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Advice on undocumented or unregistered leases

View profile for Anthony Baines
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Whether it’s tenancies that haven’t been put in writing or other undocumented property arrangements, it’s not uncommon for property owners or occupiers to face difficulties when needing to understand and prove their rights in relation to that property. That can be especially true in relation to long-standing arrangements, where one or both of the parties did not take legal advice at the time that the arrangement began.

Tenancies do not have to be in writing unless they are for a fixed period of more than 3 years. So it’s possible for a tenancy to exist without a written agreement. But it’s always advisable to put any tenancy agreement in writing, not only to record the agreement reached between the parties, but also to comply with any statutory requirements, such as:

  • rent deposit obligations and accelerated possession for assured shorthold tenancies of residential property; and
  • exclusion of a tenant’s right to renew a lease of business property.

While it’s unlikely that a tenant of a residential property let on a long lease would not take legal advice, tenants of agricultural and other commercial property do sometimes decide to proceed without legal advice, perhaps due to time constraints or the tenant being happy to deal direct with the landlord. If any Stamp Duty Land Tax due on the lease is then not paid on time and the lease isn’t registered at Land Registry where it was granted for a fixed period of more than 7 years, problems can arise if the tenant then tries to deal with the lease.

As always when letting any type of property:

  1. Take appropriate professional advice early.
  2. Document the arrangement and complete any associated requirements (eg reporting the transaction to HMRC and paying any necessary Stamp Duty Land Tax, and registering the lease with Land Registry).   

If you are a landlord or a tenant of any type of property, without a written tenancy agreement (or the lease was granted for a fixed term of more than 7 years and you think that the lease may not have been registered at Land Registry) then please do take legal advice.

If you have enquiries about this article, please contact one of our property law specialists.