Understanding your occupation contract
What do I need to know?
If you rent your home, you probably have an occupation contract with your landlord.
Your landlord must give you a written statement of your occupation contract which sets out both of your responsibilities.
Its important that you keep to the terms of your contract.
Find out more
The written statement of your occupation contract will include lots of important information about your rights and responsibilities. It will also tell you what your landlord has to do. Some will automatically apply to every occupation contract but others will be able to be amended. These are some of the main terms to look out for:
- Key matters – these terms set out the essential facts for the contract, such as the address, the date of the contract, the amount of rent and how often it has to be paid
- Fundamental terms – these terms are automatically included in the occupation contract
- Additional terms– these are extra conditions that you and your landlord might want to have in your occupation contract, for example, conditions about having pets
- Deposit – the money you pay your landlord at the beginning of your contract. It gives the landlord some protection incase there is damage to the property or rent arrears when you leave. Landlords must put deposits into a government scheme.
- Repair obligations – these tell you what repairs your landlord must carry out and what repairs are your responsibility.
- Fit for human habitation – the standard of condition that most rented accommodation must meet
- Succession– when a person takes over an occupation contract when the contract holder dies.
If you sign an occupation contract with another person or group of people, you will form a joint contract and will be known as joint contract holders.
If you, or one of the other joint contract holders want to leave the contract you can do so without the contract ending for everyone else.
You can add a joint contract holder to your contract, which means someone new could move in. You will need your landlords agreement to do this, but your landlord cannot unreasonably refuse.
If one person doesn’t pay their rent, the others will have to pay it for them. As a group, each of you is responsible for making sure that the whole rent is paid.
If your landlord does not agree to you leaving a joint occupation contract, or does not let you move someone else in, get further advice.
Some occupation contracts are for a fixed term, such as 6 months or 1 year, and some are periodic, which means they run from month to month, or week to week, depending on how often you pay your rent.
If you have a fixed term occupation contract, when the fixed term ends one of two things will happen:
- your landlord might give you a new occupation contract for a further fixed term, or
- your occupation contract will automatically continue as a periodic, i.e. on the same basis as before but will roll from month to month or week to week rather than being for a set period. If this happens, your landlord must provide you with a new written statement within 14 days of the original fixed term contract ending.
In most cases, your landlord has to give you notice and can’t just ask you to move out on the last day. There are special legal rules the landlord has to follow if s/he wants you to leave. These depend on the type of occupation contract you have.
If you know you want to leave at the end of the fixed term it is best to give the landlord notice.
There are now only two main types of occupation contract:
- Standard occupation contract, and
- Secure occupation contract.
The type of occupation contract you have mostly depends on many who your landlord is and when your contract started. Although there are some exceptions, for example if you live in supported accommodation. check out our advice page which explains why it’s different.
Your written statement should tell you what type of occupation contract you have, but if you are unsure the information below should help.
You probably have a standard occupation contract. There are two types of standard occupation contract private landlords can give:
Fixed term – this means your contract lasts for a specific length of time, and
Periodic – this means that your contract does not have an end date, but ‘rolls forward’ with each rental period.
The contract itself should state whether it is fixed term or periodic. Both types of contract are very similar, but there are differences in how the landlord can evict you or vary your contract.
There are some situations where you might not have a standard occupation contract even though you rent from a private landlord. For example if:
- Your landlord lives at the property and you share all, or part, you are probably an excluded occupier (you may also be referred to as a ‘lodger’ if you share your home with the landlord);
- You rented the property for a holiday you won’t have a standard occupation contract and are probably an excluded occupier.
If you are still not sure what type of occupation contract you have, then it’s best to get advice. Have a look at our What to look for in a renting agreement page for more information.
If you are renting from the council or a housing association, you will have what is called a ‘community landlord’.
If you rent from a community landlord, you will probably have a secure occupation contract, unless :
- you have and introductory standard contract
- a prohibited conduct standard contract, or
- your accommodation is temporary or provided as part of your job.
A secure occupation contract is usually a periodic contract, which means your contract does not have an end date, but ‘rolls forward’ with each rental period.
A community landlord should give you a written statement which says clearly what type of contract you have and what your rights and responsibilities are.