Students should be aware that a contract can be either written or verbal. Written contracts are preferred as they clearly explain what was agreed and what the terms and conditions of tenancy are. This will minimise disputes between landlord and tenant. Verbal Agreements are still legal tenancy agreements and though they may not be written down, there are certain clauses, agreements and responsibilities that are implied by law.
A landlord is not legally required to provide a written copy of the contract, and so this should be secured before the tenancy commences, preferably at its signing. If you are already living in your house and do not have a written copy of your contract, then it may be worth writing to your landlord and sending your letter by recorded delivery (recorded delivery is always the safest option to confirm whether a letter has reached its destination). In the letter you may wish to highlight that it will be in the interest of the landlord to provide the full tenancy agreement as it will clarify the terms and conditions for you as tenants and reduce the chance of any disputes or disagreements.