When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Unfair terms in tenancy agreements

Any term in a tenancy agreement has to be fair. 

An unfair term is not enforceable. This means you do not have to stick to it and the landlord cannot use it to take legal action against you. 

The law on fair terms is The Consumer Rights Act 2015. There are different laws for contracts that started before 1 October 2015.

Can you understand your contract?

A contract term must

  • use plain language that you can read
  • not be in small print or hidden away
  • be fair.

Ask for changes to your contract if it uses complex legal language. Tell the landlord you are asking for this under Section 68 of The Consumer Rights Act 2015. 

What is an unfair term?

A contract term may be unfair if 

  • it unbalances your rights and responsibilities and the landlord's rights and responsibilities, and
  • this imbalance puts you at a disadvantage.

When deciding if a term is unfair, you have to think about

  • the type of contract you have, and
  • what the circumstances were when you agreed to the contract, and
  • how it relates to the rest of your contract.

The rules on unfair terms don’t usually apply to the price and main subject matter of a contract. You can’t use these laws to argue that your rent is unfair. 

Examples of unfair terms in tenancy agreements

A term might be unfair if it

  • allows the landlord to charge excessive fees for non-payment of rent
  • says you have to pay fees that are the landord's responsibility
  • says you are responsible for paying for all repairs in the property
  • says the landlord can end the contract early, but the tenant cannot
  • takes away any of your core rights.

The Competition and Markets Authority produced guidance on unfair terms in consumer contracts. This guidance also applies to tenancy agreements. 

Getting help if your tenancy agreement is unfair

Trading Standards can deal with complaints about unfair contracts. They can ask the landlord or agent to change terms if they think they are unfair. 

The unfair terms legislation can also help if your landlord takes you to court. Landlords cannot rely on an unfair term to take legal action against a tenant. 

Get advice if you think your contract is unfair.