Terms used in Property Sales, Lettings, Legal


Agent – a letting/ rent collection/management/estate agent or other duly authorised person (or company / organisation) who is acting on behalf of the landlord.

Applicant – the person or party looking to rent a property.

Application Fee – a fee which is payable to reserve a property and start the application process. This may or may not be refundable and the cost may vary from agent to agent.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) – this is the most common type of rental agreement; this document sets out the rights and obligations between the landlord and tenant where the rent term is 6 months or longer with a maximum rent of £100,000.

Assured Tenancy – gives you the right to remain in a property unless the landlord can convince the court there are good reasons to evict you (such as rent arrears, damage etc.).


Bankers Draft – a cheque like payment which is guaranteed after a short fund clearance time.

Block Management – agents who act for the freeholders and leaseholders for block of apartments and flats. Normally will organise internal cleaning, garden maintenance, arrange the insurance and arrange re-decoration.

Break Clause – this is a clause sometimes inserted in a fixed term tenancy, typically if the initial fixed term is for a year or more. It will not normally be applicable during the first six months of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. If the initial tenancy is renewed either party will often request a break clause if they do not know if they can continue renting or not. A break clause will usually be worded in such a way as to allow either the landlord or tenant to give two months written notice at any stage after a particular date or period of the tenancy, thus terminating the tenancy earlier than the end of the original fixed term.

Bed-Sit – single room accommodation which serves as a bedroom and living space in one.

Bungalow – a single storey property.

Buy to Let – the term used to describe buying a property with the specific intention of renting it out rather than living in it.


Credit Search References – references taken up on a tenant applying for rented accommodation. Many agents and individual landlords use an outside company who for a fee will contact the applicant’s employer, landlord and also check out the tenant’s credit history. They will be providing a report on the prospective tenant’s financial suitability.

Company Let – where a property is let to a company or business rather than to an actual occupier. Such tenancies do not proved the same security as an AST.

Council Tax – a charge imposed upon property by Local Authorities to raise Revenues for the provision of local services. Each property is ‘banded’ by value to determine the amount paid. In most cases this will be the responsibility of a tenant to pay.

Covenants – the terms of the tenancy agreement – obligations – “promises” made by either Landlord or Tenant.

Chief Rent – an annual charge on freehold property found in certain parts of Britain. The chief rent is payable by the freeholder in perpetuity, although the amount cannot be increased.

Common Areas – areas of building or outside space which are used by more than one resident such as parking areas, hallways and gardens.

Contents Insurance – insurance against damage or theft of your personal possessions i.e. clothes and all moveable contents, including furniture, appliances and soft furnishings.

Contractual Tenancy – this is a type of tenancy agreement which is used when the yearly rent exceeds £100,000.

Conversion – refers to a house which has been divided to make 2 or more flats.

Cottage – generally refers to smaller rural properties.


Deposit – a fixed sum taken by landlords/letting agents at the start of a tenancy to cover reasonable losses (rent arrears, damage etc.). This is paid into a deposit protection scheme.

Detached – describes a property that stands alone in that it is not connected to any other property.

Dilapidations – any costs which are incurred on a property due to damage from tenants, these costs are usually taken from the deposit.


Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 – legislation regulating and ensuring that electrical equipment is properly maintained and checked by a trained electrical engineer to ensure safety.

Energy Performance Certificate – compulsory document to accompany all properties being sold or let that indicates the energy rating of a property showing how energy efficient the building is/its carbon footprint and how it could potentially be improved.

Ex-local Authority – refers to a property which was formerly owned by the council.


Fixtures and fittings –  in the case of some properties there will beds, chairs, tables and other items provided. It is advisable to always check as to what is provided and not to assume that items will be provided.

Flat – generally refers to a property occupying only part of a building. Blocks of flats can be purpose built or in converted houses.

Flat Shares – sharing a property with one or more people where each person usually has their own bedroom.

Furnishings – items usually provided in a letting: curtains, carpets, blinds, light fittings, kitchen units and larger appliances such as oven and fridge.


Gas Safety Regulations – the Landlord of a rented property must have a gas safety check carried out prior to a let and then annually. A copy of the record must be given to the tenant. Only a authorised & registered Gas Safe engineer can only carry out these check.

Guarantor – a person who is prepared to guarantee rental payments and other obligations of a tenancy on behalf of the tenant. The guarantor will be liable for rental payments if a tenant is unable to pay them, so the guarantor will need to have a regular income. Normally references or credit search references will be taken up on a guarantor.

Garden Flat – literally a flat with a garden.

Granny Flat – smaller self-contained flat at the back or on an upper floor of the main property. Usually with its own front door.


High Rent Tenancy – tenancy agreement when the annual rent is over £100,000 per annum and known as a contractual tenancy.

Holding Fee – this is usually a nominal amount (£100 +) that will be asked for when a tenant applies for a property. If the tenancy does not proceed – tenant pulling out – references not acceptable – this is then often retained by the agent.

House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) – The strict definition is quite complex but in very simple terms and HMO is a home which is occupied by three or more unrelated persons who do not form a single household or who share amenities such as cooking or bathroom facilities for example.

House – usually refers to a whole property. One house can contain several flats.


Inventory – schedule of the contents and condition of a property to include the garden, the standard of cleanliness and fixtures and fittings i.e. power points/windows etc. This will be checked at the start and finish of the tenancy. Sometimes a professional inventory clerk is employed.


Joint & Several Liabilities – where there is to be more than one (adult) person living in the property, the tenancy will say they are “jointly and severally” responsible. This means that, jointly, the tenants are liable for the payment of all rents and all liabilities falling upon the tenants during the tenancy, as well as any breach of the Agreement. Individually each tenant is responsible for payment of all rent and all liabilities falling upon the tenant, as well as any breach of the Agreement until all payments have been made in full.


Landlord – is a person, persons, company or body that has a formal interest in the premises and has the right to let the property.

Lease – often confused with tenancy agreement this is normally a long lease on an apartment whereas the actual document governing a rental is normally known as a Tenancy Agreement.

Landlord’s Insurance – a specific type of insurance offered by certain companies to cover the needs of landlords. Can cover anything from rent losses and damage to re-housing tenants in the case of emergencies.

Landlord’s Reference – a reference written by a previous landlord which describes the rent punctuality and conduct of a tenant.

Lease Agreement – a legal document between the landlord and a tenant that states the terms of agreement between them setting out legal rights of the letting.

Lessor – person responsible for granting a lease, normally the landlord.

Live-in Landlord – a homeowner who rents out one or more rooms in their property whilst living there themselves.

Live-out Landlord – a landlord who rents a property they do not live in themselves.

Loft Apartment – generally in former industrial premises and often open plan in layout loft apartments usually have high ceilings and lots of natural light.

Long Let – describes a rental period which is for a period of six months or more.


Maisonette – a flat on two levels with internal stairs and/or its own street-level front door.

Mansion – a very large or expensive house. Used in London to describe a style of purpose built flats which generally have high ceilings.

Mezzanine  intermediate floor usually in a multi-story building, which does not extend to the full floor area of the whole building.

Mews – mews are traditionally rows of former stables converted into residential properties.


No DSS – not available to those reliant on state benefits to pay their rent.


Offer – the amount of money that a potential applicant offers to pay for a level of rent for a letting.


PCM – per calendar month.

Penthouse – top floor of a multi-storey building. Generally the most desirable flat in taller buildings due to improved views, no upstairs neighbours and a greater distance from street noise.

Portable Appliance Test (PAT) – test required to be taken out on electrical equipment by a registered engineer in conjunction with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulation 1994.

Purpose Built – refers to a collection of flats built as such rather than a conversion.

PW – per week.


Renewal of Contracts – an agreement for a new tenancy at the expiry of a fixed term rental period.

Retention – when part of a deposit is held back to cover the cost of damages/repair.

Room Contents Insurance – a specific policy to cover those who rent a room within a property.

References – checking a tenant applicant’s suitability to be able to pay the rent and also the applicant’s track record in earlier rentals. This often involves contacting previous landlords, the present employer or accountant if self employed and bank (banks normally charge for providing references).


Seasonal Lettings – describes short term lets covering a particular time of year (eg. Summer, the duration of a particular event etc.)

Semi or Semi Detached – refers to two houses joined together.

Sharers – a term usually applied to those living in shared accommodation together.

Short Let – short lets are typically a property which is let for six months or less and include most utility bills.

Sitting Tenant – a long term tenant who has become protected by law from being removed due to their circumstances.

Standing Order – standing order mandate is an instruction that the tenant makes to his/her bank for payment of rent. It can either be set up on a form or on line (by the tenant). Normally payments are made each month and the instruction will state the number of payments or will continue to be paid until cancelled by the tenant. A landlord or agent cannot cancel a standing order mandate, only the person whose bank account the funds are coming from.  A standing order should not be confused with a Direct Debit. This is not often used for the payment of rent and is more common for payments that differ each month and the company notifies the bank’s customer in advance you are paying money to of the amounts and dates.

Studio Apartment/Flat – flat with bedroom/living room all in one either with a separate kitchen or corner of the main room as a kitchen with separate bathroom and toilet.

Subletting – an arrangement where the existing tenant lets all or part of the property to another.

Superior Lease or Head Lease – it is often the case in an apartment/flat that the landlord has a leasehold interest but another individual owns the freehold. Under this lease the landlord is responsible for the obligations/covenants. When a property is let out the tenant renting a property then also has to comply with any of these obligations – e.g. not to hang out washing on a balcony etc.


Tenancy – the temporary residency of a property by a tenant.

Tenancy Agreement – this is a legal binding document containing details about the rental terms, sometimes known as a rental agreement. It will state the parties i.e. landlord & tenants, the rental price and the property address along with the “covenants” / obligations (promises) of the let. It should be written in plain clear language.

Term of Tenancy – length of tenancy – most initial tenancy agreements are for a minimum of six months, they can be shorter and longer.

Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme (TDPS) – deposits from tenants which are paid into a protection scheme to ensure safety and fair returns.

Tenant – a person, persons (company or organisation) who are entitled to occupy a property under the terms and conditions of a tenancy agreement.

Terrace House – a house in a row of (usually) identical properties connected to each other by shared (or ‘party’) walls.

Townhouse – can refer to a style of house generally in towns or cities often with 3 or more floors.


Under Offer – when a seller or landlord of a property for sale, or to rent has accepted an offer.

Utilities or Services – these are normally electricity, gas and water. Under most circumstances the tenant is responsible for paying for these.