Earlier today I received a phonecall from a disgruntled friend of mine; she explained to me that her landlord has requested for her to vacate the property by Saturday (4 days away), due to a disagreement regarding the rent. Bear in mind, there is several months left in the tenancy, so he’s trying to terminate the the tenancy during the fixed-term.
She was in a panic because finding a reasonably priced property to rent in the current climate, in London, with in 4 days is a tall order to say the least. She then explained how she didn’t have a written contract with her landlord, just a piece of paper declaring that she had paid a deposit; her fear was that the lack of paperwork left her with very little rights, if any at all.
I was pleased to tell her… WRONG!!!
A ‘Verbal Contract’ is binding by law
Simply, a verbal agreement is as legally binding as a written Tenancy Agreement (however, I would never advise to enter any agreement without a written contract).
As soon as a landlord allows access into the property and accepts rental payment, a verbal contract is formed. So this whole, “get out of my property with in 3 days” crap won’t fly, or at least, it’s not legally enforceable.
Legal rights without a written Tenancy Agreement
The fact a tenant does not have a written tenancy agreement does not affect a tenant’s statutory legal rights, in fact, nor does it lesson the landlords legal rights. Both parties are still protected by statutory/common law.
Essentially, a tenant without a written contract is still entitled to all the statutory rights a regular tenant with a contract is, including water, heating, a safe environment etc.
How Is a Verbal Tenancy Agreement Created?
For a verbal tenancy to exist it must have three essential elements:
- An offer
- An acceptance of offer
- Payment- known as the legal term consideration
If these three elements exist, then you’ve essentially created a verbal tenancy agreement. This contract is binding to all parties involved.
There are other elements to consider:
- Both parties must agree to be legally tied to the agreement
- Both parties are capable of making an agreement i.e. not under the age of 18, drunk or insane.
- Both parties must be acting freely and not under duress
- The contract being made cannot be contrary to law
Ending / terminating a verbal tenancy agreement
To terminate ANY tenancy agreement, the correct and proper legal procedures must be followed.
In my friend’s case, she can’t simply be told to leave with 4 days notice in the middle of the agreed fixed term just because there is no written tenancy agreement. Although, it does make it slightly difficult to prove when the agreed end-date of the tenancy is, but in any case, she’s entitled to at least 2 months notice (that’s her statutory right). The only way my friend, or any other tenant, can be ‘forced’ out of a tenancy agreement during the fixed-term is if the landlord has grounds for eviction.
If you want to shuffle through all the ways a tenancy can be terminated, whether you have a written or verbal agreement, here’s a list of ways to terminate a tenancy agreement properly.
From the other perspective, if you’re a landlord that’s trying to get rid of a rogue or troublesome tenant (and all you have is a flimsy verbal agreement), you may have legitimate grounds for eviction. For further information, you can hop over here to get some free landlord legal advice. No strings attached.
Why Verbal Tenancy Agreements are not advised
Even though “verbal agreements” are legally binding, it is still advised that a written tenancy agreement is always present when creating a tenancy.
Firstly, and quite frankly, a landlord or tenant that doesn’t have a written contract is an utter shit-for-brains. I sincerely mean that.
Written contracts are there for your utmost protection. I would question any tenant or landlord that doesn’t require a written contract. In my opinion, it just triggers off a signal, “DODGY BASTARD”
Secondly, a written tenancy is created to avoid misinterpretation as well as agreeing to the key points in the tenancy. By having a well-constructed tenancy agreement, which outlines the tenant and landlords’ responsibilities, any disputes further down the line would be avoided.
How to avoid creating a verbal tenancy agreement
It is very important to document all communication between a landlord and a tenant. The problem may arise in a verbal contract where a tenant may argue that they never accepted the terms of the contract. In this case, it’s very difficult to prove who is actually in the right or wrong, so written proof is vital.
If you are discussing a potential let or renewal of a contract, you should always make sure that that you do not create a verbal tenancy agreement. You can avoid this by using the words ‘Subject to Contract’ on any correspondence relating to potential lets and when leaving messages on answering machines or speaking with prospective tenants.
Creating a Written Tenancy Agreement
Putting a written tenancy agreement in place couldn’t be easier. You don’t have to draft one yourself, there are already plenty of resources available at your disposal. There are hundreds of websites online that offer Tenancy Agreement templates– you just need to download one and fill it in like a regular form.
It is important to ensure you source your Tenancy Agreement from a reputable vendor, as there are plenty out there that have either been butchered with unlawful clauses and/or are simply out-dated. There’s a range of Tenancy Agreements available to purchase from this website for £4.99, which have been created by specialist Solicitors. They can be reused as many times as you wish. However, if you wish to source your tenancy agreement from elsewhere, I recommend having a glimpse at the Good Tenancy Agreement Guide.
For more details on tenancy contracts, you may want to head over to the Tenancy Agreement blog post.
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger, I am not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any advice I give is my opinion based on my experience, and is never legal or professional advice. You should always get professional advice on any legal and financial matters!