It is amazing when entering the lease, how few people bother to read it. Any tenants however needs to know their rights and responsibilities under a lease with regard to paying rent. We set out below some common aspects of residential leases and their effect on any tenants liability to pay rent.
1. I have signed an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement - what does this actually mean.
Since the late 90's, Assured Shorthold Tenancies have been the most common form of tenancy agreement and sets out the duties of both tenant and landlord. The most important aspect of this lease is that the landlord has the right to repossess the property at the end of the agreed term. Despite its name, the agreement does not have to be short and can continue as long as both parties are happy to do so. There is no minimum term specified either, although the renter has the right to remain in the property for at least six months. If the fixed term under a lease is for three or more years, however, a deed must be drawn up and a solicitor employed to do so. There are specific requirements linked to an AST that include:
- The tenant(s) must be an individual (i.e. not a company)
- The property must be the main home of the occupant
- The property must be let as separate accommodation.
The landlord is obliged to provide the tenant with two months' notice if they want to terminate the agreement. The agreement will most likely contain the following information:
- Your name, your landlord's name and the address of the property which is being let
- The date the tenancy will commence
- The duration of the tenancy from the start to the agreed finish of the occupation
- The amount of rent payable, how often it should be paid, when it should be paid and when it can be legally increased
- The agreement should also state what the payments are expected, including Council Tax, utilities, service charges, etc.
- The services your landlord will provide, including maintenance of the communal areas
- Tasks that you must comply with whilst living in the property
- The notice period which you and your landlord need to give each other if the tenancy is to be terminated.
2. The landlord is seeking to increase the rent at the end of the fixed term, I can't be expected to pay the increased rent.
The Landlord is entitled at the expiry of an assured shorthold to grant a new tenancy and set the rent to a level that is compatible with the market. If you are in an assured (shorthold) tenancy then you have fewer rights with regards to rent control in comparison to a protected tenant. This is because The Housing Act 1998 allows a landlord to charge whatever he likes. There is no right to a fair and reasonable rent with an assured tenancy. This shouldn't however stop you from attempting to negotiate the rent as referred to above.
3. The new set rent level is incompatible with the market I have no choice but to pay it.
If the new set rent level is incompatible with the market rent then you do have a right as an assured shorthold tenant to appeal to the Rent Assessment Committee. This may be done during the first six months of the contractual term of the tenancy. The Committee will consider whether the rent is significantly higher than is usual for a similar property. If the Committee assess a different rent from that set by the Landlord then they may set a date when the increase will take effect. The rent cannot be backdated to before the date of the application. Once a decision has been reached by the Committee, the Landlord cannot increase the rent for at least twelve months, or on termination of the tenancy.
Landlord and tenant law can be complex. If you are having problems or queries about the rent you are being asked to pay under the terms of your lease, contact an experienced landlord and tenant solicitor.