Dear Barry

I rent out a semi-detached house in North Belfast. A nice couple have been living there for 18 months now – the contract we have in place went month to month after they had been there for a year. A friend in the industry says I’m mad not to have a fixed term contract and renewals system in place. Are they right? What are the pros and cons for both options? Thanks in advance, Oonagh
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Barry Answers

Many private landlords do exactly as you have, Oonagh – after a year, the tenancy then goes month to month, as this flexibility can seem like a set-up that benefits both parties.

Sure, the tenant can move out with a month’s notice, but if your circumstances change, you only have to give them a month’s notice to leave. Plus, it saves you the bother of drawing up a whole new tenancy contract every year and all the work that goes with it, like reviewing inventories.

A good deal for everyone, right?

What many rental property owners don’t realise is that a landlord can legally issue notice at any point during a contract, as long as they observe the correct notice period:

As long as it’s fair and reasonable and you have a reason for doing so, you are perfectly within your rights.

Unless they reach an agreement with you, a tenant cannot leave a contract early – even if they give you the correct amount of notice. If they do, they’ll probably still be liable for the rent until the end of the tenancy agreement.

With fixed term contracts and renewals, the obvious benefit is that you have secured income for that fixed term. Even if your tenant can't commit to a full year – if you maintain a good relationship with them, it’s likely you’ll come to an agreement that works for both of you.

Even a six-month contract means half a year of guaranteed income for you -  if you have them on a month to month rental agreement, that tenant could give you one month’s notice at any point.

That would mean you only have a month’s guaranteed income at any time once the initial contract is over. Consider how that works for you financially, especially if you have bills and a mortgage.

Another advantage of sticking to fixed term contracts is that renewals are a perfect opportunity to take stock of the market and make sure you are getting a fair and worthwhile level of rental income.

Every year at renewal time, we add a small increase to rent charges, if this reflects rents and demand for properties in the area (obviously comparing like with like).

It goes without saying that any rent changes must be balanced against the needs and capabilities of your tenant. If you have a tenant wishing to renew their rental contract, and that person is in receipt of housing benefit, a rent increase may be more difficult to secure.

However, if it’s the going rate for comparable properties in the area, then it’s a fair thing to ask – just be aware it may be less straightforward to put in place.

It’s entirely your call – you might have a great tenant you’d like to keep there long-term. If they can’t afford a rent increase, you have a decision to make.

Asking tenants to vacate their home is never easy, and it’s an example of a time where a good working relationship with an agent can help everyone involved.

I’ve really found it softens the blow if you’re able to say; “I’m sorry, I need you to move out – but here’s a rental list; can we help you find your next rental property?”

It can be reassuring that someone is actively helping them to find a similar property in the area. A good agency will have strong working relationships with other agencies in the area, who can help if they happen to have no suitable rental properties on their list.

It’s not all about business in this industry after all; you’re very aware these are people’s homes.


To sum up, we would always recommend fixed term and renewals. Month to month means less paperwork for a busy landlord – but less security too.

Fixed term contracts and renewals mean guaranteed income, at a rental rate that works for you and the tenant.


If you have any questions about fixed term contracts and renewals, or any other aspects of property rental – drop us a line to with ‘Ask Barry’ in the subject line – or send us a message via the contact page.