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Mike Morgan, Hamilton Fraser’s Legal Division Manager and Head of HF Assist, explains why it might be a good idea to check your tenancy agreement is up to date during the lockdown.
Like many things in life, so many of the enquiries coming into the HF Assist letting agent helpline come back to the ‘small print’. When we ask questions like, “what does your tenancy agreement say?” or , “have you got a clause about this in your tenancy agreement?”, we often get answers like “I assume so” or “I’m sure it does, we’ve used it for years.”
It’s easy to assume your tenancy agreement is right, particularly when we can be so busy doing the day job. But is it? One agent calling us to check on the meaning of a clause in their existing tenancy agreement found that it hadn’t been updated for six years, and – more importantly – required payments no longer allowed under the Tenant Fees Act!
Panic could have followed, but we pointed the agent to our own AST template, which is fully up to date and saved them significant time and effort reviewing and rewriting theirs.
One of our most common current enquiries is about data protection. Did you know that it’s best practice to have a clause in your tenancy agreement explaining how you will process the tenant’s personal data?
It’s surprising us how many agents seem not to have this. Whilst this might sound very high-brow and technical, it’s about practical things like passing tenants’ contact details to suppliers such as contractors who need to complete repairs.
If you have used your tenancy agreement “for years” and are assuming it’s OK, the lockdown may provide the perfect opportunity to review and update it.
If you’ve not checked your tenancy agreement template since the Tenant Fees Act was introduced in June 2019, it’s extremely likely that it will need updating. The Act banned several fees that we are still seeing included within clauses in our members’ tenancy agreements. These should be the first things you review.
You can of course review your template yourself or have someone in your office do it, but tenancy agreements are a legally binding contract and require a skilled legal eye. Unless you have someone in your office who is legally trained, we wouldn’t recommend doing this.
Getting a solicitor to review your template would be another option, but this would incur a cost. As times are tough right now this may put you off doing it, but the other option is free templates.
There are several free templates available if you do a Google search, but it’s difficult to tell whether these templates are up to date before you get them and if they cover everything you need.
We provide a free AST template through HF Assist Premium membership. It’s completely free to members and is updated regularly so our members can be sure it’s always safe to use. What’s more, our members can contact us to discuss the template and personalise it to their business and tenancies, at no extra cost.
However you choose to review and update your tenancy agreement, just remember it is often the route cause of all issues – and solutions. There is no time like the present, especially during the current lockdown.
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Property Redress Scheme is approved by Government under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015