Verbal (Parol) Tenancies

Is it possible to have a verbal tenancy? 

This is never advisable, but it is possible under section 54 Law of Property Act 1925.

53.- Instruments required to be in writing. 

(1) Subject to the provision hereinafter contained with respect to the creation of interests in land by parol- 

(a) no interest in land can be created or disposed of except by writing signed by the person creating or conveying the same, or by his agent thereunto lawfully authorised in writing, or by will, or by operation of law; ... 

54.- Creation of interests in land by parol. 

(1) ... 

(2) Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act shall affect the creation by parol of leases taking effect in possession for a term not exceeding three years (whether or not the lessee is given power to extend the term) at the best rent which can be reasonably obtained without taking a fine.

A lease for three years or less at the best rent, which can reasonably be obtained without taking a fine, maybe in writing or parol (verbal). 

A lease for more than three years from the making must be by deed (and in writing). This includes a lease granted for a term exceeding three years but determinable within three years.

Will a tenancy made by parol (verbal) be an assured shorthold tenancy? 

This will depend on the date the tenancy was granted. If the tenancy was created before the Housing Act 1988 came into force; it will be a tenancy subject to whatever legislation was in at the time (normally Rent Act 1977 or Rent Act 1964); however, if the tenancy was created since the Housing Act 1988 (15 January 198hen there are two possibilities depending on the date. 

Tenancy created between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997. 

Section 1 Housing Act 1988 will apply, which states that all tenancies created are assured subject to certain conditions. It was possible to create an assured shorthold tenancy during this time but not verbally because the section 20 notice was required in writing (section 20 notice was the old style way of granting an assured shorthold tenancy and informing the tenant it was to be at least six months etc.) The main criteria of importance for a tenancy to be assured is that a separate dwelling was let to an individual, and it is their only or principal home. If these three requirements are met, the tenancy will be assured. (If not, it will most probably be a common-law contractual tenancy)

1.- Assured tenancies. 

(1) A tenancy under which a dwelling-house is let as a separate dwelling is for the purposes of this Act an assured tenancy if and so long as- 

(a) the tenant or, as the case may be, each of the joint tenants is an individual; and 

(b) the tenant or, as the case may be, at least one of the joint tenants occupies the dwelling-house as his only or principal home; and 

(c) the tenancy is not one which, by virtue of subsection (2) or subsection (6) below, cannot be an assured tenancy. 

(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, if and so long as a tenancy falls within any paragraph in Part I of Schedule 1 to this Act, it cannot be an assured tenancy; and in that Schedule- 

(a) "tenancy" means a tenancy under which a dwelling-house is let as a separate dwelling; …

Tenancy created on 28 February 1997 to the present day. 

Section 1 detailed above applies subject to the criteria discussed (tenant individual, only or principal home etc.) However, the Housing Act 1996 changed things and removed the requirement of a section 20 notice. Therefore, only a tenancy need be granted without any notice before its grant, and it will be an assured shorthold tenancy. This act also removed the requirement of a minimum 6-month fixed term. Section 96 Housing Act 1996 inserted section 19A into the Housing Act 1988. The position now is:

19A. Assured shorthold tenancies: post-Housing Act 1996 tenancies. 

An assured tenancy which-

(a) is entered into on or after the day on which section 96 of the Housing Act 1996 comes into force (otherwise than pursuant to a contract made before that day), or 

(b) comes into being by virtue of section 5 above on the coming to an end of an assured tenancy within paragraph (a) above, is an assured shorthold tenancy unless it falls within any paragraph in Schedule 2A to this Act.

Does a tenant have the right to receive a written statement containing the terms of a tenancy if a verbal tenancy has been granted? 

Yes [s20A Housing Act 1988, inserted by s97 Housing Act 1996]. 

A landlord must supply, after a written request by a tenant, a written statement of terms which contain the date the tenancy began, the rent payable, any provision for a rent increase and, if there is a fixed term, the length of the fixed term. The landlord must supply this information within 28 days of a request and only has to do this once if there have been no changes and doesn't have to provide this statement if the tenancy is evidenced in writing (therefore only applies to verbal tenancies).

20A.- Post-Housing Act 1996 tenancies: duty of landlord to provide statement as to terms of tenancy. 

(1) Subject to subsection (3) below, a tenant under an assured shorthold tenancy to which section 19A above applies may, by notice in writing, require the landlord under that tenancy to provide him with a written statement of any term of the tenancy which- (a) falls within subsection (2) below, and (b) is not evidenced in writing. 

(2) The following terms of a tenancy fall within this subsection, namely- 

(a) the date on which the tenancy began or, if it is a statutory periodic tenancy or a tenancy to which section 39(7) below applies, the date on which the tenancy came into being, 

(b) the rent payable under the tenancy and the dates on which that rent is payable, 

(c) any term providing for a review of the rent payable under the tenancy, and 

(d) in the case of a fixed term tenancy, the length of the fixed term. 

(3) No notice may be given under subsection (1) above in relation to a term of the tenancy if- 

(a) the landlord under the tenancy has provided a statement of that term in response to an earlier notice under that subsection given by the tenant under the tenancy, and (b) the term has not been varied since the provision of the statement referred to in paragraph (a) above. 

(4) A landlord who fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with a notice under subsection (1) above within the period of 28 days beginning with the date on which he received the notice is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale. 

(5) A statement provided for the purposes of subsection (1) above shall not be regarded as conclusive evidence of what was agreed by the parties to the tenancy in question. 

(6) Where- 

(a) a term of a statutory periodic tenancy is one which has effect by virtue of section 5(3)(e) above, or 

(b) a term of a tenancy to which subsection (7) of section 39 below applies is one which has effect by virtue of subsection (6)(e) of that section, subsection (1) above shall have effect in relation to it as if paragraph (b) related to the term of the tenancy from which it derives. 

(7) In subsections (1) and (3) above- 

(a) references to the tenant under the tenancy shall, in the case of joint tenants, be taken to be references to any of the tenants, and

(b) references to the landlord under the tenancy shall, in the case of joint landlords, be taken to be references to any of the landlords.

View Related Handbook Page

Types of Tenancy - Assured Tenancies

Where the tenancy is ‘assured’ (not shorthold) and is in the fixed term or periodic, the section 21 procedure does not apply, and the landlord can only bring the tenancy to an end on specific grounds. Most landlords will need to take specialist legal advice before proceeding.

Tenancy Agreements

Landlords should be aware of the benefits of written tenancy agreements and the procedures necessary for obtaining such an agreement. Although a landlord can create many short-term tenancies (three years or less) without a written agreement, it is generally not advisable for landlords to allow occupation without first having secured a signed formal tenancy agreement.

Types of Tenancy - Contractual Tenancies

A contractual tenancy is often also known as a common-law tenancy. This type of tenancy is used in certain circumstances where a tenancy cannot be an assured shorthold tenancy. Examples include: