Assured Shorthold Tenancy

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    Assured Shorthold Tenancy

    T he Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is a type of Assured Tenancy – a statutory protected tenancy with limited security of tenure that allows your landlord to let their property to you for an agreed amount of time whilst retaining the right to possession of their property at the end of your tenancy, as long as they follow the correct statutory process to end your AST.

    The most common type of tenancy in private renting today, 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).

    Right to rent check

    Before accepting any type of tenancy, all private landlords and letting agents in England must check that their prospective tenants have the legal right to rent. This is known as the right to rent check and will involve 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.

    Statutory protected tenancy

    The AST is a type of Assured Tenancy – a statutory protected tenancy that is created and regulated by the Housing Act 1988 (Housing Act). When you have a tenancy that is protected under Statute, there are additional statutory requirements that you must meet.

    The statutory laws seek to regulate the relationship between landlord and tenant and include terms relating to the creating, managing and ending of your AST. The statutory requirements are therefore implied into your tenancy agreement and must be followed to be able to gain the benefits and protections as a statutory tenant under an AST.

    Creating an AST

    To enter into an AST, the following must be present:

    1. A tenancy
    2. of a separate dwelling
    3. at a rent
    4. to an individual tenant (or joint tenants)
    5. as your main or only home
    6. with no exceptions to the AST

    Put simply, if you are an individual or a group of individuals and live in a property, or a part of it for residential purposes, as your main or only home and none of the exceptions to the AST apply to you, then you will most likely have an AST. Let’s go through each requirement.

    The tenancy

    A tenancy is a type of land right that gives a tenant the legal right to live in the landlord’s property for the agreed amount of time, requiring a two-or-three-part process to enter into one. A tenancy includes a sub-tenancy, where a tenancy is created by another tenant, known as the head tenant.

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

    Fixed term or periodic tenancy

    A tenancy can be for a fixed or periodic term . A fixed term tenancy is usually created for a minimum of six months. This is because six months is the minimum duration needed for your landlord to be able to apply for a court order of possession if they wish to take back their property at the end of your tenancy.

    If you and your landlord agree to a shorter tenancy, for example a three month tenancy, then under the Housing Act you would be able to remain in the property after your tenancy ends because a statutory periodic tenancy will automatically start. While your landlord could start the legal process to take back their property, no possession order can be made earlier than six months after the start of your tenancy term.

    A separate dwelling

    The Housing Act requires for a dwelling house to be ‘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. In reality, 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 or use of some part of the living accommodation. In shared accommodation, this means you must have exclusive use of your room whilst sharing the common areas of the property (bathroom, kitchen, living room). This will satisfy the requirement for a separate dwelling house.

    Rent

    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 your rent to your landlord or letting agent every month during your agreed fixed term or on a periodic basis for periodic AST’s. For example, if you have a monthly periodic tenancy, 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.

    Market value

    When your landlord decides how much rent to charge you during your AST, the Housing Act imposes a requirement to ensure 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 increases

    If you have a fixed term AST, your landlord can’t increase your rent during your contractual term unless there is a provision in your tenancy agreement or you agree to the increase. Your landlord must wait at least six months from the beginning of your tenancy if they wish to increase your rent.

    If you have a periodic tenancy with no provision 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 to do so and provide you with at least 28 days’ notice. Your landlord cannotincrease your rent again for at least another year.

    Excessive rent

    Under the Housing Act, if you believe that your rent increase is excessive, then 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.

    After the assessment, if the rent is 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 tenant (or joint tenants)

    To take on an AST, you must be an individual and not a company. On the otherhand, a landlord or letting agent can be an individual or a company. A tenancy can also be held by a group of people, known as joint tenants. Depending on the way in which you and your joint tenants signed the tenancy agreement, you might have an AST for your individual rooms with the right to share the common areas, or you might have a single tenancy for the entire house with each tenant sharing the entire house as one legally-recognised tenant.

    Main or only home

    When you begin your tenancy and for the entire duration of your tenancy term, the property must be your main or only home. This requirement to occupy the property as your main or only home 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 property.

    Exceptions to the AST

    Some living arrangements can’t be an AST under the Housing Act and are excluded from the statutory protections. In some cases, where a tenancy cannot be an AST, you might have a common law tenancy instead.

    Top Tip: Find out more about common law tenancies by reading our guide:
    The Tenancy.

    You won’t have an AST if any of the following applies to you:

    1. You live in halls owned by your university
    2. You live in the property with your landlord but you don’t share living accommodation – known as a resident landlord
    3. You have permission to live in the property – known as a licence
    4. You don’t pay rent
    5. You pay a high rent (annual rent of £100,00 or more)
    6. You pay a low rent (annual rent of £1,000 or less in Greater London or £250 elsewhere)
    7. You are renting from your Local Authority
    8. You have a tenancy given by the Crown or Government department
    9. You’re renting under a business or company (business tenancy)
    10. You live in a holiday property
    11. You have a long tenancy (over 21 years)

    Landlord must provide 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 essential terms from your landlord. Your landlord must provide you with a written statement of the essential terms of your tenancy, including:

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

    Implied terms

    While 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 agreement by the Housing Act – these are known as implied terms.

    The law imposes certain terms into your AST relating to:
    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

    Tenant fees

    Landlords and letting agents of ASTs are prohibited from requiring payments from you, other than the following permitted charges:

    Rent
    A tenancy deposit
    A holding deposit of one week’s rent
    Payments in the event of tenant defualting or for ending the tenancy early
    Payments for council tax and other utilities

    Tenancy deposit

    It is common practice for landlords to require a tenancy deposit from their tenants, as protection against losses, before the tenancy starts or at the same time you pay your first months’ rent. A deposit is usually the equivalent of one months’ rent but should not exceed five weeks’ rent, in most cases. The amount of deposit you need to pay is agreed to when you sign your tenancy agreement.

    Deposit protection schemes

    If your landlord has taken a deposit from you then the deposit payment must be protected in a government-recognised tenancy deposit scheme (TDS). If your landlord fails to protect your deposit in an approved TDS, they could receive financial penalties and be prevented from gaining possession of their property. Your landlord must also give you specific information relating to the TDS that they used to protect your deposit.

    Ultimately, it is your landlord’s responsibility to join an approved TDS and provide the specific information. It is 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.

    Specific information relating to the TDS

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

    Contact details of the TDS provider
    Any information leaflets provided by the TDS provider
    The process for repaying your deposit at the end of your tenancy
    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

    Legal requirements for your landlord

    In addition to the TDS specific information requirements, your landlord is legally required to provide you with specific information relating to your tenancy. If your landlord has not provided you with the information then they could be restricted from ending your tenancy at the end the contractual term. Your landlord must provide you with the following information:

    • 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 your AST

    Your landlord will need to follow the correct statutory process to end your AST if they wish to take back their property. This involves your landlord applying for a court order of possession, relying on a ground for possession under a section 8 notice. If the contractual term of your tenancy has come to an end, then your landlord has an absolute right to possession of their property and can do so by serving you a section 21 notice that does not require your landlord to prove a ground or reason.

    Statutory periodic tenancy

    The Housing Act implies a periodic tenancy at the end of all ASTs. If your landlord has not started the process to gain possession of their property, then as a statutory tenant under an AST, you have the right to remain in the property after your contractual tenancy has ended under a statutory periodic tenancy. Remaining in the property at the end of your tenancy will automatically create the statutory periodic tenancy on the same terms as your contractual tenancy.

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