Fixed terms are common parts of tenancy agreements in the UK. A fixed term tenancy provides tenants with the security of a long-term rental agreement and landlords with the assurance of a guaranteed income stream.
In this article, we will discuss the key features of fixed-term tenancies, including the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. We will also provide guidance on how to conduct repairs in a fixed-term tenancy, including the steps that landlords and tenants can take to ensure that any necessary repairs are carried out without restricting a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment.
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, this information will help you navigate the complexities of fixed-term tenancies and make sure you have the right information to comply with the law.
What exactly is a fixed-term tenancy?
Fixed-term tenancies are types of tenancy agreements where the tenant agrees to rent a property for a specific period of time.
During this time the tenant has the exclusive right to occupy the property and the landlord is not allowed to terminate the tenancy unless the tenant breaches the terms of the agreement. In the same way, the tenant must also stay in the property and pay rent so a fixed term tenancy protects both the landlord and the tenant.
At the end of the fixed term, the tenancy will either be ended, renegotiated or converted to a periodic tenancy if neither the landlord or the tenant want to make changes to anything.
What is the point of a fixed term?
Fixed terms tenancies were included as part of assured tenancies in the introduction of the Housing Act 1988. This means the tenant would have extra rights when they first move into the property if they signed into a fixed term. These rights include the landlord not being able to evict the tenant if they haven’t done anything wrong in breach of the tenancy agreement in place.
For landlords, this provides advantages too. The main one being the landlord has the ability to offer a section 13 for a rent increase as soon as the fixed term tenancy is over without the tenant being surprised. Rent increases are likely to be accepted by a tenant if they are planned for and the landlord and tenant are both on board with what is happening with the tenancy.
What is a probationary period?
In the UK, a probationary period is a specified period of time where a tenant is given the opportunity to prove that they are capable of meeting their obligations under the tenancy agreement, such as paying rent on time and taking care of the property. This probationary period is only in place for social housing tenants and is enforced by the local authority.
If the tenant complies with the terms of the tenancy agreement during the probationary period, the tenancy will continue as normal and the tenant will gain the right to live in the property for the long term. However, if the tenant breaches the terms of the tenancy during this time, the social housing landlord may end the tenancy or simply refuse the tenant the right to become a secure tenant.
The length of the probationary period will vary depending on the terms of the tenancy agreement and the type of tenant but they are usually between 6 and 12 months long. It is best that a tenant does their best to keep up with rental payments and also make sure they don’t commit acts of anti-social behaviour.
It is important to note that a probationary period isn’t able to happen in the private sector as a landlord that isn’t part of social housing cannot do this in order to find out if a tenant is a good fit. Instead, they will have to resort to methods like landlord references as part of tenant referencing in order to make sure the tenant is a good fit and will pay their rent on time.
What are a tenant’s rights and responsibilities in a fixed term?
During a fixed term tenancy, a tenant still has to comply with the tenancy agreement in place as the landlord can still issue an eviction notice if the tenancy agreement has been obviously breached. As well as this, there is a level of responsibility tenants have to have in the property.
Usually, a tenant’s rights will be written in a tenancy agreement or they can be found on the government website for assured tenancies.
A tenant’s rights
A tenant in an assured tenancy will have the right to a safe home that is structurally sound and is compliant with all the safety regulations set out by the government such as gas safety regulations, electrical safety regulations, and energy performance certificates.
Also, all the amenities that were listed to be provided in the agreement should be continued. For example, if in a property viewing checklist it is found that the landlord provides a dishwasher as part of the household, if the dishwasher breaks, it could be the landlord’s responsibility to repair it.
In addition to this, a tenant in a fixed term tenancy also has the right for their security deposit to be held in a relevant tenancy deposit scheme. At the end of the fixed term tenancy, if the tenant hasn’t damaged the property and has no rent arrears, they should be able to gain their security deposit back.
Other rights a tenant has during a fixed term tenancy are the ability to be free from the issuing of section 13 for rent increases, no-fault evictions (section 21) and the right to quiet enjoyment in their home.
A tenant’s responsibilities
Even though a fixed term tenancy is seen as secure for tenants, there are still things they can do wrong that will result in eviction like not paying their rent, being a nuisance to neighbours or damaging the property they are in. For large breaches of a tenancy agreement like rent arrears or damage to a property, the tenant will be evicted under the grounds of section 8.
Also, if a tenant does not keep up with the obligations that are less severe like having pets in their property or subletting the property without the landlord’s permission, they could be subject to tenancy fees or dilapidations as the fixed term tenancy comes to an end.
Typically, if there is no large damage in the property due to reasons like these, the landlord will issue softer penalties like these. However, sometimes they could elicit the right situation for eviction so it is important a tenant complied with the terms in their tenancy agreement even in a fixed term tenancy.
How should a landlord conduct repairs in a fixed term tenancy?
In a fixed term tenancy, even though the tenant should have the right to be undisturbed and enjoy a quiet home, the landlord may need to enter during a fixed term tenancy to do necessary planned preventative maintenance or enter the property in an emergency if there are structural repairs that need to be done under section 11.
In order for a landlord to enter legally, they should issue a tenant with a landlord inspection notice which will give a landlord the right to enter the property within 24 hours notice if they issue it correctly.
How does the end of a fixed term work?
The end of a fixed term tenancy doesn’t have to be an official meeting where the tenant and the landlord come together to discuss the terms of the tenancy agreement if they don’t want to. In fact, if the tenant is okay with their agreement and so is the landlord, they can do nothing and wait for the agreement to finish. This will result in the tenancy continuing as a periodic tenancy.
In a periodic tenancy, the landlord will receive rent from the tenant for an undisclosed period of time until either of them wants the agreement to come to an end. This can go on for years.
Is it possible for a tenant or landlord to end the tenancy before the fixed term ends?
Under the law, if the landlord wants to end the tenancy and the tenant disagrees or vice versa, there is very little that can be done about this as the court will always favour whoever is within their rights as per the fixed term tenancy agreement if the disagreement was escalated for a court hearing.
Having said that, either party can negotiate the best they can, whether that be financially or verbally in order to bring the tenancy to an end. If they are able to agree, it is important for this to be written in a contract addendum so it is clear that the fixed term tenancy is over.
Wrapping things up
In conclusion, fixed term tenancies provide stability and security for both tenants and landlords. The main things you need to be aware of are that the tenant must agree to rent a property for a specific period, and the landlord is not allowed to terminate the tenancy unless the tenant breaches the terms of the agreement.
At the end of the fixed term tenancy, the tenancy may either end or be converted to a periodic tenancy.
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