Tenancy agreements and 'fair' clauses

The rules can vary depending on when a tenancy began. If a tenancy began before 1st October 2015, click here for the rules and regulations that apply to you.

Otherwise, it’s the rules under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
The legal guidance issued by the Competition and Markets Authority can be found on the Government website.

It doesn’t matter if a contract has been signed, if terms aren’t fair then they’re not binding.
The ‘fairness‘ requirement always applies, whenever the tenancy began. This rule applies to landlords in the public sector too.

Unfair terms

This is defined as being a clause that creates a large imbalance between landlord and tenant about the rights and responsibilities. This results in the tenant’s interests being severely affected.
 
Terms in a written tenancy need to be 'transparent'. This means that they should be in plain and language that’s easy to understand. If they’re not the law says that the clause should be interpreted in favour of their tenant.
 
Clauses also need to be prominent, and not ‘hidden in the small print’.
 
But, it is for a Court to rule on what’s fair or unfair in individual cases. They should look at clauses and whether they’re fair even if the tenant doesn’t ask for that to happen. The Court can also delete those clauses and not allow them to be rewritten.

Terms that are 'unfair'

The law doesn’t give a comprehensive list, but it could include cases where:

  • A landlord passes on one of their responsibilities to a tenant, or
  • The landlord changes the tenancy without consultation or reason, or
  • Demands a high payment for a tenant not meeting their obligations, or
  • Suggests that a tenant can’t take legal action they’re entitled to

It also applies in cases where there’s a term that’s specific to a particular home rather than something more general.
A term can also be seen as unfair legally if notices given by landlords and tenants don’t help the relationship between a landlord and their tenant. Or there’s an attempt to put additional responsibilities on to the tenant.

If you believe you are being treated unfairly you can report it to the safer housing team below.

Email the Safer Housing Team