Types of renting agreement

If you pay rent to a private landlord, you have either a tenancy or a licence. Both tenancy and licence agreements can be written or verbal.

Do you have a tenancy or a licence

Your renting agreement with your landlord is either a tenancy or a licence.

Your agreement with your landlord can give you extra rights. It cannot take away any rights that the law gives you. These rights depend upon the type of tenancy or licence you have.

The main difference between a tenancy and a licence is that a tenancy usually gives you more protection from eviction.

You do not have a licence or a tenancy just because the landlord says that's what you have.

Get advice if you're not sure what type of tenancy you have.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Verbal renting agreements

Some rules apply to everyone renting a home. These rules don't have to be written down.

Most landlords give their tenants a written agreement.

If you don't have a written agreement, you still have legal rights.

If the landlord accepts rent from you for living in the property, any verbal agreement you have counts as a legal agreement.

Your landlord can't take away your basic tenant's rights by not giving you a written agreement.

Ask your landlord to put your agreement in writing. Having a written agreement helps make sure that both you and your landlord understand your rights and responsibilities.

Verbal agreements can be more difficult to enforce if there is any dispute.

Find out more about landlord responsibilities and tenant responsibilities in rented housing.

Right to rent checks

In you moved in on or after 1st February 2016. your landlord should ask you to prove you have the right to stay in the UK and the right to rent.

Find out more about right to rent checks.

Use an inventory

Your tenancy agreement may also tell you about what furniture and other fittings are provided.

Use an inventory to record the condition these are in, so that there are no disputes when you move out.

Tenancy types

Your tenancy agreement tells you the type of tenancy you have.

It is possible that you have a different type of tenancy than your agreement says. Different types of tenancy give you very different rights.

Most people who rent from a private landlord have an assured shorthold tenancy.

If you share accommodation with your landlord, you're probably a lodger.

Some tenants with private landlords have an assured tenancy or a regulated tenancy. This would give you much stronger tenants rights.

The type of tenancy you have mainly depends on:

  • the date you moved in
  • who you live with (for example, in a shared house or with the landlord)
  • who your landlord is (for example a private landlord or, if you are a student, your university)
  • the type of housing you live in (for example if support or services are provided by your landlord)

Use Shelter's tenancy checker to check what type of tenancy you have.

What to check for in a written agreement

Your written agreement sets out the rights and responsibilities of you and your landlord. Read it carefully before you sign it.

Ask the landlord to explain anything you're not sure of.

There are certain rights and obligations for your home regardless of what the agreement says, for example a landlord's responsibility for repairs.

Check whether your agreement includes information such as:

Your agreement should say whether you have to pay a deposit, what it covers and what circumstances mean you don't get your deposit back.

If you're an assured shorthold tenant and you pay a tenancy deposit, check it's protected in a government-backed scheme.

The agreement may also say who to contact about repairs, the rules on lodgers, subletting and passing on your tenancy.

The agreement may have other rules, for example about pets, guests or smoking.

Find out more about responsibility for repairs.

Unfair terms in a tenancy agreement

Your agreement should be written in language that you can understand.

The agreement shouldn't contain any unfair terms, such as clauses saying that:

  • the landlord can change the terms of the agreement whenever they like
  • you have to pay for or arrange structural repairs – these are the landlord's responsibility
  • your landlord can come round whenever they like, without giving notice (this could be harassment)

Unfair terms are not legally binding contract terms.

If you think your agreement includes unfair terms or your landlord is holding you to something you don't think is fair, ask an adviser to look at the agreement for you.

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your local area.

Find out more from Gov.uk about unfair terms in tenancy agreements.

Rights in a joint tenancy agreement

If you sign a joint tenancy agreement with another person or group of people, you have exactly the same rights and obligations as each other. You are all equally responsible for sticking to the conditions of the agreement.

For example if:

  • one person doesn't pay their share of the rent, the others will have to pay it for them. As a group, each of you is responsible for ensuring that the whole rent is paid
  • one of you wants to leave and gives the landlord notice to end the agreement, it will normally be ended for everyone. Those who want to stay could try to negotiate a new tenancy agreement with the landlord before the original one ends. This does not apply during a fixed-term tenancy agreement

When a tenancy agreement runs out

Some tenancy agreements are granted for a fixed-term, such as six months or one year. When the fixed-term ends:

  • your landlord might give you a new agreement for a further fixed-term, or
  • your tenancy will automatically continue on the same basis as before but will roll from month to month or week to week rather than being for a set period.

Give the landlord written notice if you want to leave at the end of the fixed-term. Your tenancy agreement may say you have to do this.

Find out more about ending a fixed-term tenancy and ending a periodic (month to month) tenancy.

Your landlord must follow a set of rules to end your tenancy. This means they have to go to court to get an order for possession

There are different rules if you are a lodger.

If a landlord wants to evict you

A landlord who wants to evict you before your tenancy has ended must follow a set procedure for eviction, regardless of the reason.

Find out more about the:

Video: Does a landlord have to provide a tenancy agreement?


Last updated:

  • Print this page
  • Email this page