Tenants entering a contract with a letting agent sign a written tenancy agreement which is a legally binding document. However, when renting directly from a landlord, oral tenancy agreements are quite common, especially when the landlord is letting their room or property to a friend. While verbal contracts are considered legitimate, they are difficult to enforce because there is no way of proving what was agreed. Written Tenancy Agreements are strongly recommended over oral tenancy agreements.
When things don’t go according to plan, landlords and tenants with oral agreements have no clear outline of their responsibilities and obligations to refer to. While the oral agreement automatically brings with it implied terms of the agreement, there is usually no open discussion of these prior to the start of the tenancy. It is usually only after problems have occurred and stress levels are high that tenants and landlords seek advice in order to learn their rights and know where they legally stand. Well-constructed written tenancy agreements often prevent unnecessary problems and disputes.
Why Written Tenancy Agreements are strongly advised
Written agreements are designed to protect the tenant as well as the landlord. Considering how readily available resources are for creating such documents, any landlord who did not want to enter a written agreement should be treated as suspect. In the instance of written tenancy agreements, both parties have an opportunity to read through the conditions thoroughly, thus providing a window of opportunity for negotiating certain points prior to the signing of the document. Landlords and letting agents are obliged to explain any clauses that may be confusing and should never rush you to sign the agreement. Tenants should never sign on the dotted line unless they understand and agree to every point.
How to avoid entering into a Verbal Agreement
Make it clear to your potential landlord that you prefer to have a written agreement document. In all communications regarding rental conditions, (in person, on the phone or via email), use the term ‘subject to contract’. If they are reluctant to provide you with a written tenancy agreement, walk away.
What to do if you are renting without a written tenancy agreement
There are three essential elements required in order for your oral agreement to be legally binding: an offer must be made, the offer must be accepted, and the amount of rent must be agreed upon. Once the contract exists, both you and your landlord are protected by statutory law which entitles you to terms that are implied by the oral agreement. For example, your landlord cannot give you three days’ notice to leave the property. The same eviction process must be followed as if you had a written tenancy agreement. If you are unsatisfied with the condition of the property and your landlord is refusing to carry out necessary repairs, you are well within your rights to contact your Local Housing Authority to arrange for the property to be inspected. For more information about your rights as a tenant you should refer to our Help and Advice content or seek advice from our TTV forums.