Landlords! Do you explain your tenancy agreement to your tenants?

Signing documentsOne of our Conference speakers a few years ago commented that in the past, a social landlord would spend an hour or so with a new tenant explaining things to them and going over the tenancy agreement but that ‘no one has the time for this now’.

Which, he said, was a great pity.

I was reminded of this when discussing deeds recently where I made the suggestion that although signing a tenancy agreement ‘as a deed’ is not strictly necessary for tenancies with a term of under 3 years, it was probably a good idea, as it would help impress on tenants the seriousness of what they are doing.

Signing a tenancy agreement is an important and significant action:

  • If you are a tenant you are committing yourself to pay rent on a month by month basis for a period of six or 12 months (depending on the term of your tenancy) and also to share with your co-tenants and be responsible for their share of the rent if they don’t pay it (this is what ‘joint and several liability is all about’)
  • For both landlords and tenants, you are entering into a legal relationship with your landlord/tenant which could last for many years.
  • From the landlord’s point of view, you will be unable to evict your tenants, even if they behave badly, for many months if not years.

Surely it is worth spending a bit of time with tenants, going over the terms of the tenancy agreement and explaining the various clauses?

Hopefully, most of you (whether you are a landlord or a letting agent) will do this, I don’t know.  But I would recommend that all landlords or letting agents have an ‘as long as it takes’ meeting or meetings with tenants to do the following:

  • Discuss the tenancy agreement with the tenants before they sign it, and answer any questions they may have.  This could be via Zoom, and could be a separate meeting a few days before tenants are due to move in
  • A check-in  meeting where you go over the inventory with the tenants (although this is often delegated to specialist inventory clerks)
  • A meeting at the property where you explain how the appliances work and discuss any ‘peculiarities’ of the property which they need to know about
  • Ideally, a physical meeting where you serve all the documents which need to be served on tenants at this time (find out about our Landlord Law members checklist here) and get them to sign a form to confirm receipt.  This can be at the same time as they sign the tenancy agreement although note that some documents (eg the Gas Safety Certificate) should be served earlier)

Explaining your tenancy agreement

Here are some things which will probably be covered in your tenancy agreement that you ought to discuss with your tenants before they move in:

  • Your policy about pets.  If pets are prohibited, what they need to do if they want to request permission
  • The things which you as the landlord are responsible for keeping in repair and the procedure tenants need to follow to report any damage
  • How to pay the rent and what they should do if they are experiencing problems
  • Your policies about having guests at the property and when tenants need to ask your permission.  Also, explain that they will be liable for any damage done by their guests
  • What tenants need to do if leaving the property empty, eg when going on holiday (explain to them that if they leave the property empty for X days (the number of days will depend on your insurance policy) you need to know as your insurance company will need to be notified)
  • What they need to do with any post addressed to the landlord or previous tenants
  • What they need to do when they wish to vacate the property and the notice that they need to give you

If you take the trouble to explain things to your tenants they will hopefully have a good idea of what is expected of them as tenants and what their legal obligations are.

After all, if no one tells them, how are they supposed to know?  Bearing in mind that landlord and tenant law is not taught in schools and is something even many solicitors do not know much about.

Are you a landlord or letting agent? What do YOU do?

If you are a landlord, what is YOUR procedure when you rent a property to new tenants?  Do you have any tips to share?

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