Private rented accommodation

Tenancy agreements

A tenancy is a contract between a landlord and a tenant that allows the tenant to live in a property as long as you pay rent and follow the rules.

A tenancy agreement is the document agreed between a landlord and tenant which sets out the legal terms and conditions of the rent contract. A tenancy agreement should be prepared before you rent a property.

Tenancy agreements can be either written or verbal, but you should try to get a written tenancy agreement where possible. This will avoid any disputes at a later date as all the tenancy information will be in writing. Check you understand any terms before agreeing to them.

Whether or not a tenancy agreement is in place, landlords and tenants still have certain rights and obligations under the housing legislation. If you fail to pay rent or breach other terms of your tenancy agreement however, you can lose your legal rights as a tenant.

It is important you know which type of tenancy you have, as it can affect your rights over the property and how you use it.

Types of tenancies

Landlords and tenants may have other rights and responsibilities depending on which type of tenancy they have. Tenancies can run for a set period, normally of six months or longer (fixed-term tenancy), or on a month-by-month basis (periodic tenancy).

Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs)

The most common form of tenancy is an AST agreement and all new tenancies are automatically ASTs. You may have an AST if all of the following apply:

  • your rented property is private
  • your tenancy started on or after 15 January 1989
  • the property is your main accommodation
  • your landlord doesn’t live in the property.

A tenancy cannot be an AST if:

  • it began – or was agreed – before 15 January 1989
  • the rent is more than £100,000 – this is then a bare contractual tenancy
  • it is rent free
  • the rent is less than £250 a year
  • it is a business tenancy or tenancy of licensed premises
  • it is a holiday let
  • the landlord is a local authority.

Assured tenancies

You may have an assured tenancy if the tenancy began before 28 February 1997.

This has similar legal rights to an AST, but the tenant can stay in the property for an unspecified period of time.

There is no automatic right for the landlord to repossess the property at the end of the tenancy.

They must show the court that they have a good reason for wanting possession, using one of the grounds for possession in the legislation.

Regulated tenancies

You may have a regulated tenancy if the all of the following apply:

  • you moved in before 15 January 1989
  • you live in a different building from your landlord
  • you do not get other services included, like cleaning.

Regulated tenancies give you more rights, including increased protection from eviction. You also have a legal right to apply for a fair rent to be registered for the property. A fair rent is an amount set by a rent officer and is the maximum amount your landlord can charge.

If your tenancy was arranged between 28 November 1980 and 15 January 1989, it may be a protected shorthold tenancy. This is a type of regulated tenancy with the same legal protection, though it usually runs for a shorter period of time. If you die before the tenancy ends, your tenancy rights will automatically pass to your spouse or another qualifying family member.

The government website (gov.uk) has further information.