Common Law Tenancy

Common Law Tenancy
Common Law Tenancy
Full Overview Of Common Law Tenancy

At DLS Solicitors, we appreciate that navigating the complexities of property law can often seem daunting. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, understanding the nuances of common law tenancy is essential for ensuring that your rights and responsibilities are upheld. This comprehensive overview aims to provide a detailed yet approachable understanding of common law tenancy, its legal framework, implications for landlords and tenants, and practical advice for managing these tenancies effectively.

What is a Common Law Tenancy?

A common law tenancy, also known as a non-statutory tenancy, refers to a rental agreement that does not fall under the statutory protections and regulations provided by the Housing Act 1988 and the Housing Act 1996. This type of tenancy typically applies to certain types of residential and commercial lettings where the terms of the lease are governed by common law principles rather than specific statutory provisions.

Common law tenancies often arise in scenarios where:

  • The annual rent exceeds £100,000.
  • The tenant is a company or organisation rather than an individual.
  • The property is not used as the tenant’s principal home.
  • The property is let to a resident landlord.

Legal Framework Governing Common Law Tenancies

The legal framework for common law tenancies is rooted in common law principles, contract law, and property law. Key aspects of this legal framework include:

Common Law Principles

Under common law, tenancy agreements are treated as contracts between the landlord and tenant. The terms and conditions of the tenancy are primarily determined by the lease agreement, provided they do not contravene established common law principles.

Contract Law

As with any contractual agreement, common law tenancies are governed by the principles of contract law, which include:

  1. Offer and Acceptance: Both parties must mutually agree to the terms of the tenancy.
  2. Consideration: There must be a clear exchange of value, typically rent, for the use of the property.
  3. Intention to Create Legal Relations: Both parties must intend for the tenancy agreement to be legally binding.
  4. Capacity: Both parties must have the legal capacity to enter into the agreement.

Property Law

Property law governs the rights and responsibilities associated with the ownership and use of property. Key principles include:

  1. Exclusive Possession: The tenant must have exclusive possession of the property during the tenancy term.
  2. Quiet Enjoyment: The tenant is entitled to use the property without interference from the landlord, provided they comply with the terms of the tenancy.
  3. Maintenance and Repairs: The responsibilities for maintenance and repairs are typically outlined in the tenancy agreement and governed by common law principles.

Key Elements of a Common Law Tenancy

A well-drafted common law tenancy agreement should include several key elements to ensure clarity, protection, and enforceability:

  1. Property Description: A detailed description of the premises, including address, boundaries, and any included facilities or equipment.
  2. Term of Tenancy: The duration of the tenancy, including the start date and end date, as well as any options for renewal or termination.
  3. Rent and Payment Terms: The amount of rent, payment frequency, and any provisions for rent reviews or adjustments.
  4. Use of Premises: The permitted use of the property, including any restrictions or conditions on its use.
  5. Maintenance and Repairs: Responsibilities for maintenance and repairs, typically distinguishing between structural and non-structural repairs.
  6. Insurance: Requirements for insurance coverage, including who is responsible for obtaining and maintaining insurance.
  7. Alterations and Improvements: Provisions for making alterations or improvements to the premises, including any required permissions.
  8. Subletting and Assignment: Conditions under which the tenant may sublet or assign the tenancy to another party.
  9. Termination and Notice Periods: Conditions under which the tenancy can be terminated, including notice periods and any break clauses.
  10. Dispute Resolution: Mechanisms for resolving disputes, such as mediation, arbitration, or litigation.

Implications of Common Law Tenancies

Common law tenancies have significant implications for both landlords and tenants, impacting financial, operational, and legal aspects.

For Landlords

  1. Flexibility: Common law tenancies offer greater flexibility in drafting lease terms, allowing landlords to tailor agreements to specific needs and circumstances.
  2. Income Stability: A well-drafted tenancy agreement can provide a stable source of income, often for an extended period.
  3. Property Management: Landlords must manage and maintain the property, ensuring it remains in good condition and compliant with any agreed terms.
  4. Legal Compliance: Ensuring the tenancy agreement complies with common law principles and any relevant statutory requirements to avoid disputes and legal issues.
  5. Dispute Resolution: Having clear mechanisms in place for resolving disputes can help maintain positive landlord-tenant relationships and avoid costly litigation.

For Tenants

  1. Security of Tenure: Tenants can negotiate terms that provide security of tenure, ensuring they can occupy the property for an agreed period without undue interference.
  2. Customised Terms: Common law tenancies allow for customised terms that can better meet the tenant’s specific needs and business requirements.
  3. Cost Management: Managing rental payments, maintenance costs, and other financial obligations associated with the tenancy.
  4. Flexibility and Stability: Balancing the need for flexibility to adapt to business changes with the stability provided by a long-term tenancy agreement.
  5. Compliance and Responsibility: Ensuring compliance with tenancy terms and legal obligations, including maintenance, insurance, and permitted use of the premises.

Case Studies

To illustrate the practical application of common law tenancies, consider the following case studies:

Case Study 1: High-Value Residential Letting

Mr. and Mrs. Thompson wanted to lease their luxury penthouse apartment, which had an annual rent exceeding £100,000. Given the high rent, the tenancy did not fall under the statutory protections of the Housing Act 1988, making it a common law tenancy. They engaged DLS Solicitors to draft a detailed tenancy agreement that outlined rent payment terms, maintenance responsibilities, and conditions for use. The agreement also included a dispute resolution clause to ensure any potential issues could be resolved amicably. This comprehensive approach provided Mr. and Mrs. Thompson with peace of mind and a reliable tenant.

Case Study 2: Commercial Office Lease

ABC Ltd., a growing tech company, sought to lease office space for their expanding operations. The tenancy was structured as a common law tenancy due to the company’s corporate status. DLS Solicitors assisted in negotiating the lease terms, securing favourable rent terms, and including provisions for alterations and improvements to the office space. The agreement also outlined maintenance responsibilities, ensuring that ABC Ltd. could focus on their business without worrying about property issues. The lease provided the company with a stable and flexible workspace, supporting their growth and development.

Case Study 3: Property Let to a Resident Landlord

Ms. Patel decided to let part of her house while continuing to reside in the property. As a resident landlord, the tenancy agreement was not covered by the Housing Act 1988 and was therefore a common law tenancy. DLS Solicitors drafted a tenancy agreement that clearly defined the boundaries of the let area, shared facilities, and house rules. The agreement also included provisions for terminating the tenancy and resolving disputes, ensuring that both Ms. Patel and her tenant had clear expectations and protections. This arrangement allowed Ms. Patel to generate additional income while maintaining control over her home.

Negotiating and Managing Common Law Tenancies Effectively

Effective negotiation and management of common law tenancies involve several key practices to ensure favourable terms, compliance, and smooth operations:

  1. Clear Objectives: Establish clear objectives and priorities for the tenancy, considering factors such as rent, term, flexibility, and specific needs.
  2. Thorough Due Diligence: Conduct thorough due diligence on the property and potential tenant or landlord to identify and mitigate potential risks.
  3. Professional Advice: Engage experienced solicitors to review and negotiate tenancy terms, ensuring they align with your needs and provide adequate protection.
  4. Detailed Tenancy Agreement: Ensure the tenancy agreement is detailed, clear, and comprehensive, covering all key elements and potential contingencies.
  5. Regular Communication: Maintain regular communication with the tenant or landlord to address any issues promptly and maintain a positive relationship.
  6. Compliance and Record Keeping: Ensure compliance with all tenancy terms and legal obligations, and keep accurate records of all tenancy-related documents and communications.
  7. Flexibility and Planning: Plan for future needs and negotiate tenancy terms that provide flexibility, such as break clauses or options for renewal.

Challenges and Future Trends

Managing common law tenancies presents several challenges, but understanding future trends can help stakeholders navigate these complexities:

  1. Legal Complexity: The technical complexity of common law principles can be challenging, requiring specialised knowledge and expertise to ensure compliance.
  2. Regulatory Changes: Keeping up with changes in property law and regulations is crucial for ensuring compliance and avoiding legal issues.
  3. Market Dynamics: Fluctuations in the property market can impact rental values, lease terms, and tenant demand, requiring adaptive strategies.
  4. Sustainability and Green Leases: Increasing focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility is driving the adoption of green leases, which include provisions for energy efficiency and sustainable practices.
  5. Technological Advancements: Advances in technology, such as digital lease management platforms and smart building technologies, are transforming the way common law tenancies are managed and executed.

Role of Solicitors in Common Law Tenancies

Solicitors play a crucial role in negotiating, drafting, and managing common law tenancies, offering services such as:

  1. Tenancy Negotiation: Assisting clients in negotiating favourable tenancy terms that align with their needs and provide adequate protection.
  2. Tenancy Drafting and Review: Drafting and reviewing tenancy agreements to ensure they are clear, comprehensive, and legally sound.
  3. Due Diligence: Conducting due diligence on the property and tenancy terms to identify and mitigate potential risks.
  4. Dispute Resolution: Representing clients in disputes related to common law tenancies, including negotiation, mediation, and litigation.
  5. Regulatory Compliance: Providing guidance on compliance with relevant laws and regulations, including health and safety, accessibility, and environmental standards.
  6. Ongoing Advice and Support: Offering ongoing advice and support throughout the tenancy term, including lease renewals, modifications, and termination.


Common law tenancies are a flexible and often necessary solution for certain rental agreements, providing a tailored approach that can accommodate specific needs and circumstances. Understanding the legal framework, key elements, and practical implications of common law tenancies is essential for negotiating favourable terms, ensuring compliance, and managing tenancies effectively.

At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to providing expert legal advice and support in all matters related to common law tenancies. Our team of experienced solicitors is equipped to handle the complexities of negotiating, drafting, and managing common law tenancies, ensuring your interests are protected and your property transactions are successful.

Whether you are a landlord seeking to lease out your property or a tenant looking for the perfect premises, DLS Solicitors can provide the guidance and support you need. With our expertise, you can navigate the legal landscape of common law tenancies with confidence, ensuring that your rights are upheld and your interests are safeguarded.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th July 2024.

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