Statement of tenancy terms and tenancy agreements
Statement of tenancy terms
From the 1 April 2007 any new tenancies created in Northern Ireland must have a written statement of tenancy terms. This must be provided within 28 days of the tenancy starting whether or not you have a tenancy agreement.
Your statement of tenancy terms should include the following:
- the name of all tenants and the address of the rental property
- the name, address and contact phone number of the landlord
- the name, address and contact phone number of the landlord’s agent (if any) and a description of the services provided on behalf of the landlord
- the emergency out of office hours telephone contact number for the landlord or agent
- the term of the tenancy for example, weekly, monthly, quarterly
- the date that the tenancy started
- the length of the tenancy and the date it will end
- the length of notice which must be given by the landlord and the tenant in order to end the tenancy (except in the case of a fixed term tenancy)
- the amount of rent payable, how often and when it should be paid
- the amount of rates payable and who is responsible for paying the rates
- the amount of deposit payable and how it will be repaid
- the amount and description of any other payment which the tenant is required to make in addition to rent and rates, for example, heating.
- details of who is responsible for repairs
- details of any other obligations on the landlord or tenant forming part of the tenancy agreement
- an inventory of any furniture or furnishings provided
- the information contained in the Tenancy Terms Regulations 2007 Schedule which can be found at: www.legislation.gov.uk
If you do not receive a written statement of tenancy terms you should contact the Environmental Health Department of your local council.
What is a tenancy agreement
In addition to a statement of tenancy terms many tenants have a written tenancy agreement. This document outlines the terms and conditions of your tenancy and may be more detailed than a statement of tenancy terms.
The tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord. It may be written or oral. The tenancy agreement gives certain rights to both you and your landlord, for example, your right to occupy the accommodation and your landlord’s right to receive rent for letting the accommodation.
You and your landlord may have made arrangements about the tenancy, and these will be part of the tenancy agreement as long as they do not conflict with law.
Both you and your landlord have rights and responsibilities given by law. The tenancy agreement can give both you and your landlord more than your statutory rights, but cannot give you less than your statutory rights. If a term in the tenancy agreement gives either you or your landlord less than your statutory rights, that term cannot be enforced.
A tenancy agreement can be made up of:-
- express terms. These include what is in the written tenancy agreement, the statement of tenancy terms, in the rent book, and/or what was agreed orally
- implied terms. These are rights given by law or arrangements established by custom and practice.
Express terms of tenancy agreements
Written tenancy agreements
Your right to receive a written tenancy agreement depends on the type and length of your tenancy. If you are a private tenant and your tenancy is for under 12 months you do not have a right to a written tenancy agreement. If however your tenancy is longer than 12 months your landlord must provide you with a written tenancy agreement.
Some solicitors and estate agents supply samples of written tenancy agreements.
Model tenancy agreements can be downloaded from the Department of Social Development website
If you have a written agreement, it should indicate the type of tenancy you have.
The tenancy agreement should be signed by both you and your landlord. Each tenant, if there are joint tenants, should receive a copy of the agreement.
It is good practice for a written tenancy agreement to include the following details:-
- your name, your landlord’s name and the address of the property which is being let
- the date the tenancy began
- details of whether other people are allowed the use of the property, and if so, which rooms
- the duration of the tenancy, that is, whether it runs out on a certain date
- what expenses the deposits can be used to cover
- the amount of rents and rates payable, how often and when it should be paid and how often and when it can be increased. The agreement could also state what the payment includes, for example, fuel
- whether your landlord will provide any services, for example, laundry, maintenance of common parts or meals and whether there are service charges for these
- if furniture will be provided
- if pets are allowed
- if smoking is allowed in the property
- the length of notice which you and your landlord need to give if the tenancy is to be ended. Note that there are statutory rules about how much notice should be given and these will depend on the type of tenancy and why it is due to end.
The agreement may also contain details of your landlord’s obligations to repair the property, although it is rare for agreements to go into details. Your landlord’s obligations to repair depend on the type of tenancy.
For more information on your landlord’s obligations to repair, see Common problems with renting.
If you are experiencing problems with repairs you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
Oral tenancy agreements
A tenancy agreement exists even if there is only an oral agreement between you and your landlord. For example, you and your landlord may have agreed at the start of the tenancy how much the rent would be and when it is payable, whether it includes fuel and bills such as electricity or whether your landlord can decide who else can live in the accommodation. Oral agreements can be difficult to enforce because there is often no proof of what has been agreed, or a particular problem may have arisen which the agreement did not cover. If you are thinking of disputing or are trying to enforce an oral agreement with your tenant or landlord you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
There are obligations you and your landlord have which may not be set down in the agreement but which are given by law and are implied in all tenancy agreements. These terms form part of the contract, even though they have not been specifically agreed between your landlord and you.
Some of the most common implied terms are:-
- your landlord must carry out basic repairs, for example, keeping the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and heating water in good working order
- you have the right to live peacefully in the accommodation without nuisance from your landlord
- you have an obligation to use your home in a 'tenant-like' way, for example, by not causing damage and by using any fixtures and fittings properly
- you have an obligation to provide access for any repair work that needs to be done.
Rights given by law will vary according to the type of tenancy. In Northern Ireland, all tenants of private sector accommodation have basic rights regardless of the type of tenancy. These are the right to a rent book, the right to claim housing benefit, freedom from harassment and proper notice to quit the tenancy.
For information on the rights and obligations of social housing tenants and landlords, see Renting from a social housing landlord.
For information on the rights and obligations of private sector tenants and landlords, see Renting from a private landlord.
What documents and information must the tenant receive
By law, as a tenant, you must be given the following information:
- your landlord must provide a rent book..
- if your tenancy began after 1 April 2007, you must receive a written statement of tenancy terms with 28 days of the tenancy starting
- if your tenancy began after 1 April 2013 and you paid a deposit to your landlord they must use a tenancy deposit protection scheme to safeguard it. You should be given details of the scheme they using to protect it within 28 days of paying your deposit to the landlord. For more information see Tenancy deposit protection scheme.
If you do not receive a rent book, statement of tenancy terms or details of how any deposit paid is being safeguarded contact your local council who can investigate and if necessary take legal action.
If you are experiencing problems in obtaining documents and/or information from your landlord, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
Sham tenancy agreements
The rights laid down by law always override those which are stated in a written or oral agreement. An agreement which suggests that you or your landlord have less rights than those given by common law or statute is a sham tenancy agreement.
What an agreement states and what the tenancy actually is may be different. For example, your landlord may claim that the agreement is not a tenancy agreement but a ‘licence to occupy’.
If you are in any of these situations you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
Changing the tenancy agreement
A tenancy agreement can normally only be changed if both you and your landlord agree. If you both agree, the change should be recorded in writing, either by drawing up a new written document setting out the terms of the tenancy or by amending the existing written tenancy agreement.
An oral agreement can also be varied. Usually the variation will be oral too. In the case of a dispute, evidence of the variation can be provided if there were witnesses to the new agreement or simply by both parties acting on the variation, for example, by paying and accepting a new rent.
If you’re disabled, your landlord must take reasonable steps to change the tenancy agreement if a term of the agreement makes it impossible or difficult for you to live in the property because of your disability. Landlords who don't take reasonable steps to change the agreement are discriminating against you as a disabled person and they are breaking the law. What's reasonable will depend on the circumstances but, for example, your landlord must agree to change a term of the agreement so that you can make disability-related improvements to the property or so that you can have an assistance dog.
For more information about what to do if the landlord discriminates against you because you’re disabled, see Disability discrimination.
Ending a tenancy agreement
Your, or your landlord’s, right to end a tenancy agreement and your right to stay and be protected from eviction will depend on the type of tenancy you have.
More on if a tenant wants to end the tenancy.
Is the tenancy agreement ‘unfair’
The tenancy agreement is a form of consumer contract and as such it must be in plain language which is clear and easy to understand. It must not contain any terms which could be ‘unfair’. This means, for example, that the tenancy agreement must not put either you or your landlord in a disadvantageous position, enable one party to change terms unilaterally without a valid reason or irrevocably bind you to terms with which you have had no time to become familiar. An unfair term is not valid in law and cannot be enforced.
If you think your tenancy agreement may contain unfair terms you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
Discrimination in tenancy agreements
Your landlord must not discriminate against you because of your disability, age, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
This means that they are probably breaking the law if they:
- rent a property to you on worse terms than other tenants
- treat you differently from other tenants in the way you are allowed to use facilities such as a laundry or a garden
- evict or harass you because of discrimination
- refuse to make reasonable changes to a term in the tenancy agreement which would allow a disabled person to live there.
The rules about discrimination generally don't apply if your landlord lives in the same property as you.
I've found this flat that I would really like to rent because it's near where I work. I'm profoundly deaf and have a hearing dog but the landlord says he doesn't allow pets. Does this mean I can't take the flat?
If you're disabled, you can ask a landlord to make changes to their policies which would allow you to live in a property. This would include changing a term in the tenancy agreement which bans pets, so that you can have an assistance dog. By law, a landlord should agree to this unless he has a good reason for not doing so. What is reasonable depends on the circumstances of each case. If the landlord doesn't agree, this may be disability discrimination, and he could be breaking the law. Try explaining this to the landlord. If he still refuses to change the policy, you should get advice.
If you think your tenancy agreement discriminates against you, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.