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Home And Property Legal Terms Glossary

Whether you’re looking to buy a house, planning some building work, or trying to deal with a difficult landlord, this glossary can help ensure you're in the know when it comes to the specialist phrases used in housing law.


Conveyancing is the legal name given to the process of buying and selling a property and encompasses all the legal and administrative legwork involved in the transaction.


A right to cross or otherwise use someone else’s land for a specified purpose.


Freehold gives you exclusive rights to both an entire property and the land on which it sits. Nobody else has a claim to that land, and as the freeholder you have the right to make changes and alterations to the property when and as you wish, so long as they don’t fall foul of planning laws and legislation.

House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A house in multiple occupation, also known as a ‘house share’, is a property that is occupied by three or more unrelated individuals that share facilities such as the bathroom.

Joint Tenancy

A joint tenancy is a tenancy where two people cohabiting are both owners of the entire property. This differs from a tenancy in common which entails tenants possessing their own individual share in the property. The upshot of a joint tenancy is that, if one of the property owners should die, ownership of the property passes in entirety to the other person. This is obviously ideal for married couples, but not necessarily the best option when you have split up or are living together under other circumstances.


When you’ve purchased a house or flat with leasehold, you only own the right to live in that house and flat rather than owning the land itself.

Party Wall

A party wall is a shared wall that separates two buildings with different owners. For example, terraced and semi-detached houses have party walls. A garden wall can also be classed as a party wall. The Party Wall Act 1996 helps to prevent and resolve disputes relating to party walls.

Periodic Tenancy

A periodic tenancy is a tenancy agreement which usually runs monthly, weekly or quarterly. They are different from the majority of tenancies which run for 6 or 12 months. The benefit of a periodic tenancy is that they give the tenant more flexibility to move quickly but on the downside they don’t provide long term security and the landlord can give notice at any time.

Residential Property Tribunal

The tribunal is independent of government and it used to solve residential property disputes such as leasehold disputes or rent increases.

Restrictive Covenants

Restrictive covenants are restrictions that are put onto land to prevent people from performing certain actions on it

Section 21 Notice

Under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, a landlord can reclaim possession of his or her property once a fixed-term Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) has come to an end, as long as no new tenancy has been agreed. Notice must be given at least 2 months before the date on which the tenant is expected to leave, and it must be given in writing. A Section 21 Notice can also be used if the tenant is on a periodic tenancy.

Stamp duty land tax

Stamp duty land tax is the government tax paid on property and land purchases with a value of over £125,000.

Statutory nuisance

A statutory nuisance can either be unreasonable behaviour which negatively affects people in surrounding areas, such as playing music at a high level during unsocial hours or it could also relate to actions which threaten people’s health such as producing smoke from premises. It is the Council’s responsibility to investigate any statutory nuisance complaints and if they agree with the complaint they must serve an abatement notice on the person causing the nuisance.

Tenancy agreement

A tenancy agreement is a contract between a tenant and a landlord permitting the tenant to live in the property in exchange for rent. It might also set out any rules the tenant needs to obey while living there.

Tenancy deposit scheme (TDP)

In order to ensure that tenants are treated fairly, landlords are now required to protect deposits if the tenant is in an assured shorthold tenancy (the most common type) which began after the 6th of April 2007. They must use a government-backed tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme to ensure the money is safe.

Tenants in Common

Tenants in common are tenants that own different shares of a property and if one tenant dies, their interest in the property is inherited according to his or her Will. For example, a group of friends may wish to own a property together but manage their individual shares independently.