The county’s landlords and tenants have been urged to protect themselves against pricey legal disputes by drawing up binding written contracts.
The warning comes from property expert Julia Williams who says both parties in a property rental arrangement are at ‘high financial risk’ without a proper tenancy agreement in writing.
Ms Williams’, director at Worcestershire’s property management and letting specialist Premier Places, said she is ‘amazed’ at how many landlords and tenants are still failing to set out notice periods and basic agreements in writing – an oversight which is causing what she described as an ‘unnecessary nightmare’ for those involved.
An assured shorthold tenancy is a form of agreement between domestic landlords and tenants. The document is put in place to give written clarity on rental periods and conditions through a fixed term agreement.
Ms Williams said: “Despite a number of high profile advisory campaigns within the industry, I am amazed that we are still seeing large numbers of landlords and tenants who, when looking to break their agreement, realise there is nothing in writing to protect them.
“In a nutshell, some landlords or tenants simply overlook the need for tenancy protection while others choose to ignore it despite professional advice. But the result remains the same – months of upset hinged on a costly legal dispute for both sides.
“More than ever it is vital that tenants understand that their agreements are legally binding contacts and they cannot just hand the keys back at the drop of a hat. Many try to do so.
“And on the other side of the coin it’s vital that landlords understand that there are correct procedures to follow, especially if there is a breach of terms.
“There is no legal requirement for shorthold tenancies to be in writing and that is one of the reasons why they can be overlooked. But verbal agreements give very little protection. They leave the door open to potential disputes over rent and repairs and it can be very difficult to get a possession order if the tenant breaches their terms. The situation is placing people across the county into unnecessary property nightmares.”
She added: “There’s an old saying and it’s appropriate for this situation – a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”
Ms Williams and colleague Dani James hold a number of property forums across Worcestershire which help provide expert advice on written tenancy agreements for both landlords and tenants.
For more information see www.premierplaces.co.uk or call Premier Places on 01905 616616.