IF you’re currently renting your home, have you considered the possibility that your landlord might have
IF you’re currently renting your home, have you considered the possibility that your landlord might have asked you to sign a legally out-of-date tenancy agreement?
According to a recent survey by insurer Direct Line for Business, of those landlords who don’t use a letting agent to rent out their property, a massive 58 per cent use “adapted” tenancy agreements from old agent contracts.
Direct Line found that one in 10 private landlords in the UK has no formal tenancy agreement in place with their tenants.
And where contracts are in place, landlords may unwittingly be asking tenants to sign documents that are not legally compliant.
Of the landlords who don’t use a letting agent, some 58 per cent used adapted tenancy agreements either from old agent contracts or other landlords (38 per cent) or an updated template they found online (20 per cent).
“It appears landlords employ letting agents when they first rent out the property, then use the old contract template when agreeing a direct rental with new tenants or upon renewal with their existing tenants,” said a spokesperson for Direct Line.
The study suggested a lack of professionally reviewed tenancy agreements may explain why 13 per cent of landlords have experienced disputes specifically arising from tenants’ rental contracts over the past two years.
One way for both tenants and landlords to safeguard their interests in this area is to check that the letting agent they use is a member of a recognised professional body such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
At the Hart Street, Henley, branch of Hamptons International, lettings manager Katie White said: “It’s this aspect of what we do that I think it is vital for a landlord to understand, as I think without guidance there can be so many chances to fall into the trap of non-compliance and breach of tenancy. Legislation is constantly changing and so tenancy agreements used in 2015 will no longer be compliant in 2016.
“By instructing a reputable agent to oversee both the initial tenancy negotiations as well as further renewals or reletting, landlords will be reassured that the correct information is provided to their tenants regarding deposit protection, the correct ‘right to rent’ checks are being made, and the client will remain legally compliant throughout the tenancy.
“This in turn will of course minimise the risk of any dispute arising from non-compliant tenancy clauses.”
Michael Cook, lettings managing director at Romans, agreed. He said: “The survey shows that landlords who have not instructed letting agents to act for them are often making a significant numbers of errors, such as inadvertently giving tenants contracts that are not legally compliant, with one in five updating a template they found online. Not only is this a concern for tenants, but for the lettings industry as a whole.
“The lettings industry has changed dramatically over the past 18 months and it’s imperative that landlords stay up to date with all the legislation changes in order to protect their tenants and their investments.
“These changes must be reflected in the tenancy agreements and approved by a legal professional. Choosing an unlicensed letting agent can lead to all manner of problems for both tenants and landlords because there is no strict code of practice they must follow.”
Christina Smith of Brookstones Property Solutions added: “We understand and can’t emphasise enough the importance of correct and legal paperwork.
“On more than one occasion we have been approached by private landlords who have come to us for advice, whereby they have an outdated tenancy agreement in place or none at all, which has or could have led to serious consequences.
“With current legislation as it is, it is important to be vigilant in this industry and know where your obligations lie. Therefore using an accredited agent is a must.”
A comprehensive list of local estate and letting agents is available on the Henley Standard’s website at www.henleystandard.Â co.uk/property/agents.php
ARLA has a “Find an agent” webpage at www.arla.co.uk/find-agent.aspx and RICS members can be found at www.rics.org/uk/find-a-member