Most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy. Find out the main features of this type of tenancy.
What is an assured shorthold tenancy?
An assured shorthold tenancy (AST) is the most common type of tenancy if you rent from a private landlord or letting agency.
You usually have an AST if:
- your original tenancy started on or after 28 February 1997
- you don't share any accommodation with your landlord and they live elsewhere
You won't have an AST if your rent is:
- more than £100,000 a year
- less than £1000 a year in London or £250 a year outside London
Private landlords and letting agents must carry out a right to rent immigration check before they can offer you a tenancy.
Most landlords give you a written contract to sign before your tenancy starts.
It will usually have a fixed term - often 6 or 12 months - but could be a periodic agreement which rolls weekly or monthly.
You usually have to pay the agreed rent for at least the length of the fixed term.
Some contracts contain a break clause which allows you to end the contract early by giving notice.
Written statement of terms
If your landlord doesn't give you a contract you can ask for a written statement of the basic terms of your agreement.
Your landlord must provide the following information in writing if you request it:
- start date of tenancy
- rent payable and rent due date
- any rent review clause
- the length of any fixed term agreement
You also have the right to the name and address of your landlord.
Other important tenancy documents
Your landlord must give you a copy of the latest:
- energy performance certificate for the building
- gas safety certificate, if there are gas appliances
- the government guide How to rent (if your tenancy started or was renewed on or after 1 October 2015)
If you pay rent weekly, you're entitled to a rent book.
Landlords and agents often take a deposit at the start of your tenancy.
Your deposit must be protected in a government approved scheme.
Your landlord should return your deposit at the end of your tenancy. They can make reasonable deductions for things like damage or unpaid rent.
You should agree an inventory of your rented home before you move in.
Take photos of the inside and outside of your home and any existing damage and repairs that are needed.
An inventory can help resolve disputes about deductions from your tenancy deposit at the end of your tenancy.
Help to pay the rent
If you're on a low income you may be able to claim one of the following to help with housing costs:
You usually have to claim universal credit if you're in an area where it's been introduced and you're not claiming other benefits.
Your landlord can't increase your rent during a fixed term unless either:
- you agree to it
- your contract contains a rent review clause
A rent review clause usually sets out:
- when an increase can happen
- how much notice you'll get
- a method for rent increases (for example, a formula for calculating the new amount)
Your landlord can give you 1 month's notice of a rent increase if the fixed term has ended.
Your landlord is responsible for most repairs including:
- the roof and walls
- external windows and doors
- wiring and plumbing
Tell your landlord or letting agent if repairs are needed.
You must allow your landlord access to your home to carry out repairs. Your landlord must give you reasonable notice.
Every year your landlord must arrange for a gas safety inspection and give you a copy of the gas safety certificate.
At the end of a fixed term
When your contract ends you have different options.
If you're the only tenant
If you want to stay, you can either:
- agree a new fixed term contract – your rent may increase and you might be charged a renewal fee
- stay in your home without signing a new contract – your agreement becomes 'periodic' and rolls from month to month at the same rent
If you want to leave, you can end your tenancy by moving out and returning the keys by the end of the fixed term.
If your contract says you must give notice that you're leaving, you should do this to avoid disputes.
If you're a joint tenant
The options are similar if you have a joint tenancy but you'll need to discuss what you want to do with your co-tenants.
If some of you want to leave and some of you want to stay, the simplest option is usually for the tenants who want to stay to sign a new contract with the landlord.
It can be more complicated if there's no new contract. If you leave but other joint tenants stay on, you still have a periodic tenancy and continue to be liable for rent although you can give notice to end the periodic tenancy.
You don't have to leave just because the landlord tells you to or because your fixed term contract has ended.
The landlord must follow eviction procedures unless you agree to go. They must give you notice and then get a court order to evict you.
Still need help?
Read the government's guide How To Rent for more information on assured shorthold tenancies.
If you have questions or concerns about your tenancy or contract:
Last updated 19 Sep 2018 | © Shelter
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