Most residential tenancy agreements in England & Wales are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs). This kind of tenancy was introduced by the Housing Act 1988. When an AST is established, the contract everyone signs is often referred to as an AST as well.
Need an AST for your tenancy? You can download the OpenRent AST for free here.Download tenancy agreement
Some aspects of an AST are defined in law. But not all ASTs are identical. Although tenancy agreements look similar, there can be much variation in language and structure. The devil can be in the detail.
For companies that want to produce a universal tenancy agreement, there is a trade-off between being broad enough to cover all aspects of a tenancy, and being specific enough that there aren’t any loop-holes which inadvertently permit bad behaviour. The contract must be understandable and reasonable for all parties.
Can I buy a template tenancy agreement?
If you are hoping to buy a template AST to use for your tenancy, you will find a lot of variation in price. A search on Google turns up a few free ASTs. WHSmith used to sell a template for £7. Some high street letting agents charge several hundred pounds. The Government also produces its own ‘model’ tenancy agreement, although because its use is voluntary and gives tenants more protections than most landlords would like, it is not widely used.
If you are considering buying an AST, price is a poor indicator of quality. Often, letting agents will make 100% margin of the tenancy agreement they charge you £300 for ‘drafting’, even though this really just means printing off a word document.
The OpenRent AST has been created in consultation with legal experts, and is informed by the knowledge we have gained through creating over 500,000 tenancies in the UK. It protects the interests of both landlords and tenants, and is currently in force in tens of thousands of tenancies across the country.
You can use the OpenRent AST as part of our tenancy setup service. We will fill the tenancy agreement with your tenant and property details, and collect the signatures digitally. You can also add your own custom clauses if you’d like to add any additional terms.
We offer an AST for whole properties, and also for individual rooms within a property with shared facilities.
Individual Tenancy Agreement
If you’re renting out rooms in a shared property and are renting to individuals who don’t already know each other or who will be moving in on different dates, you might be interested in our Individual Tenancy Agreement for Shared Houses.
A regular (Joint Tenancy) AST names all tenants on the same agreement and no tenant has exclusive possession of any part of the property – they are all jointly liable for looking after the property and paying the rent. This is easily the most common form of AST used today. With an Individual Tenancy each tenant signs their own, separate agreement with the landlord. This means each tenant has exclusive possession of a specific room in the property, as well as access to shared facilities like the kitchen, bathroom, lounge, etc.
If you advertise an individual room on OpenRent, we’ll assume you want to create an Individual Tenancy, but you should only use this type of agreement once you’ve understood the considerations for doing so.
Pros and Cons of Using an Individual Tenancy
Not sure whether to let your property as a joint tenancy or several individual tenancies? Here are the pros and cons of an individual tenancy to help you decide.
- Flexibility and convenience – tenants can move in and out on different dates without the need to sign new agreements with all tenants each time, re-register deposits, etc.
- Higher rent – the ability to rent out each room separately as well as the flexibility to allow shorter term contracts can often increase rental yield
- Right to enter – unlike a Joint Tenancy, the landlord has the right to enter common areas for inspections and repairs
- No joint liability – the joint and several liability created by a joint tenancy (whereby any one tenant can be held legally responsible for the unpaid rent, damage caused, or any other breach of contract by any or all of the other tenants) is its major strength; this is lost in the case of individual tenancies
- Tenant turnover – the flexibility for tenants to move in and out independently cuts both ways; a bad or incompatible tenant can drive out good ones who are free to cut them loose and move elsewhere
- Council tax and bills – these are the landlord’s responsibility under an individual tenancy so are usually factored into the rental amount – however if a tenant falls into arrears or defaults on their rent entirely, the landlord is still reponsible for paying for these under an individual tenancy