Jargon Buster

Jargon buster

ASSURED SHORTHOLD TENANCY The most common type of tenancy provided by private landlords, often for a fixed term(6 months or a year) stating landlords and tenants obligations and covenants to each other.

ASSURED TENANCY A type of tenancy that some private tenants and most housing association tenants have. It gives more rights to tenants than an assured shorthold tenancy.

ARREARS If you fall behind with your rent or mortgage payments, you will get into arrears. If this happens, your landlord or lender may start possession proceedings against you

BREAK CLAUSE A clause included in some tenancy agreements which allow tenants and/or landlords to give notice before the fixed term of the contract has expired.

CLAIM FOR POSSESSION The court procedure most landlords, lenders or freeholders have to follow in order to evict a tenant or homeowner.

COMMONHOLD A relatively new type of home ownership that usually affects flats within a building or estate. The owner of each flat has the freehold of that 'unit'. All other communal areas of the building (eg stairs, entrance foyer) are owned by a limited company called a Commonhold Association, of which the owner of each flat is automatically a member.

COURT ORDER A decision by a court ordering something to be done.

DEPOSIT Money that private landlords usually demand at the beginning of a tenancy as security against non-payment of rent, damage to property, or removal of furniture.

DEPOSIT PROTECTION SCHEME From 6 April 2007, when you pay a tenancy deposit for an assured shorthold tenancy, the landlord or letting agent must protect your deposit through a Government-approved deposit protection scheme.

DISREPAIR Repair problems in a property. Landlords are legally responsible for sorting out many disrepair problems. Serious disrepair may mean that the property is a hazard.

ENERGY PERFORMANCE CERTIFICATE (EPC) A certificate showing how energy efficient a property is, on a scale of A to G - the most energy efficient properties are in band A and should therefore have lower fuel costs. An energy performance certificate must be included in a home information pack and landlords who don't provide this certificate to prospective tenants can be prosecuted or fined.

EVICTION The procedures that landlords and/or lenders must follow if they want you to leave your home.

EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS When the seller and buyer of a property exchange contracts and the sale becomes legally binding. A deposit is normally paid at this stage, which buyer will forfeit if s/he pulls out. No changes can be made to the condition of the sale after contracts are exchanged unless both the buyer and seller agree, and neither side can pull out of the sale.

FAIR RENT A rent which has been fixed by the rent assessment committee. This means that there are special rules on how, when, and by how much the landlord can increase the rent. Fair rents apply to regulated private tenancies, regulated agricultural tenancies and housing association tenancies that began before 15 January 1989.

FIXED TERM TENANCY A tenancy that lasts for a fixed period of time, such as six months or one year. This initial fixed term is sometimes called the ‘contractual’ stage of a tenancy. When the fixed term ends the tenancy automatically becomes periodic - ie it rolls from week to week or month to month.

FORFEITURE Breaking a condition of the lease, such as not paying the ground rent, or service charges and being evicted as a result.

FREEHOLD A form of property ownership which lasts for an indefinite period of time, providing that any mortgage or other secured loans are being repaid. Most houses are sold as freehold.

GAS SAFETY CERTIFICATE A certificate showing that all gas appliances and installations in a rented property are safe. Gas safety certificates can only be issued by a registered gas engineer.

GAS SAEF REGISTER The Gas Safe register is a list of qualified gas engineers who are officially registered to carry out work on domestic boilers, hobs, ovens, fires and other gas appliances. It replaces the Corgi scheme.

GROUND RENT An annual fee that most leaseholders have to pay to the freeholder as a condition of the lease.

GROUNDS FOR POSSESSION Legal reasons that landlords and lenders can use if they want to get a court order to evict you. The most common grounds are rent or mortgage arrears, but you could also be evicted for other reasons, such as antisocial behaviour and/or illegal subletting. It’s important to remember that not all tenants are entitled to a court order before they must leave. Even where they are, the landlord may not need to prove a ground for possession. GUARANTOR A person who agrees to pay the rent, or mortgage (or other charges) on behalf of the tenant, owner, or occupier if that person doesn’t pay.

HARRASSMENT When carried out by a landlord, harassment can mean anything that interferes with your right to live in your home without interference. Examples include: threatening or intimidating you, regularly coming round unannounced (especially late at night), forcing you to sign agreements that take away your rights, barring you from certain parts of your home or interfering with water, gas or electricity supply. When committed out by neighbours or other people, any action that is carried out repeatedly (on at least two occasions) which causes alarm or distress, or puts you in fear of violence, may be classed as harassment.

HEAD-LEASE The head-lease is the main lease on a property, the agreement between the landlord and the main tenant from whom any subtenants are renting.

HOUSE IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION (HMO) Some houses or flats that are shared by more than one household are classed as houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). This could include: a large building split into separate bedsits, a house or flat- share where people have separate tenancy agreements, or a bed-and-breakfast hotel that is not just for holidays. Landlords of HMOs have extra legal responsibilities relating to fire safety, overcrowding, communal areas, cooking and washing facilities and rubbish bins. If an HMO is at least three storeys high and contains five or more people, it must be registered with the local council (this does not apply to housing co-operatives). HOUSING HEALTH AND SAFETY RATING SYSTEM The system used to assess housing conditions to ensure that residential properties are not a risk to health and safety. It is used to identify and assess hazards such as dampness, infestations, broken glass or plaster, damaged asbestos, fumes and gases, problems with rubbish or sewage and/or dangerous stairs, gas or electrical installations.

HOUSING ASSOCIATION Independent, not-for-profit organisations that provide accommodation at lower rents than private landlords. Many housing associations also run supported housing schemes for people who need help with daily living, and/or shared ownership schemes to help people on lower incomes to buy a home. Housing associations are often referred to as ‘registered social landlords’ or ‘RSLs’. Often people must be nominated by the local council.

HOUSING BENEFIT A welfare benefit paid by the council to help people on low incomes to pay their rent. The rules about how much housing benefit you may get are complicated. The way housing benefit is calculated will depend on whether you rent privately or from a council or housing association, and your personal circumstances.

INJUNCTION A court order that prohibits someone from doing something, or orders them to do something. Examples include: an injunction ordering someone to stop harassing you, or preventing someone from going near your home, or an injunction ordering a landlord to carry out essential repairs within a certain time.

INVENTORY A list of any furniture and equipment provided by a landlord, and the condition it is in. Inventories are normally drawn up at the start of a tenancy and checked at the end.

JOINT LIABILITY If you are a joint tenant, or if you have a joint mortgage, you may be held responsible for the entire mortgage if the others fail to pay their share.

JOINT TENANCY This term has two distinct meanings. Although most commonly used to refer to people who are renting, it can also refer to joint owners of a property. In rented accommodation, a joint tenancy is where two or more people are named as tenants on the same tenancy agreement. Both/all of the tenants are equally liable for the terms of the tenancy, including the rent payments. If one person gives the landlord valid notice to end the tenancy, it will end the tenancy for everyone. JUDICIAL REVIEW A legal procedure which can be used to challenge the decisions or policies of public bodies such as local councils. A judicial review challenges the way a decision has been made rather than the decision itself. A judicial review can overturn the council's decision and make them look at it again. You will need help from a specialist adviser or solicitor if you want to start judicial review proceedings.

LAND REGISTRY The public body that records land ownership in England and Wales. The registry also records the sale of land and charges (or loans) against all registered land.

LEASE On this website, the term 'lease' means a written contract or agreement, which establishes the relationship between a freeholder and a leaseholder. Elsewhere, it may also be used to describe a tenancy agreement.

LEASEHOLD Strictly speaking, leasehold means the use of a property for a fixed period of time – such as 99 years. However, leasehold is commonly thought of as a form of ownership, with leases being bought and sold. Most flats in England are leasehold. Leaseholders are sometimes referred to as 'tenants' or 'lessees'. Freeholders can also be called 'landlords' or 'lessors'.

LEASEHOLD VALUATION TRIBUBAL An independent body set up to settle certain types of disputes between leaseholders and freeholders, such as disagreements about service charges.

LENDER The bank, building society or other financial institution which lends you the money for a mortgage or other loans.

LETTING Renting out a room or an entire property to lodger(s), or tenant (s).

LETTER BEFORE ACTION A letter written by a person who is considering starting a court case, or by their legal representative, which warns the other party that court action will be started if a satisfactory solution to the proposed claim is not agreed within a certain period of time.

LETTING AGENCY An agency that advertises property to let on behalf of landlords. Letting agents find tenants for a property and sometimes manage the property on behalf of the landlord.

LICENSEE A person who lives in accommodation but is not a tenant. Licensees usually have less security than tenants. You may be a licensee if you live in a hostel or bed and breakfast hotel.

LICENSED CONVEYANCER A person who is not a solicitor, but who is qualified to do the legal work involved in buying and/or selling a property.

LOAN TO VALUE (LTV) RATIO The amount of money borrowed on a mortgage as a percentage of the value of the property concerned. For example, if a home is worth £100,000 and the mortgage on it is £80,000, the LTV ratio is 80 per cent.

LOCAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE Local housing allowance (LHA) is a way of calculating housing benefit payments for most people who rent their home from a private landlord.

LODGER A person who rents accommodation (often a room) in the same house or flat as the owner of the property, and shares facilities with her/him.

NEGATIVE EQUITY Where the value of a property is less than the outstanding mortgage owed on it. For example, if your outstanding mortgage is £75,000 but your home is only worth £65,000 you will have negative equity of £10,000. NOTICE TO QUIT A written notice used to end a tenancy, which can be served by the tenant or the landlord. There are rules about how and when a notice to quit can be served, which depend on the type of tenancy you have and what your agreement says.

NOTICE SEEKING POSSESSION A legal document that a landlord can use to start the process of ending a tenancy. There are rules about how and when a notice seeking possession can be served, which depend on the type of tenancy you have.

NUISANCE Things such as dust, smoke, pests and smells from outside a property that make living in it uncomfortable or spoil its enjoyment (see also statutory nuisance).

OUTRIGHT POSSESSION ORDER A court order which gives your landlord or mortgage lender the right to take possession of your home on a particular date.

OVERCROWDING The legal definition of overcrowding is very narrow and is based on the number of people per room and/or the amount of space in each room.

PEPPERCORN RENT A very low rent. The term is often used for ground rent charges on a leasehold property, and may only be a few pounds a year.

PERIODIC TENANCY A tenancy that rolls from week to week or month to month with no fixed end date. All fixed-term tenancies become periodic when the initial fixed term has ended and no new agreement has been made.

POSSESSION ORDER A court order that tells an occupier to leave a property by a certain date and gives the landlord or lender the right to use the property as they wish. Possession orders can be suspended or postponed (which means that the occupier can stay as long as certain conditions are met) or outright (which means that if they do not leave by the date given, the lender or landlord can ask the court bailiffs to evict them).

PROTECTED TENANCY A type of tenancy that some private tenants may have if they have lived in their accommodation for a long time (usually since before 1989). Regulated tenants have very strong rights. Also known as a 'regulated' tenancy.

REDEMPTION PENALTY A fee many lenders will charge if a borrower switches to a new mortgage, or pays off a loan or mortgage earlier than their agreement allows.

REFERENCES Information from a banks, employers or previous landlords saying whether the tenant/borrower is likely to be able to pay the rent or mortgage. Landlords and lenders often require references before granting a tenancy or mortgage, and may also run a ‘credit check’ through agencies such as Experian or Equifax.

RENT ASSESSMENT COMMITTEE A panel of people that can decide how much private landlords and housing association landlords are allowed to charge and how much the rent can be increased by.

RENT OFFICER An employee of the local council who determines fair rents and decides how much housing benefit an applicant is entitled to.

REPOSSESSION The process by which a mortgage lender or landlord can take court action to evict you if you don't keep up the mortgage or rent payments on your home. On this website we tend to use 'repossession' for homeowners and 'eviction' for tenants.

RESIDENTAIL PROPERTY TIRBUNAL SERVICE The public body that decides many rent and leasehold disputes. The service is comprised of: • Rent Assessment Committees (which make decisions in disputes about rent levels) • Leasehold Valuation Tribunals (which make decisions in disputes involving leasehold property), and • Residential Property Tribunals (which make decisions in certain appeals by tenants who have been denied the Right to Buy). SERVICE CHARGE A charge payable to a landlord, freeholder or management company by a tenant or leaseholder, to cover costs of services, maintenance, insurance, etc. Services charges may be paid monthly or annually and may be fixed or variable.

SERVICE TENANT The status you may have if you live in accommodation that is provided as part of your job but it is not part of your employment contract that you live there, and/or it is not essential for you to live in the accommodation in order to carry out your job.

SHARED OWNERSHIP A form of property ownership where you part rent and part buy a property. The part you buy can be as little as 25 per cent of the property, and you typically pay rent on the rest.

STAMP DUTY A tax payable on most property transactions. Stamp duty is charged at different rates according to the type of property and the value of the transaction. Some properties and transactions are exempt.

STATUTORY NUISANCE A particular type of nuisance that is damaging to health, which the local council must take steps to address. It can also mean something that significantly affects the quality of your life and is caused by something outside your home, eg noisy neighbours.

SUBJECT TO CONTRACT A term used to describe an agreement that is not legally binding until contracts have been signed and exchanged. If an offer is made to buy a property, it should be subject to contract.

SUCCESSION The automatic transfer of a tenancy to another person upon the death of the tenant. When and whether a succession can occur depends upon the type of tenancy.

SURRENDER An unequivocal act by the tenant to end the tenancy, which the landlord accepts. The tenant handing the keys over to the landlord and stating s/he was giving up the property is not a surrender. However if the landlord accepts the keys and agrees to the tenancy ending it is a surrender.

SUSPENDED POSSESSION A court order which allows you to stay in your home as long as you keep to certain conditions. These conditions will be explained on the court order. For example you may be ordered to pay off rent you owe at a certain amount each week or not to cause further disturbance to your neighbours. If you don't stick to all of the conditions of the order your landlord can apply to the court for the bailiffs to evict you - there is no need for a further hearing. SURVIVORSHIP The rights of the surviving joint tenant to get the whole tenancy put in their name on the death of the other joint tenant.

TENANCY RELATIONS OFFICER TRO) A person employed by the local council to deal with cases of harassment and illegal eviction by landlords. Tenancy relations officers can prosecute landlords.

TENANCY An agreement that gives tenants the right to stay in their accommodation, and to exclude others, including the landlord. This can be either in writing or agreed verbally (a tenancy is also called a lease).

TITLE DEED The legal document confirming the legal owner of the property.

TRIBUNAL An independent panel of people who can decide on appeals against certain decisions, for example about leasehold issues.

VALUATION Where a lender gets their valuer to look over the property to see how much it's worth and assess its suitability for mortgage purposes before they agree to give you a loan. A valuation isn't the same as a survey as it does not look at the condition of the property in much detail.

VARIABLE-RATE MORTGAGES If you have a variable-rate mortgage, your payments will go up and down according to the rise and fall of interest rates. There are several kinds of variable-rate mortgages.

VOLUNATARY POSSESSION Handing over the keys to your mortgage lender. This means that you give up possession but you still keep your debt. The amount you owe may increase until the property is sold. Get advice before you do this. Pinpoint Homes have a number of investors on their books who have the ability to exchange and complete on a property within 1 week.

WARRANT OF POSSESSION A legal document which gives the bailiffs the right to enforce a court order made in an eviction or repossession case. If the people living at the property do not leave voluntarily, the warrant gives the bailiff the right to evict them.

WITHOUT PREJUDICE Negotiations that take place before a court hearing in the hope that legal action can be avoided, but which cannot be taken into account if the case does eventually get to court.