Rent is the money which a tenant pays the landlord in exchange for their right to occupy the property.
In England & Wales and Northern Ireland the payment of rent isn’t absolutely needed to create a tenancy, but in Scotland it’s vital.
For lodgers the money paid isn’t rent but is simply a licence fee as lodgers don’t have tenancies.
Homeowners should be careful not to describe money paid as rent if they’re not creating a tenancy as it causes confusion and may give the occupier more rights than they intend, but you cannot avoid creating a tenancy by falsely describing a rent payment as something else.
Providing a rent book to a non-tenant will not in itself be enough to allow the tenant to assert that they are paying money as rent despite its title.
The requirement for a rent book
It’s compulsory for all landlords in Northern Ireland to provide a rent book for all tenancies and landlords commit a criminal offence if they fail to do so.
The offence is committed every time the rent is demanded and every 14 days during the tenancy in any case, so landlords who don’t provide one can find themselves being prosecuted for multiple counts of failing to provide the document.
Each carries a substantial fine.
In England & Wales and Scotland a rent book is only required:
- where the rent is described in the tenancy agreement as being paid weekly; or
- where the rent is actually paid weekly by agreement irrespective of the wording of the agreement.
Where rent is being demanded or paid weekly, it’s a criminal offence to fail to provide a rent book.
Keeping it up to date
Where a rent book is required to be provided it’s also an obligation that it’s kept reasonably up to date.
The purpose of one is to provide a receipt for payments for the tenant and a log of rent paid for the landlord.
Therefore it’s useless to have such a book and then allow it to become hopelessly outdated.
Rent in advance or arrears?
Where payment is due it falls due on the morning of the day stated in the agreement, but the tenant has the whole of that day (until midnight) to make payment.
Where it is stated in the tenancy agreement that rent is payable in advance (such as in Lawpack’s agreements), the tenant will be deemed to be in arrears for the whole period that they are obliged to make payment for once that payment is outstanding.
So if a tenant is supposed to make a payment on the first day of each month in advance for the coming month the tenant will be one month in arrears if they don’t make payment on that day.
Where rent is payable in advance there is no requirement in law that the payment be apportioned and this is only required if the tenancy agreement allows for it.
So if a tenant makes advance payment for a full month and then departs the property part way through the month (even if they do so with the landlord’s agreement), then the landlord is under no obligation to refund the money for the unused portion of that month (even if they relet the property) unless they have specifically agreed to do so.