenant would normally use on a day to day basis.
At the other end of the scale, an ‘unfurnished’ property would normally be provided only with such basics as carpets, curtains and light fittings.
Clearly, there are infinite variations between these two extremes of what might be included. Therefore, the critical aspect, whether you are a landlord or tenant, is to make sure that everyone clearly understands what main items are, or are not, included before finalising the tenancy agreement.
What About Safety Regulations For Rented Property?
There are specific legal obligations and responsibilities on a landlord with regard to Fire safety for Furniture & Furnishings; Gas supply and appliances; plus Electrical wiring and appliances.
What Is A Tenancy Agreement?
A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract between a landlord and tenant that sets out both the legal and contractual responsibilities and obligations of the two parties. It should be written in plain and intelligible language (no unnecessary jargon!) and its terms and clauses should be fair and balanced, taking account of the respective positions of the parties and should not mislead about legal rights and responsibilities.
Landlord and tenant should take care to individually negotiate any particular terms or conditions that are important to them or especially relevant to the particular let or property.
What Kind Of Tenancy Agreement Will Be Used?
The most common form of tenancy agreement used is an ‘Assured Shorthold’ (an AST) under the 1988 Housing Act (amended 1996). This type of tenancy offers the most flexibility to both landlord and tenant; has straightforward notice procedures for bringing the tenancy to an end and a special Accelerated Possession court procedure should tenants fail to vacate.
If certain specific conditions are met relating to the proposed letting, a ‘contractual’ non-housing act tenancy must be created. One example of this would be what is commonly referred to as a Company Let where the tenant is a bona fide registered company. Another would be where the annual rent equates to over £100,000.
Very rarely, a prospective tenant may be offered a full ‘Assured’ tenancy that gives very significant and potentially long-term security of tenure to a tenant and, for which a landlord can only get possession in very limited circumstances.
What About Rights Of Access To The Property, What Are The Rules?
A landlord, or his letting agent, or someone authorised to act on his behalf has a right to view the property to assess its condition and to carry out necessary repairs or maintenance at reasonable times of the day.
The law says that a landlord or letting agent must give a tenant at least 24 hours prior notice in writing (except in an emergency) of such a visit. Naturally, if the tenant agrees, on specific or odd occasions to allow access without the 24 hours prior written notice, that is acceptable.
[A clause in the tenancy agreement which tries to diminish or over-ride a tenant’s rights in this respect would be void and unenforceable.]
Are Tenants Entitled To Know The Name And Address Of Their Landlord?
Yes, there are two or three bits of law covering this and it is a criminal offence for a letting agent (or whoever is collecting the rent) to fail to provide, without reasonable excuse, this information within 21 days of formal written request by the tenants.
Joint And Several – What Does That Mean?
Mostly, where there is to be more than one (adult) person living in the property, the tenancy will say they are ‘jointly and severally’ responsible. This expression means that, jointly, the tenants are liable for the payment of all rents and all liabilities falling upon the tenants during the tenancy, as well as any breach of the Agreement.
Individually each tenant is responsible for payment of all rent and all liabilities falling upon the tenant, as well as any breach of the Agreement until all payments have been made in full.
What About The Tenancy Deposit?
It is quite common for a deposit of an amount equivalent to between four to six weeks rent to be required to be held during the tenancy against the satisfactory performance by the tenant of all the various obligations under the tenancy agreement – but mainly, those relating to the cleanliness and condition of the property.
The relevant clauses in the tenancy agreement should set out who is to hold the deposit (e.g. letting agent or landlord), whether interest is to be paid or not, what the deposit can be allocated for and the end of tenancy procedures and timescales for its refund.
The best way for a tenancy deposit (bond) to be held during the tenancy is by the ARLA member agent as ‘stakeholder’ between the parties (landlord and tenant). This means that at the end of the tenancy the letting agent should get the agreement of both sides before making any deductions for damage, cleaning etc.
Ideally, the letting agent will be signed up to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) or (DPS) which means that in the event of an unresolved dispute or stalemate over the allocation of the deposit, it can be referred to the scheme for a prompt, independent, third party adjudication – so providing a resolution which is fair to both landlord and tenant.
What About An Inventory/Schedule Of Condition?
This is an absolutely essential document that provides a written benchmark, which should be amended, updated and recreated before the beginning of each new tenancy. A properly constructed Inventory/Schedule of Condition details the fixtures and fittings and describes their condition and that of the property generally.
Landlord and tenant sometimes share the costs involved in preparing and checking the inventory; such costs should be seen as a necessary investment that helps protect the interests of both landlord and tenant. Your letting agent can advise on this.
What Happens If Either Party (Landlord Or Tenant) Unexpectedly Want To End An Existing Tenancy Early?
There are only limited ways in which this can happen; the landlord cannot make the tenants move out, nor can the tenants lawfully walk away from their obligations to fulfil the contract. Either party might request of the other that a formal ‘surrender’ of the tenancy be allowed. It would then be up to the parties to agree the terms and conditions of such a surrender. This might include some financial compensation for inconvenience or costs incurred.
How Often Can The Rent Be Put Up?
In general terms, rent of an existing tenancy can only be increased once every twelve months. Where an assured shorthold tenancy holds over as a statutory periodic tenancy, a specific prescribed form (a section 13 notice) must be used to notify tenants of a proposed increase in the rent.
It is usual, if creating a longer fixed term tenancy at the outset (or one with a binding option to renew), to include a clause that allows for an increase of the rent on an annual basis, typically linked to, or as a multiple of, something like the Retail Price Index (RPIX) or similar.
Repairs & Maintenance Issues
A landlord, in very general terms, has a legal responsibility to repair the structure and exterior of the property, including drains, gutters and external pipes; to keep in working order the installations for the supply of gas, electricity and water; and, for the installations for the provision of space and water heating. The landlord also has other legal responsibilities relating to the safety of such items as gas, electricity and furnishings as well as the general standard or fitness of the property for habitation.
A tenant has an implied covenant to act in a ‘tenant-like manner’. Broadly, this means to report disrepair promptly; to take reasonable steps to ensure that neither the tenant nor guests damage the property, its fixtures and fittings; to do the minor day to day things any home-occupier would normally do e.g. replace light bulbs, fit a new battery in a smoke or CO2 detector, tighten an odd screw which has come loose on a door handle etc.; to keep the property reasonably warm and aired to help prevent condensation or freezing of pipes; to leave the property secure when absent from it; to keep the garden and other areas reasonably tidy and free from rubbish.
What About Renewals And Extensions Of A Tenancy?
This is a very common situation and the Agent will normally negotiate between the parties and prepare the necessary formal documentation for a replacement tenancy or fixed term extension.
If no further fixed term is created to follow on from the end-date of original term, and assuming notice to end the tenancy has not been served, the tenancy can simply hold over as a ‘periodic tenancy’ e.g. rolling on with basically the same terms and conditions and in line with how the rent is due to be paid. This is usually monthly.
What Happens If The Tenant Doesn’t Move Out After The End Of A Tenancy?
First, try to quickly establish the reasons why. However, if a tenant does not move out after a tenancy has been lawfully terminated then the landlord can apply to the Courts for a possession order. Under the Accelerated Possession Procedure (which can be used where the tenancy was an Assured Shorthold) the process is usually fairly quick and inexpensive.
To find out more about gas safety please visit the Health and Safety Executive website
Electrical Safety Council Guides
To find out more about electrical safety please view the Electrical Safety Council’s guide
Landlords – Buildings Insurance
Re-Build costs – not market valuation. It is essential that your property is adequately insured. The sum insured should represent the full RE-BUILDING cost of your property not its market value. In some instances the re-building value will be considerably lower or higher than its market value. Older properties in the lower priced areas in the UK will cost much more to re-build that their market value.
Tenants – Contents Insurance
Tenants and landlords very often overlook this. Generally for the tenant who has paid the first month’s rent + a deposit + administration fees in order to move into the property, insurance is the last thing on their mind.
Although a conventional home contents policy will give a basic degree of cover for most insured perils it is not specifically designed for tenants and there can be some major gaps in the cover you need. Often the minimum sum you can insure for will be far in excess of what the tenant needs, typically a minimum of £10,000 – £12,000.
Most specialist tenant policies will provide the tenant with cover starting from £2,500 upwards and will usually cover accidental damage that you may cause to the landlords fixture, fittings, buildings and contents.