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What are the most important clauses to add to your tenancy agreement?

As a private landlord, you must have a tenancy agreement for your assured shorthold rental. The contract between yourself and your tenant spells out the duties and responsibilities of each party. A clear and concise tenancy agreement can prevent, or at least reduce the likelihood, of disputes during and after the tenancy. Make sure you include everything you can think off so the tenant (and yourself) is aware of what they can and cannot do.

But, a word of warning.

Not everything you put in your tenancy agreement may be legally enforceable. Any unfair, unreasonable or illegal clauses will be invalid. Any court or arbitration service will simply disregard them. Even if your tenant happily signs the contract. Everything in the tenancy agreement must be lawful.

For example. You may insert a clause in which you say you will keep a spare key and reserve the right to let yourself into the property whenever you wish.

Now, you may think this is a good way of keeping your tenant on their toes. That they will keep the property extra clean if they know you could inspect the place at any time. But you can't include this. Even if you typed it in capital letters and underlined it in red ink. It's not enforceable.

But what things could, or should, you include in your tenancy agreement? Although no two circumstances are exactly the same here are seven suggestions for you. By the way, we'll assume you've included the amount of rent and length of tenancy.

1 Security deposit

Obviously an important clause for both landlord and tenant. You may also want to include details of the deposit protection scheme you will be using. Remember to include a note that no interest will be payable on the deposit.

2 Pets

Always a contentious issue and a common cause of disputes between private landlords and their tenants. By including clear and concise instructions in the tenancy agreement you can prevent issues with pets. If you operate a blanket ban make sure you include this in the contract. Don't leave any room for doubt. However, you will have to make an exception for assistance dogs.

3 Repairs and damages

Another common cause of disputes is who is responsible for repairs. Be explicit about who will pay for repairs to the property. This is usually you. But emphasise the property needs to be maintained to the standard illustrated in the inventory. Include instructions on how the tenant should report any issues.

4 Decorating

Naturally, enough most tenants will want to put their own stamp on your property. They will want to decorate. But while this can make the tenant feel at home it can cost you hundreds of pounds if not more to return the property to a neutral state for the next tenant. Explicitly lay out the boundaries. Include what the tenant can and can't do. If you don't want them to paint or hammer nails into the walls to hang prints say so in the contract.

5 Who pays the bills?

This is usually the tenant but make sure you put this in the contract. Whether it's utilities or council tax spell out the tenants' responsibilities in the agreement.

6 Sub-letting and other tenants

The tenancy agreement should be very clear who you are renting to. Name the tenants and any dependents or partners in the agreement. This is important. Many private landlords have thought they were letting to a single person only to discover multiple people living in their property. Include a clause stating only those named in the tenancy agreement can live at the property.

Sub-letting is also a growing issue with some tenants supplementing their income by taking in other renters. Prohibit sub-letting in the contract.

7 Cleaning

Cleaning, or the lack of it, can cause serious issues for private landlords. At the end of a tenancy, the last thing you want to be doing is spending days or weeks deep cleaning. Help prevent this by including cleaning clauses in your tenancy agreement.

You can't insist the tenant has the property professionally cleaned before hand over. But you can insist it's returned to its original condition. Allowing for normal wear and tear of course.

There are of course many other clauses which need to be included. But you can get help with drawing up your tenancy agreement if needed. The government also provide a model tenancy agreement for use by private landlords.

Needless to say, you should also take legal advice when drawing up or signing any contract or tenancy agreement.

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