When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Negotiating the terms in your tenancy agreement

Take time to read your contract. If you are unhappy with any of the terms, ask that they be changed.  The landlord doesn’t have to agree to negotiate the terms of the contract, but you shouldn’t sign any legal contract until you are happy that you understand it and can comply with it.

Understanding the terms

Some agreements used by landlords and agents are written in complex legal language.  However, your contract should be written in plain language.  The Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies to all contracts entered into from 1 October 2015 and says that all terms in a contract must be

  • transparent
  • prominent and
  • fair. 

“Transparent” means that the term is written in plain, understandable language and that it is legible. “Prominent” means that the term is not hidden away, such as in small print.  An average consumer should be able to read and understand the terms in a contract.

If you don’t understand the terms, or they contain complex language, ask that they be rewritten so that they comply with the Consumer Rights Act 2015.   

Adding terms to suit your circumstances

You may need to amend terms in the agreement or add terms to reflect what you have agreed with the landlord or the agent.

Your tenancy agreement might say “no pets”, but the landlord may have agreed to allow you to keep your dog in the property as long as you pay a larger deposit or arrange for a professional clean when you move out.  If this is the case, make sure that the tenancy agreement is changed to reflect this arrangement.

If you come to this sort of arrangement after the agreement has been signed, make sure you get the landlord’s permission, and any conditions attached to this permission, in writing.

Adding a break clause

You might not want to commit to a fixed term agreement.  You can ask your landlord to include a break clause in the contract, which will allow you to leave before the end of the fixed term. 

Be aware that a break clause works both ways, so it will give the landlord permission to end the tenancy before the fixed term as well as allowing you to leave early.

You should make sure that your break clause is properly worded in the contract and explains

  • that you can leave the property without retaining any responsibility for rent
  • how you use the break clause.

It’s common for break clauses to come with conditions.  This could include agreeing that the landlord can keep your deposit, finding a new tenant for the property or paying the costs for advertising the property.

Individually negotiated terms and fairness

An individually negotiated term is one which you have had an opportunity to change or vary in some way.  Any individually negotiated term in a contract that was entered into before October 2015 is exempt from the unfair terms rules.

All terms, including ones that have been negotiated, must be fair, transparent and prominent in contracts that began on or after 1 October 2015.