Assured Shorthold Tenancy

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    Assured Shorthold Tenancy

    The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is a type of statutory tenancy that allows your landlord to let their property to you for a specific amount of time whilst retaining the right to possession of the property at the end of your contractual term, as long as they follow the correct statutory process to end your AST.

    The most common type of tenancy in private renting, you’ll see students and short-term renters entering into ASTs with private landlords and letting agents, as well as private-registered social housing providers (SHP). This housing guide will explain everything you need to know about the AST.

    Top Tip: Find out more about the different kinds of tenancies by reading our guide: Types of Tenancy.

    Right to rent check

    Before you can enter into a tenancy, all private landlords and letting agents in England must conduct a right to rent check to ensure that their prospective tenants have the legal right to rent their property. The check involves providing your landlord or letting agent with your identification, such as a passport. The right to rent check is in addition to any references required by your landlord.

    What is an assured shorthold tenancy?

    The AST is a type of Assured Tenancy — a statutory tenancy that is created by the Housing Act 1988 (Housing Act). The AST provides more security for tenants compared to the common law tenancy, lodger arrangements and licenses. You must meet additional requirements to gain the protections under an AST. These include paying rent at market value and occupying the property as your main or only home.

    Top Tip: Want to know if you have an AST? Jump to section:
    Is my tenancy an AST?

    Statutory tenancy

    A statutory tenancy is a tenancy that is created by statute. Each type of statutory tenancy provides different levels of security for its tenants. The AST is the most common type of statutory tenancy and is the defualt tenancy for students and short-term renters renting privately.

    Statutory tenancies aim to regulate the relationship between landlord and tenant through the inclusion of terms relating to the creating, managing and ending of your tenancy. These terms apply to both you and your landlord and are implied into your tenancy agreement automatically. You must follow the terms of your AST to be able to gain protection as a statutory tenant.

    Top Tip: For a quick overview of the statutory requirements for the AST, read our blog post: Assured Shorthold Tenancy: Quick Facts.

    How to create an AST

    To create an AST, you must have:

    • A tenancy
    • of a separate dwelling
    • at a rent
    • to an individual tenant or joint tenants
    • as your main or only home
    • with no exceptions to the AST

    A tenancy

    To have an AST you must have a tenancy and not some other type of living arrangement, such as a licence. A tenancy is the exclusive possession of property for a specific amount of time, which provides the tenant with more security and legal rights to the property compared to a licensee. If you don’t have a tenancy then you cannot have an AST, but you might still have a licence.

    Top Tip: Find out how to create a tenancy by reading our guide: Entering Into a Tenancy.

    Fixed-term or periodic tenancy

    A tenancy must be for a specific amount of time — either fixed or periodic. This is known as the contractual term, and is the minimum amount of time that your tenancy must run for. You and your landlord will agree to your contractual term when you verbally agree or sign your tenancy agreement. Your tenancy can often run on longer than your intial contractual term. The full duration of a tenancy is known as the term.

    A periodic tenancy is one that runs from one period to the next until the tenancy is ended by giving the required notice. For example, a rolling monthly tenancy means that you will pay your rent monthly and you or your landlord must give at least one month’s notice to end your tenancy.

    A fixed-term tenancy is a tenancy that has a definitive start and end date. During this time, the tenancy can only be ended if there is a break clause in your tenancy agreement or if both parties agree to end the tenancy (known as surrendering the tenancy).

    Most fixed-term ASTs are created for a minimum of six months. This is because your landlord cannot evict you during the first six months of your tenancy, regardless of how long your contractual term is. Your landlord could still begin the legal process to take back their property, however a possession order cannot be made earlier than six months from the start of your tenancy. If your tenancy is granted for less than six months, then you have the right to stay in the property for at least six months, if you choose to.

    Top Tip: Find out how your AST can be extended by jumping to section: Statutory Periodic Tenancy.

    Let as a separate dwelling

    To have an AST, the property must be a dwelling house that is let as a separate dwelling. A dwelling house is a house that is let as residential accommodation to a single person or up to six people living together as a household. A dwelling can also be a flat or a block of flats.

    For a property to be ‘let as a separate dwelling house’ you must have exclusive possession of all or part of the living accommodation. In shared accommodation, this means you must have exclusive control of your room whilst sharing the common areas of the property (bathroom, kitchen, living room).

    Paying rent during an AST

    The rent that you pay during your AST is the rent that you agreed to in your tenancy agreement. If you don’t pay rent to your landlord then your tenancy cannot be an AST, see section: Exceptions to the AST.

    You will pay rent to your landlord or letting agent every month during your fixed-term tenancy or on a periodic basis for periodic AST’s. For example, if you have a monthly periodic tenancy, then you should pay your rent monthly. If you have a weekly periodic tenancy, your landlord must give you a rent book providing specific information set out in the Housing Act.

    Rent at market value

    When your landlord decides how much rent to charge you during your AST, the Housing Act imposes a requirement that your rent is set at market value or at the best rent that can be reasonably obtained by your landlord without taking a fine.

    Rent increase

    Your landlord must wait at least six months from the beginning of your tenancy if they wish to increase your rent. For fixed-term ASTs, your landlord cannot increase your rent during your contractual term unless there is a term in your tenancy agreement or you agree to the increase.

    If you have a periodic tenancy with no term in your tenancy agreement about increasing your rent, then your landlord can apply to increase your rent as long as they use the specified form and provide you with at least 28 days’ notice. Your landlord cannot increase your rent again for at least another year.

    If your rent increase is excessive

    If you believe that your rent increase is excessive, then under the Housing Act you have the right to apply to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) in England to have your rent reduced. The application must be made in the correct and specified form. Your rent will be assessed in line with the current market value to find the reasonable level of rent for the property. The tribunal will make their assessment based on whether the rent you pay under your AST is significantly higher than what your landlord should reasonably be expected to obtain, considering other properties in the area let on ASTs.

    If your rent is deemed excessive, the tribunal will decide the new level of rent. The tribunal will set the date for the new rent to start, which can be any date after the date that you submitted your application. Once an assement is made by the Tribunal, you will not be able to make another application.

    Individual tenants or joint tenants

    To have an AST, you must be an individual and not a company. On the other hand, your landlord or letting agent can be an individual or a company. A tenancy can also be held by a group of people. You can either have an AST agreement for your individual rooms, with the right to share the common areas; or a single tenancy for the entire house with each housemate sharing the house equally as one legally-recognised tenant. This is known as a joint tenancy. If you are a joint tenant, you are equally liable as your housemates, so it’s important that you follow the terms in your AST agreement.

    Main or only home

    For the entire term of your tenancy, the property must be your main or only home. This is a statutory requirement to live in the property as your main or only home, and allows for you to be absent from time to time. Where you do have another home that you visit, the Housing Act states that there should be visible signs of your intention to return to the rented property.

    Exceptions to the AST

    Some living arrangements can’t be an AST. In some cases, where a tenancy can’t be an AST, you might have a common law tenancy instead. Where you don’t have a tenancy at all, you will most likely have a licence.

    Top Tip: Find out more about the common law tenancy by reading our guide: Types of Tenancy.

    You will not have an AST if any of the following applies to you:

    • You live in halls owned by your university
    • You live in a property with your landlord but you don’t share living accommodation — known as lodging
    • You have permission to live in a property — known as a licence
    • You don’t pay rent
    • You pay a high rent (annual rent of £100,00 or more)
    • You pay a low rent (annual rent of £1,000 or less in Greater London or £250 elsewhere)
    • You are renting from your Local Authority — known as social housing
    • You have a tenancy granted by the Crown or Government department
    • You’re renting under a company — known as a business tenancy
    • You live in a holiday property (not your main or only home)
    • You have a long tenancy (over 21 years)

    Is my tenancy an AST?

    If you are a student (or a group of students), or even a short-term renter, renting from a private landlord and you live in a property, or a part of it, as your main or only home and none of the exceptions to the AST apply to you, then you will have an AST.

    AST agreement

    Most of the terms in your tenancy agreement can be negotiated between you and your landlord. There are some terms that will always be added into your AST agreement — these are known as implied terms and cannot be changed by you or your landlord. These terms are usually implied into your AST by statute. You must follow all the terms in your tenancy agreement. If you have a joint-tenancy, then all of you must follow the terms in your agreement to avoid being liable for a breach of contract.

    The law implies certain terms into your AST including:

    • Repairs and entry for repairs
    • Your landlords duty to ensure fitness for human habitation
    • Prohibited payments under the Tenant Fees Act (TFA) 2019
    • The transferring (assignment) and sub-letting of your tenancy
    Top Tip: For more information on implied terms in your AST, see section: Statutory tenancy.

    Your landlord must provide a written statement of terms

    If your AST agreement was created informally using a verbal agreement and you are unsure of the terms, then you can request a written statement of the main tenancy terms from your landlord. Your landlord must provide you with the written statement of the terms including:

    • the date your tenancy started
    • the amount of rent that you pay
    • any term providing the right to a rent review
    • the length of your fixed term tenancy (if you have a fixed term tenancy)

    Tenant fees during an AST

    Landlords and letting agents are restricted on what they can charge you under an AST. Your landlord can only charge you for the following fees:

    • Rent
    • A tenancy deposit
    • A holding deposit of one week’s rent
    • Payments in the event of tenant-defaulting or ending your AST early
    • Payments for utility bills

    Tenancy deposit

    It is common practice for landlords to require a tenancy deposit from their tenants as protection against losses. This is usually taken before the tenancy starts or at the same time that you pay your first months’ rent. A deposit is usually the equivalent of one months’ rent and should not exceed five weeks’ rent, The deposit amount you need to pay should be written in your tenancy agreement or agreed to verbally, for verbal agreements.

    Protecting a deposit

    If your landlord has taken a deposit from you, then they must protect your deposit payment in a government-recognised tenancy deposit scheme (TDS). If your landlord or letting agent fails to protect your deposit in an approved TDS, then they could receive financial penalties and be prevented from ending your tenancy if they want their property back. Your landlord must also give you specific information about the TDS that they have used to protect your deposit.

    Specific information about the deposit scheme

    Your landlord must provide you with specific information about the TDS used to protect your tenancy deposit. This information includes:

    • Contact details of the TDS provider
    • Any leaflets provided by the TDS provider
    • The process for repaying your deposit at the end of your AST
    • The process available for circumstances where the landlord or tenant cannot be contacted
    • The process for dealing with disputes and the options available
    • Information about your tenancy and the deposit

    It’s your landlord’s responsibility to join an approved TDS and provide you with the specific information. It’s good practice to check with your landlord or letting agent that they have protected your deposit and provided you with the specific information about the TDS to avoid future problems when ending your AST.

    Specific information before your AST starts

    Your landlord is legally required to provide you with specific information relating to your AST before your tenancy starts. Your landlord could be restricted from ending your AST, until they have provided you with the specific information.

    Your landlord or letting agent must provide you with:

    • The required TDS information
    • A copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property
    • A copy of the Gas Saftey Certficifate for the proterty
    • The most recent version of the How to Rent booklet

    Ending an AST

    To end your AST all you have to do is move out of the property once your fixed-term has ended. If you have a periodic AST, you should move out at the end of your rental period, upon giving the relevant notice. If you have a fixed-term AST, then you have the right to stay in the property at the end of your contractual term under a statutory periodic tenancy.

    Statutory periodic tenancy

    The AST gives tenants more security compared to other living arrangements. One of those benefits is that the Housing Act implies a statutory periodic tenancy at the end of all fixed-term ASTs. Remaining in the property at the end of your fixed-term will automatically create the statutory periodic tenancy on the same terms as your fixed-term tenancy, however your rent can be increased. You might want to let your landlord know what you plan to do.

    Ending an AST early

    If you want to move out during your contractual term, then you will need to check your tenancy agreement to ensure that there is a break clause that allows you to end your AST early. If there is no break clause in your tenancy agreement, then the only way to end your AST early is if you and your landlord agree to surrender the tenancy. If you move out early and stop paying rent when your agreement doesn’t allow for it, then your landlord could take you to court or charge you a fee for the unpaid rent.

    If your landlord wants the property back

    If your landlord wants the property back at the end of your contractual term, then they will need to follow the correct statutory process to end your AST and give you the correct amount of notice. This is known as the Eviction Process. Your landlord must use this process because you are a statutory tenant and you benefit from the statutory protection from eviction therefore, serving notice is not enough.

    Your landlord will need to apply for a section 21 court order of possession, and then serve this notice to you. This is an absolute right which means that your landlord does not need to prove a ground (reason) to get their property back at the end of your term.

    If your landlord wants to evict you during your contractual term (but not within the first six months), then they will need to apply for a section 8 possession order, prove a relevant ground for possession and then serve the notice to you.

    As long as your landlord follows the correct process then they will be able to get their property back.

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