Change A Tenancy Agreement

Generally speaking, tenancy agreements, once signed, are binding. It’s not necessarily straightforward to change a tenancy agreement, such as would be required if the landlord is interested in adding or removing a person or persons to the terms of the agreement. There’s no way for one party to force these changes through while still remaining compliant with the relevant regulations specified in UK law. Rather, any changes to the tenancy agreement must be mutually agreed upon by both the lessor and the lessee.

Either a new agreement can be drawn up, or the original on can be amended. Be careful, though — verbal agreements on their own aren’t binding, although they can be reinforced by written evidence. One example of a way a verbal agreement could be ratified is by both parties agreeing to a change in the amount of money to be paid in terms of rent. Because there will be receipts and invoices to create a paper trail, the verbal agreement can be proven if need be.

Why Would A Landlord Want To Change The Tenancy Agreement?

Landlords could have a number of different reasons for wanting to effect changes to the tenancy agreement, and they don’t all have to do with specific issues with the tenant themselves. These reasons can be either financially or personally motivated — either kind is valid, legally speaking, and either kind will be binding in the same way that the original tenancy agreement was binding.

Here are a few reasons a landlord might want to change the tenancy agreement:

  • The landlord wants to increase rent. This is probably the most common reason for changes in the tenancy agreement, and happens all the time across many different kinds of property. Even though landlords are obliged to follow certain UK law regulations with regards to how much they can raise rent and in which situations they’re allowed to do so, they’re still within their rights to request an increase to the rent as long as those same conditions have been met.
  • The landlord wants to make particular changes to the agreement. In a similar vein as the point above, landlords are permitted to make specific changes to the original tenancy agreement if they see fit. An example of a change they might want to make is to provide a live-in nearer for a tenant who has suffered a medical setback, or as a way to accommodate the tenant’s significant other who wants to move into the property with them.

Typically, it won’t be enough for a landlord to make a change because they feel like something isn’t being done correctly. For example, if the tenant has been living in a way the landlord doesn’t appreciate but hasn’t broken any of the original terms laid out in the agreement, the landlord doesn’t have the right to begin the process of making changes according to UK law. Of course, if the terms are broken then the lessor can serve a Section 21 or a Section 8 notice, but that’s another matter.

Why Would A Tenant Want To Change The Tenancy Agreement?

Just like the landlord might have a few different reasons for changing the tenancy agreement, tenants also have a degree of power with regards to the way they behave with the original document. Tenants have to comply with more stringent requirements for requesting changes, but once those minimum requirements have been met they’re completely within their rights to ask for changes to be made. Landlords can’t simply ignore these requests; if there are sufficient grounds for the request to be made in the first place, they’re obliged to enter into discussion with the tenant about the specifics of the situation.

Here are some of the most common reasons tenants could have for wanting changes to be made to the original tenancy agreement:

  • The tenant wants to change the original agreement to one which allows for a joint tenancy. There can be a number of causes that might lead to a tenant wanting to make this decision. Some of the most frequently-occurring sets of circumstances include wanting their significant other to join them in the apartment, or wanting to bring in a friend to help share the burden of the rent and utility bills. For this kind of request, there’s no medical or legal requirement to be met – every tenant is within their rights to request a joint tenancy, although the landlord doesn’t have to agree.
  • The tenant wants to transfer their tenancy to somebody else. In this case, the UK is a little different from a lot of other countries in that there are strict rules regarding to who exactly can qualify for taking over an original tenant agreement. The person the lessee wants to transfer the tenancy to needs to be a family member, and they need to have spent at least a year living with the tenant in the property before the request is made. This regulation has been built into the legislation as a way to protect landlords against frivolous or otherwise inconvenient changes in tenancy.

When And Why Landlords Can Be Compelled To Make Changes To The Agreement?

There are certain circumstances under which a landlord is legally required to try to change the tenancy agreement (the specific term used in the documentation is that a landlord must make a ‘reasonable effort’ to make the changes). The most strongly binding form of these circumstances describe cases in which by failing to make changes to the agreement, the landlord would be infringing on the tenant’s right not to be discriminated — be that on grounds of religion, sexuality, race, or disability.

For example, if a tenant has an accident during the course of the tenancy and requires additional help because they’ve become disabled to some degree, the landlord must make a reasonable effort to change the agreement in order to account for the tenant’s new requirements. This isn’t optional in the UK, and failing to comply with this requirement can lead to legal repercussions which would be a lot trickier to deal with than the logistics of providing for the tenant’s disability needs.

What To Do If A Tenant Leaves A Joint Tenancy?

If the original tenancy agreement has been changed to a joint tenancy at some point throughout the course of the relationship, the costs for the property will have similarly been adjusted in order for each tenant to take equal responsibility for them. These costs include, but are not limited to:

  • Rent payments (including any back-charges for rent in arrears)
  • Upkeep of the property (including any structural or related changes that must be made in order to keep the property in the condition required by the original tenancy agreement)
  • Deposits (money to be paid in deposits should be shared equally by each tenant, and they should pool their money together in order to make just one single payment to the landlord as opposed to two equally-sized payments)
  • Damage (any personal property, furniture, or structural damages that occur to items which have been catalogued and noted in the property inventory must be shared by all parties who are playing a part in the joint tenancy agreement — this includes communal areas within the property, which is an important point to note)

If the tenant decides to leave after they’ve instigated a joint tenancy agreement, their part of the deal must be replaced by another tenant who, by law, must be informed of every change the agreement has gone through. As an example, if the original tenancy agreement was changed to a joint tenancy agreement, the new tenant must be informed of this before they sign anything and commit themselves formally and legally to taking on the costs involved.

Whose Responsibility Is It To Replace The Tenant?

Even though in most cases the tenant who is leaving the joint tenancy will be responsible for finding somebody to replace them, it’s vital to note that this isn’t a legal requirement, and there’s no legislation binding the tenant to do the same according to UK law. This means that as a landlord, you should be prepared to find another tenant to replace the departing tenant on your own if need be, although you’re also perfectly entitled to ask the remaining tenant if they’d like to change the joint tenancy agreement back to a single tenancy agreement. This would result in the new arrival taking on the property as a whole, and the standard notices such as those described in Sections 8, 13, and 21 of the 1988 Housing Act would be enforced accordingly.

Final Tips

Going through changes to the tenancy agreement can be a stressful time for landlords and tenants alike. In order to make things as easy as possible, follow these tips:

  • Communicate sooner rather than later – don’t put issues on the back burner or you risk running foul of the legal periods of notice required
  • Be accommodating – by proving that you’re willing to work with the tenant or landlord, you’ll make the whole process more convivial
  • Know your rights – both tenants and landlords are personally responsible for knowing what they’re entitled to under the law, so make sure you understand the relevant regulations or you risk being burned

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