Regulated tenancies

This section explains the rights you have if you are a regulated tenant with a private landlord. It covers the rights you have to live in your home, get repairs done and/or pass your tenancy on to someone else. It also explains what you must do if you want to end your tenancy and how your landlord can evict you.

What is a regulated tenancy?

Regulated tenants (also known as 'fair rent' tenants) have stronger rights against eviction than most other private tenants. You are likely to be a regulated tenant if:

  • you moved in before 15 January 1989, and
  • you pay rent to a private landlord, and
  • you have control over your home, so that your landlord and other people cannot come in whenever they want to, and
  • your landlord does not live in the same building as you, and
  • you do not receive board or other services such as cleaning.

Some types of tenancy cannot be regulated tenancies.

These include:

  • business tenancies
  • tenancies where no (or a very low) rent is paid
  • tenancies of agricultural land or holdings
  • college accommodation
  • holiday lets.

If you fall into any of these categories and you are not sure of your rights, get advice – use our directory to find a local advice centre

A regulated tenancy is a tenancy that gives you a legal right to live in your accommodation for a period of time. Your tenancy might be for a set period such as a year (this is known as a fixed-term tenancy). Or it might roll on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis (this is known as a periodic tenancy).

Use Shelter's tenancy checker to check what type of tenancy you have

Are all regulated tenancies the same?

Not all regulated tenancies are the same. Regulated tenancies have two stages. Some of your rights depend on what stage your tenancy is at.

The first stage is the contractual stage. Your tenancy is in the contractual stage if:

  • the tenancy was a fixed-term tenancy (eg for 15 years) and this has not yet expired
  • the tenancy was periodic from the start and your landlord has never served a 'notice to quit' on you.

There may be a few fixed-term regulated tenancies still around in the contractual stage but this is unlikely. This is because no new regulated tenancies have started since 1989.

The contractual stage ends if:

  • the fixed-term expires
  • your landlord gives you notice to end the contractual tenancy.

Once the contractual stage comes to an end your tenancy enters the statutory stage.

Claiming housing benefit if you are a fair rent/regulated tenant

If you are on a low income, you may be able to claim housing benefit to help pay some or all of the cost of your rent.

Rights of a regulated tenant

The law gives you rights to:

  • control your home so that you can stop other people from freely entering
  • have a fair rent registered and only have your rent increased every two years
  • get certain types of repairs done
  • pass your tenancy to someone else in certain circumstances
  • live in your accommodation until your landlord gets a court order to evict you.

Each of these rights are explained below.

Your right to live in your accommodation undisturbed

You have the right to live in your accommodation without being disturbed. You have control over your home so that your landlord and other people cannot freely enter whenever they want to. Your landlord cannot limit or otherwise interfere with your right to live in your home. If your landlord tries to do this it may be harassment, which is against the law.

If you are not living in the accommodation at the end of the contractual stage of your tenancy your landlord may be able to evict you very easily.

During the statutory stage of your tenancy you have to be living in the accommodation to keep your rights. You are allowed to spend time living elsewhere as long as you can show that you are planning to return (for example, by leaving furniture or belongings at the property).

Rent and rent increases

You have to pay the rent that you agreed with your landlord. If you do not pay your rent the landlord can take court action to evict you. If you pay rent weekly your landlord must provide a rent book.

Regulated tenants are entitled to fair rents. A fair rent is an amount of rent that a rent officer or a tribunal for rent disputes sets as the maximum that your landlord can charge.

If you don't already have a fair rent registered you or your landlord can apply to the rent service to get one registered. If there is a fair rent registered on the property your landlord is only allowed to charge that amount.

Fair rents can normally be increased once every two years. They can usually only be increased by a certain amount which can be calculated using a formula. If your landlord has made substantial improvements to your home, the rent increase can be higher.

If your landlord is allowed to increase the rent and you don't agree to the rent increase you may be able to challenge it using the tribunal for rent dispute. Get advice if you want to do this – use our directory to find a local advice centre.

Getting repairs done

The law says your landlord has to keep the structure and exterior of the property in good repair. This includes:

  • the roof
  • guttering
  • walls (but this doesn't include internal decoration)
  • windows and doors.

Your landlord must also keep the equipment for the supply of gas, electricity, heating, water and sanitation in good repair. Your landlord may have extra responsibilities to repair depending on what your tenancy agreement says.

You are responsible for looking after the property and for carrying out minor repairs. This might include unblocking a sink or changing a fuse when necessary. You may also have other responsibilities depending on what your tenancy agreement says.

Your landlord must have a valid gas safety certificate for any gas appliances in the property. Any furniture provided should be fire resistant.

If your accommodation needs repairs inform your landlord or agent. If the repairs are your landlord's responsibility and are not done there may be ways you can force your landlord to carry out the work.

Passing your tenancy to someone else

If you pass your tenancy to someone else you will no longer have a legal right to live in your home. You can only pass on your regulated tenancy to someone else in specific circumstances. These are:

  • if you die (see below)
  • if your tenancy agreement says you can pass on your tenancy
  • if your landlord agrees to it.

If you attempt to pass your tenancy to someone else under any other circumstances the landlord may be able to end your tenancy.

Death of a regulated tenant

If a regulated tenant dies the tenancy can be passed on under specific circumstances. This is known as succession. The tenancy can be passed to:

  • a spouse or partner who lived in the property at the time of the tenant's death
  • another member of the tenant's family who lived in the property with the tenant for at least two years prior to the tenant's death.

If the tenancy passes to the spouse or partner and there has not been a previous succession, the tenancy remains a regulated tenancy. If it passes to another member of the tenant's family or is a second succession, it becomes an assured tenancy. The tenancy can only be passed on twice in very specific circumstances. The second successor must fulfil certain requirements.

Get advice if you are unsure about succession to a tenancy.

Use our directory to find a local advice centre.

Lodgers and subtenants of a regulated tenant

It is not usually a problem to get other people to live with you as subtenants or lodgers as long as you continue to live in your accommodation. If you move out you will no longer have a regulated tenancy. If your tenancy ends it is likely that anyone living in the property as a subtenant or lodger will no longer have any rights to live there.

Ending your regulated tenancy

Your tenancy will continue until it is ended by you or your landlord. This can happen by:

  • you and your landlord agreeing to end the tenancy (known as surrender)
  • you serving a valid notice
  • your landlord taking action to evict you (see below).

It is possible for a tenancy to be surrendered at any time. Get your landlord's agreement in writing if possible to avoid problems later.

If you have a periodic tenancy you have to give one months' notice in writing (or longer if you pay your rent less often). The notice should end on the day that your rent is due. Once the notice ends your tenancy ends and you no longer have any right to live in your home.

If you have a fixed-term tenancy you will only be able to give notice during the fixed-term if your tenancy agreement says it is allowed. The length of notice you have to give depends on what your tenancy agreement says. It is also possible to leave on the day your tenancy ends without giving any notice.

Eviction of regulated tenants

Regulated tenants have very strong rights and cannot be evicted without a court order.

Court order

You cannot be evicted before your landlord has gone to court and the court has agreed to your landlord regaining possession of the property. The court's permission is on a written notice known as a possession order. Your landlord can only do this if your tenancy is at the statutory stage and if a reason (or 'ground') can be proven. The grounds that your landlord can use are divided into two types, mandatory and discretionary.

Mandatory grounds

If your landlord can prove a mandatory ground for possession the court has to evict you. It is not possible for any of these grounds to be used unless your landlord has already given you notice that the ground may be used. Before your tenancy started your landlord must have told you in writing you may be evicted for one of these reasons:

  • Your landlord (or a member of your landlord's family) wants to return to live in the property (and lived there previously).
  • Your landlord wants to live in the property due to retirement.
  • A minister of religion normally occupies the property and needs to live there.
  • An agricultural worker normally occupies the property and needs to live there (and you are not an agricultural worker).
  • Your landlord is in the armed forces and intends to live there upon discharge.

Discretionary grounds

If your landlord is using a discretionary ground for possession the court has to consider whether it is reasonable for possession to be granted to your landlord before an order can be made. The courts have lots of room to decide what is reasonable in a particular case. Your circumstances can be taken into account. Even if the court agrees with your landlord's claim it can decide to:

  • delay the eviction to give you time to find somewhere else to live
  • stop the eviction if there are exceptional circumstances
  • allow you to pay off arrears by installments.

Discretionary grounds include whether:

  • suitable alternative accommodation is available for you (this could be another private tenancy or council accommodation)
  • you have rent arrears or have broken your tenancy agreement
  • you have caused nuisance or annoyance
  • you have damaged the furniture or condition of the property
  • you have assigned or sublet the property without your landlord's consent
  • you are employed by your landlord and the accommodation is required for a new worker
  • your landlord wants to live in the property.

After a court order takes effect your landlord can ask the bailiffs to evict you.

Please see the section on eviction of regulated tenants for more information. 

Illegal eviction

If your landlord tries to evict you without getting a court order it may be a criminal offence. Your local council should help if you have been illegally evicted or harassed by your landlord. You may also be able to obtain a court order requiring the landlord to allow you back into the property.

Get advice if this is happening to you – use our directory to find a local adviser or call our free housing advice helpline.

Read Shelter's factsheet Illegal Eviction for more information of being illegally evicted

Last updated: