Types of renting agreement

Most private renters have a tenancy agreement. Some have a licence instead. Your agreement could be written or verbal.

Tenancy types

Different types of tenancy give you very different rights:

  • most people who rent from a private landlord who doesn't live with them will have an assured shorthold tenancy

  • if you have been renting your home before a certain date you may have an assured tenancy or a regulated tenancy - these tenancies have stronger tenants' rights

  • if you live with your landlord and share living accommodation with your landlord, you're probably a lodger and will have fewer rights

The type of tenancy you have mainly depends on:

  • the date you moved in

  • who you live with

  • who your landlord is

  • the type of housing you live in

You can usually tell what type of tenancy you have by looking at your agreement.

However, some landlords use the wrong type of written agreement so your tenancy type might be different to what your agreement says.

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

Tenancy or licence?

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

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. It depends on your housing situation.

For example you may have a licence if you live in a hostel or if you are a lodger.

Contact a Shelter adviser if you're not sure what type of tenancy you have

Joint agreements

When you sign a joint tenancy agreement with another person or group of people, you have the same rights and obligations as each other.

You are jointly and individually responsible for any:

  • rent arrears caused by any of the joint tenants

  • damage caused by any of the tenants or their visitors

If one of you wants to leave and gives the landlord notice to end the agreement, it may end the agreement for everyone.

Fixed term and periodic agreements

Some tenancy agreements are granted for a fixed term, such as 6 months or 1 year.

Other agreements are periodic, which means they roll on week by week or month by month.

There are different rules if you want to:

It’s usually easier for your landlord to ask you to leave during a periodic agreement. They must still follow the right process to evict you.

Verbal agreements

If you don't have a written agreement, you still have legal rights. Some rules apply even if they aren’t written down.

For example, the rules your landlord must follow to evict you, or what repairs they need to do.

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

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

Ask your landlord to put your agreement in writing. That can help both you and your landlord to understand your rights and responsibilities.

Find out more about landlord responsibilities and tenant responsibilities.

Written agreements

A written agreement should set out the rights and responsibilities of you and your landlord.

Read the agreement carefully before you sign it. Ask the landlord to explain anything you're not sure of.

Certain rights and obligations apply regardless of what the agreement says, for example: a landlord's responsibility for repairs.

Check whether your agreement includes information such as:

  • the name of the tenant(s)

  • the address of the property (or room) you are renting

  • the name and address of the landlord and the letting agent if there is one

  • how much the rent is, when it is due and how it should be paid

  • if the rent includes bills such as council tax, water rates or other charges

  • how long the agreement is for

  • when the landlord can increase your rent

  • rules on ending your tenancy

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

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.

Unfair terms in tenancy agreements

Your tenancy agreement shouldn't contain any unfair terms.

An unfair term is one that puts the tenant at an unfair disadvantage.

For example, a term saying that:

  • the landlord can change the terms of the agreement whenever they like

  • you have to pay for any repairs that are the landlord's responsibility

  • your landlord can come into your home whenever they like, without giving notice (this could be harassment)

Unfair terms in a tenancy agreement are not legally binding on you. You still have to follow the rest of the agreement though.

Get advice if you think your agreement includes unfair terms or your landlord is holding you to something you don't think is fair.

Last updated: 4 September 2019

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