Sunday, February 10, 2008

Plain English tenancy agreements

I haven’t been writing much in the blog recently because I have been doing a lot of other stuff. One the main things I have been concentrating on recently is a new draft of my standard tenancy agreement. I was going to give it an overhaul anyway, then I got involved with a client who wanted one of my agreements to be checked for a crystal mark, and I decided to use this experience to amend and adapt my own agreements to a plain English format.

Plain English agreements now need to be in the first person, so the landlord is ‘we’ and the tenant ‘you’. I found this very strange to start with but now I have got used to it and have come to accept it. It does make for a more approachable document.

I have used this as an opportunity to check and re-do every clause. It has taken ages. I think I have it sorted and then I look at it afresh and find more things I want to change. I think that the new agreement is definitely much better though.

I have also radically altered the design of the agreement. My old agreement was crushed into a small space with fairly small type and close columns. However I have been reading a bit about design (having bought myself The Non-Designer's Design Book), plus I have also been learning a bit more about using my layout software, Adobe Framemaker (using the Adobe Framemaker Classroom in a Book). As I result of this I have created a new design, which you can see here. It takes up a lot more space (13 pages) but I think it makes the document far more readable, and it is much easier to find specific clauses. Having the new design has also helped me amend the wording as well as somehow I found it easier to read and check it in the new format.

I have now taken the perhaps rash step of putting a draft online for my annual members to have a look at and comment on before I use it to replace all my other agreements. I have often had very good ideas and suggestions from members about the tenancy agreements, many of the current adaptations came from members suggestions.

Next I think a design overhaul of the rest of the forms …

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