In this article:
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Private Tenancies
- 3 Lodgings and subletting
- 4 Employment related tenancies
- 5 Council tenancies
Regardless of the type of tenancy agreement you have, it is important to understand that the document is a contract between you and your landlord. Whether it is written down or a spoken agreement, you and your landlord have certain rights and responsibilities that must be met.
The tenancy agreement will outline how the tenancy can be ended by you, when your landlord can evict you, your rights to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property and which repairs you and your landlord are responsible for.
It is essential that you read any tenancy agreement thoroughly before signing; ask questions, seek answers and do not be rushed into a contract and its commitments.
A tenancy agreement will either be fixed term (running for a set period of time) or periodic (running on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis).
Private tenants occupied 19% of all households in England during 2014-2015 shows the English Housing Survey. That equates to 4.3 million homes – a 10.7% increase from the previous survey. Private tenancies are now the most in the UK.
Assured Shorthold tenancy (AST)
The most common, standard form of tenancy in the UK is the AST. If you rent from a private landlord and there are not special circumstances surrounding your stay, you’re using this type of tenancy. You can tell if your tenancy is AST, if the following is true for you:
- Your landlord does not live in the same property as you
- The property you rent is private and you pay rent to a private landlord
- You have control over your home and who visits your home
- You moved in on or after 28 February 1997
You do not have an AST if the following is true for you:
- It is a business let, holiday let, college accommodation, or tenancy of licensed premises
- It began on or before 15 January 1989
- The rent is more than 100,000 pounds per year
- The rent is less than 250 pounds per year (or less than 1,000 pounds in London)
- Your landlord is a local council
Assured Shorthold tenancies always start with a fixed term. Hence the “assured” part. The fixed term will be clearly described in the tenancy agreement. Usually, six or twelve months, the fixed term guarantees the tenancy for both the tenant and the landlord. Ending the tenancy in it’s fixed term can only happen two ways:
- If both parties agree to terminate the contract.
- If the tenant breaks the terms of the tenancy agreement, for example, if they stop paying their rent, the landlord can begin eviction procedures against them, using a Section 8 notice.
When the fixed term expires, the landlord can reclaim their property by serving the correct notice with sufficient time for the tenant to arrange their move, hence the “shorthold” part. The tenant can also chose to move out on their own with no obligation to stay past the fixed term.
If both parties agree, the fixed term can be renewed. If no action is taken, the fixed term tenancy converts into a periodic tenancy which is more flexible for both sides.A periodic tenancy would continue indefinitely so long as the tenant and landlord both agree.
During the periodic term, the landlord can reclaim their property by serving a Section 21 notice, giving the tenants two months of time to arrange their move.
Any deposit taken by the landlord must be protected in a government authorised deposit protection scheme. There the money will be governed during the tenancy to prevent abuse and unfair deductions.
Repairs and maintenance are the responsibility of the landlord, with daily maintenance and care for the property being the tenant’s’ duty.
Most importantly, you have a right to peaceful enjoyment of your property. You’re in control of who has access to your home, who enters and when. You can control even the landlord’s entries and they must get your approval each time they visit.
Any new terms, for example, the tenant taking in pets, or, the landlord increasing rent, must be negotiated and re-agreed using an addendum agreement which is signed by both parties. Another method is to sign a new tenancy agreement with the updated terms.
For an extensive breakdown of your rights and responsibilities using the Assured Shorthold Tenancy, please read our dedicated guide – Tenancy agreements and Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST).
Assured tenancies are also private and the property owner is a private individual or company. Assured tenancies are usually granted by Housing Associations or Housing Trusts. Tenancies starting between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997 may be assured.
If the following is true for you then you are likely to be an assured tenant:
- You moved in before 1997 and your landlord did not give you a notice stating that you were an AST
- You were informed in writing that you were an assured tenant prior to the start of your tenancy
- You had an assured tenancy with the same landlord immediately prior to the current tenancy
- The assured tenancy was passed on to you when the regulated tenant passed away
You cannot be an assured tenant if any of the following apply:
- You have a business tenancy
- You don’t pay rent or it is only a symbolic sum
- Your tenancy has started after 1st of April 1990 and your current rent is more than £100,000 per annum
- You are renting agricultural land or holdings
- You live in a student accommodation
- You live in a holiday home or vacation complex
- You have a resident landlord
Assured tenancies are more secure for tenants. They grant the tenants the right to live in the same property indefinitely, so long as they continue to pay rent and respect the terms of the tenancy agreement.
To evict assured tenants, the landlord needs to prove sufficient grounds before the court and obtain a possession order. An example of a sufficient proof is rent arrears of two or more months or excessive violence and destructive behaviour in the property.
As with AST, assured tenancies give you rights to control who enters the property, including the landlord.
Your landlord is responsible for repairing the structure and exterior of the property and ensure all gas and electricity and water systems are functional and safe to use. Of course, tenants are responsible for daily maintenance and monitoring of the property. You have to notify the landlord when something goes out of order so measures can be implemented at the earliest and most cost efficient way.
You need to pay rent and all utility bills unless otherwise stated. However, you have a relative protection against a rent increase from your landlord.
During the fixed term, you need to approve and agree to rent increase.
During the periodic tenancy, the landlord may propose a rent increase, but you can challenge it. You’re protected from eviction, so long as you continue to pay the previously agreed rent, while the challenging procedure takes hold. Ultimately, the dispute will be resolved by external arbitration, but will be based on the real valuation of the property according to the current property market.
The landlord can only evict you if they serve a Section 8 notice and prove to the court they have reasonable grounds to obtain a possession order. An example would be if you’ve not being paying rent for two or more months, or have engaged in anti-social behaviour.
One important aspect of the Assured tenancy is that it can be passed on to another person. For example if a family lives on rent with an Assured tenancy and it’s written under the husband’s name, upon his death his wife can inherit the tenancy and remain a resident in the property.
A regulated tenancy is still a private one. Your landlord is a private individual or company, who is not resident at your home.
Regulated tenancies are mostly:
- Tenancies which started before 15 January 1989
- Renewed tenancies where the original tenancy was regulated and the same landlord
- Tenants have complete control over their home and access to their home
- Tenants don’t receive board or other services, such as cleaning, laundry, etc.
Regulated or ‘fair rent’ tenants are entitled to fair rent with a set maximum amount. The maximum rent is assigned by the Valuation Office Agency. This maximum rent is subjected to a review every two years. Landlords cannot charge more than the maximum rent. Both the tenant and landlord can apply to register the property for a “fair rent” valuation.
They also have stronger rights against eviction than other tenants. The landlord cannot use a standard Section 21 eviction notice, as they would is it was a standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Instead, landlord need to obtain a possession order from the court which would require certain grounds to be proved. In general, the tenants need to break the terms of the tenancy agreement to be evicted from the property.
The tenancy can be passed on, or inherited by a family member who is living with the contractual tenant in the event of their death.
The landlord is responsible for major repairs, but tenants are in charge of daily maintenance and must see to that the property is cared for constantly.
Not all are the same and some rights depend on whether your tenancy is in the contractual stage (the fixed term has not expired or you have not been served a notice to quit) or the statutory stage.
Lodgings and subletting
Excluded occupiers are lodgers, meaning they share some portion of their property with the landlord or a member of their family.
You are an excluded occupier if you:
- Share accommodation with your landlord
- Live in the same building as your landlord and share accommodation with a member of your landlord’s family
- Live in a hostel run by the local council or a housing association
- Live in a B&B accommodation
- Do not pay rent
- Don’t share your living space (e.g. the bedroom you rent)
Excluded occupier tenancy agreements have both a fixed and a periodic term, though many times the fixed term is symbolic. However, if you do have a fixed term, you have a relative protection from eviction and rent increases.
During a periodic tenancy, those rights are negated and the landlord can simply ask you to leave with a sufficient period of time to arrange your move. There is no requirement for them to serve you a written notice or go to court to evict you.
If you paid a deposit, the landlord is not required to protect it and all deposit disputes and deductions are decided between you and your landlord.
Occupier with basic protection
Occupier with basic protections share the same building with their landlords but have a separate accommodation. If you’re an occupier with basic protection, you are not a lodger.
You can be an occupier with basic protection if you:
- Live in the same building with your landlord
- Have a separate accommodation and don’t share facilities like the kitchen or bathroom with your landlord
- Live in a student hall or residence
- Pay a high rent – £100,000 per annum
Tenants who are occupiers with basic protection have more rights than excluded occupiers. The landlord cannot evict you by merely asking. Instead, they need to go through the full eviction procedure, starting with a Section 21 notice with two months of time and then following up with a court order.
Accordingly, tenants can use a one month’s notice to end their periodic tenancy or ask the landlord’s permission to terminate a fixed term tenancy and move out early.
The landlord needs to give you the gas safety certificate for the property, which is only valid for 12 months and then needs to be remade by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. They also need to make sure the fire safety standards for the furniture and furnishings are met, as well as ensure good electrical safety on all outlets and appliances.
Major repairs and renovations are a legal obligation of the landlord and tenants cannot be asked for a contribution to their costs, unless they have caused damage to deteriorate their condition.
Of course, tenants are in charge of daily maintenance and small repairs such as replacing smoke detector batteries or a burned out fuse.
Occupiers with basic protection have no right to pass on their tenancy to a relative or a family member, regardless of the situation.
A subtenant doesn’t rent from the original landlord of the property. Instead, they rent from another tenant.
When somebody rents a property from their landlord, sometimes, they can rent out parts or the entire accommodation to another person, instead of terminating the contract.
The original tenant becomes an immediate landlord to the subtenant and has the same responsibilities as a real landlord would. Your tenancy is valid so long as theirs is, but if they get evicted, most probably you will be too, unless you can agree with the actual property owner.
You can have a wide variety of tenancies and tenancy agreements, depending on the exact situation in which you became a subtenant.
For example, if you live with the original tenant in the property, you’re most likely a lodger with an excluded occupier tenancy.
Otherwise, if you rent the property for half an year, while the original tenant is away, you most likely have an assured shorthold tenancy.
Your rights and responsibilities will depend on the exact tenancy agreement you use, so check that first.
If you’re a subtenant, check if the original tenant gained the landlord’s permission to sublet the property. If they haven’t and the original landlord finds out, both you and the original tenant will most likely be evicted. Make sure that doesn’t happen to you and that you know who the real landlord and building owner is.
If you’re a subtenant or want to sublet the property you’re renting, please read our dedicated guide – Subletting.
Employment related tenancies refer to temporary accommodation that is provided to workers of a certain company to do their work. The accommodation is provided by the employer and is described in the employment contract.
Service occupiers are people who live where they work and their accommodation is provided by their employers as part of their work contracts. Service occupiers need to realise that their accommodation is only as permanent as their employment.
Common examples of service occupiers are:
- Live in nurses, carers, nannies
- Housekeepers, stewards
- Workers in a hotel or a resort
- Resident gardeners, caretakers or ground keepers
- Members of a clergy
- Construction workers who are provided with accommodation next to their construction site
Your living accommodation is directly tied with your employment. If you lose your job, you must leave the premises in due course. Look in your employment contract to find out if there is any amount of notice you are entitled to before you need to live the property.
Your landlord / employer needs to make sure the property is safe to inhabit and have all the necessary safety checks, including the gas safety certificate. They are in charge of all repairs and maintenance to the property.
If your home is provided by your employer then you are living in ‘tied accommodation’ because it is tied to the work you do. If you work on a farm then your accommodation is referred to as ‘agricultural occupier’ or ‘agricultural occupancy’. Your rights will be determined by which one of the three types of agricultural occupancy or tenancy you have.
Read Shelter’s extensive guide on Farm workers living in tied accommodation
Council tenancies are those where the property is owned and provided by the local council or another social landlord that works with the local council. Council tenants have stronger rights than private tenants in general. Everybody can apply for social housing, but there are criteria that you need to clear to be eligible.
Council home are typically characterised with much lower rent than what a private landlord would ask for the same property. You don’t necessarily need to have low income to be eligible for a council home, but it is one of the most important factors when deciding who lives in a council property.
Introductory council tenancies
To be an introductory council tenant, you first need to check if your local council runs the introductory tenancy scheme. If yours does and you may be an introductory council tenant if you:
- Rent a council home
- Are a council tenant for no more than 12 months
- Have gotten your council home through a waiting list
- Are not a service tenant or service occupier (your accommodation is directly tied with your employment)
If your local council runs the council introductory tenancy scheme, all new council tenants will be introductory tenants for a minimum of 12 months. This introductory tenancy will give you almost all rights that other council tenants have, but there is an easier and faster eviction procedure to remove you from the property.
In short, this is the council’s way of gauging brand new tenants on their ability and acceptance to follow the rules and respect the terms of the tenancy agreements.
Previous introductory tenancies in other properties or starter tenancies with any housing association prior to your council tenancy will count towards the 12 month goal. For a joint tenancy, the trial period ends as soon as one of the joint tenants has completed the trial period. If you successfully complete a full year as an introductory tenant, your tenancy automatically will roll into a secure tenancy or an assured tenancy.
If the council decides, they may extend your introductory term with another 6 months or start a process to evict you for breaking the terms of the tenancy agreement.
The council should give you a written agreement which explains your rights and responsibilities.
Introductory tenants can be evicted much more easily. Since this is your trial period, the local council doesn’t need to prove grounds to the court for your eviction. There must be reasonable factors that contribute to your eviction such as:
- You have not paid rent or paid rent late on a regular basis
- You have caused nuisance to your neighbours
- You have subleased the property to another person (which you cannot do)
- You have caused excessive damage to the property
- You have used the property for illegal activity
- You have used the property as a place for business
However, to be evicted, the council has to follow the correct procedure, serving you a one month’s written notice. The notice must say the council is going to evict you and state the reasons why. It must also include a line that you can request a review of this decision and defend your case.
Secure or assured tenancy
If you live in a council or housing association house or other form of self-contained social housing you will probably have an assured or secure tenancy agreement. This will not be the case if you live in temporary homeless accommodation, a housing co-operative, a residential or nursing home, supported housing or a property in shared ownership.
If you’re a council tenancy you most likely rent through a secure tenancy. Secure tenancies are the default tenancy agreement used, unless:
- You are a council tenant for less than one year, in which case you’re likely a introductory tenant.
- You live in a temporary accommodation, for example, if you were homeless and the local council provided you with shelter. In this case you’re not a council tenant, but will enter the waiting list with priority, due to your homelessness.
- You have been a secured tenant before, but have since been demoted due to your bad behavior. In this case you will likely use a demoted council tenancy, which has easier eviction procedures, similar to an introductory tenancy (see more below).
- You are a service occupier, for example, work for the local council and are provided accommodation as part of your job.
You need to receive a written tenancy agreement, that notes the basic terms and condition of your tenancy with the local council. The council can’t change the basic conditions of your tenancy without getting written agreement from you first, although it can increase the rent if it follows the correct procedure.
The council is responsible for all major repairs including:
- Structural elements of the property – walls, ceiling, floors, roof, windows, etc
- Plumbing and sanitation facilities
- Electrical systems, supply network and appliances
- Gas safety, supply and appliances
- Central heating and water boiler
As a tenant you will likely be in charge of minor repairs like unblocking drains, changing light bulbs etc. You’re also responsible for daily maintenance, cleaning and housekeeping around the property.
Secure tenants can ask their local council for permission to take in lodgers and sublet part of the property to other tenants. The local council cannot deny you unless there is a legitimate reason, such as overcrowding. When you get a permission in writing, you have a right to take in lodgers, but any benefits, like housing benefit, may get reduced, as a result of more people living in the property.
If you have a low income, you may be able to claim housing benefit to help with the cost. Your tenancy agreement will have a section regarding the rent amount and rent period (how often rent is paid). The council can raise your rent by serving you a notice of at least 4 weeks, if you paid weekly.
As a secure tenant, you have the right to live in your home indefinitely, as long as you follow the terms of the agreement. Otherwise, the council may start proceedings to evict you. This can only legally happen when the correct procedure is used.
The council must give you notice and prove to the court that there is a legal reason for your eviction. Such a reason would be rent arrears, violent behaviour, using the property for illegal activities and similar heavy breaches of the agreement. You will have a chance to defend your case, but you must be hasty with your appeal.
Secure council tenancies can be “inherited”. If the original tenant is a secure council tenant and they live with their partner or family member, the later can automatically receive the tenancy in their name in the event of death. Secure tenants can also assign their tenancy to a person who is eligible to a succession in the event of death.
If you have rented the property for more than five years as a council tenant, you may be eligible to buy the property as your home under the government’s right to buy scheme. The property’s price will be discounted based on factors such as how long you’ve been renting as a council tenant.
Flexible council tenancies
Flexible tenancy became available after 1st April 2012. If you have a tenancy with the local council and started renting prior to this date, you most likely don’t have a flexible tenancy.
Flexible tenancies are given to citizens who are approved for a council home, but not as a secure tenant. Flexible tenants have the same rights, but their rental period is usually set for five year, or if extraordinary factors demand it – a shorter period.
When the flexible term expires, the council can offer you another, offer you a secure tenancy, or choose to terminate your tenancy.
If the council has decided not to renew your tenancy, they must send you a letter of “non-renewal” before your tenancy expires and clear the following rules:
- Give you at least six months’ notice
- Give you reasons for why your tenancy is not going to be renewed
- Give you 21 day period in which you can request a review of this decision
You must also be given two months’ notice saying that the council requires possession. When that time expires, the council needs to obtain a possession order from the courts and continue the eviction procedures with the bailiffs.
If the council wants to evict you before the end of the flexible term, they must serve you a month’s notice. If you’re being evicted for serious antisocial behaviour, the council can make the notice effective immediately.
Next, the council has to prove a valid ground for possession in front of the court and obtain a possession order. Finally, the council can ask the county bailiffs to execute the order and physically evict you from the property.
Demoted council tenancies
If you were a secure tenant, but have acted antisocially and disrupted the peace and enjoyment around your building, the council may choose to demote you.
In short, demoted tenancies are very much like introductory tenancies. You have less rights and the council has an easier way to evict you if you continue to break the terms of agreement.
If you have a demoted tenancy, you should have received a letter from the local council detailing on the demotion, it’s period and your new rights and responsibilities.
You also need to receive a court letter confirming the demotion and period of the penalty.
The council has to follow the correct procedure and obtain a court order if it wants to demote your tenancy. The council needs to give you:
- A written notice
- Legitimate reasons why it is demoting your tenancy
- Information on when court action will begin (the council should usually give you at least four weeks’ notice)
- Information how long the demotion will last
Usually, if you are demoted, your new tenancy trial period will last one year. If you manage to complete a full year as a demoted tenant and act reasonably and respect the tenancy agreement’s terms, your tenancy will automatically return to a secure tenancy.
With a demoted tenancy, your council can give you four weeks notice, before they ask the court to evict you. As with introductory tenancy, they don’t need to prove a legal reason for your eviction.
This article is provided as a guide. The Tenants’ Voice is NOT a legal advice specialist site and our content authors are NOT housing law specialists.
The Tenants’ Voice advises tenants to act courteously and reasonably in all communications and dealings with regard to their tenancy. If you suspect an infringement of your rights then seek advice and support from a regulated professional. The Tenants’ Voice recommends Shelter https://www.shelter.org.uk/ 0808 800 4444
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