If you let your property, the tenancy will normally be an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). With an AST, you have guarantees and rights, for example:
- you can get your property back after six months provided any fixed-term agreement has ended and you have given your tenant two months' notice to leave the property
- you can charge a market rent
- you can end a tenancy at any time if your tenants don't pay the rent, behave anti-socially or damage the property, including within the first six months or initial fixed term if the tenancy agreement provides for this
You should agree with your tenant how long the tenancy will last and write it into the tenancy agreement before they move in. You can agree to a set period - known as a 'fixed term' - or you can leave it open-ended.
A tenancy agreement is a written or verbal contract between a landlord and a tenant setting out the terms and conditions of a rental agreement. You should try to have a written agreement ready before a tenancy begins. You can use a verbal agreement but they offer no proof if disputes need to be settled.
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. 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
All new tenancies are automatically ASTs. You can set up another type of tenancy - called an 'assured tenancy' - but this gives the tenant more rights to stay 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 - or less than £1,000 in London
- it is a business tenancy or tenancy of licensed premises
- it is a holiday let
- the landlord is a local authority
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.
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 than an AST, like 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.