When asked if their tenancy agreement says what they want it to say most landlords would confidently say ‘yes it does’, particularly if obtained from a landlord association or an agent. But is this confidence misplaced? It is not always about the clauses in the agreement causing problems, but in the way the agreement is completed.
Tenancy agreements I have seen recently have given me some cause for concern. We hope that most tenants are grateful to their landlords for the decent homes they live in and would not try to cheat the landlord, but we would be naive to ignore the fact that there are some that are a great deal more streetwise than many landlords are, and who will make things as difficult as possible for the landlord.
There are no magical tricks that make it possible to completely guard against these nightmare tenants, but there are a few things you can do to make your tenancy agreement rock solid and so lessen the opportunities for double dealings.
- Start with the date of the agreement. This should be the date the rental liability starts. You may complete it before that date and also sign and date it before the agreement starts, but the actual agreement starts on the date you insert on the first page. The first payment should therefore be due on that date. Different dates confuse matters.
- If you omit the dates when the tenancy starts and when the first payment is due, how do you calculate the dates for serving notice? You could argue that your own records could be used, but the tenancy agreement should be the main point of reference. What the court will want to see in the first instance is the agreement.
- The rent, for preference, should be noted in the tenancy agreement as every calendar month. Some tenants might prefer to pay rent monthly despite the agreement stating weekly, but if the tenancy agreement states it is a weekly tenancy, accepting rent on a monthly basis, eviction on rent arrears grounds becomes slightly more complicated. It could be argued that payments accepted monthly have therefore altered the way payments are made. Should this occur, a weekly tenancy agreement must have an addendum to say that the payments are allowed on a monthly basis. This does not really help you however, other than making it clear that the eviction dates must be calculated on the basis of a monthly tenancy, not a weekly.
- The deposit section could also cause problems. All tenancy agreements should say something to the effect of ‘You must pay a deposit of £…….’ If this is completed ‘0’ it is very easy to add a couple more digits, and now it reads ‘500’. If nothing has been paid, write ‘nil’, perhaps even noting that you allowed them to move in without a deposit.
Nobody likes paperwork, most people will try to complete it as quickly as possible. But paperwork completed in a slip-shod way could cost the landlord money. A careless agreement loses its’ weight and could become a weapon to be used against you by a wily tenant. Complete it with care and it will be the most important tool in your armoury, if it becomes time to evict.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon