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Assured tenants and ASTs

This content applies to England

This section explains assured and assured shorthold tenancies.

Private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH), formerly known as registered social landlord (RSL), tenancies granted on or after 15 January 1989 are assured or assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs). An assured tenancy offers stronger security of tenure than an assured shorthold tenancy. Most PRPSHs give assured tenancies to their tenants rather than assured shortholds.

PRPSHs are required to offer tenancies or terms of occupation which are compatible with the purpose of the accommodation, the needs of individual households, the sustainability of the community, and the efficient use of their housing stock.[1] For much housing, this means assured tenancies. Formerly, PRPSHs were only permitted to use assured shortholds in exceptional circumstances, but this is no longer the case. It is now accepted that assured shorthold tenancies may be appropriate for certain kinds of housing and tenant.

Distinguishing between an assured and an assured shorthold tenancy

Between 15 January 1989 and 28 February 1997, the default tenancy was assured and not assured shorthold. (This means that between these dates, an assured tenancy was only an assured shorthold tenancy if a section 20 notice had been served before the start of the tenancy, in accordance with the Housing Act 1988.)[2]

Since 28 February 1997, the default tenancy has been an assured shorthold (ie no section 20 notice is required).[3] To create an assured tenancy instead of an assured shorthold, it is necessary to make sure that certain formalities are complied with. The tenancy will be assured if:[4]

  • the tenancy agreement states that the tenancy is not an assured shorthold tenancy
  • the PRPSH gives notice stating that the tenancy will not be shorthold - before or during the tenancy
  • the tenancy has arisen following succession to a regulated tenancy
  • the tenancy was formerly a secure tenancy of a different provider of social housing (typically this arises where there has been a housing stock transfer)
  • the tenant has previously been an assured tenant of the same PRPSH and the PRPSH has not served a notice stating that the tenancy is to be an assured shorthold tenancy.

A PRPSH may serve a notice after an assured shorthold tenancy has started stating that it is in fact an assured tenancy.

Elements of assured and assured shorthold tenancies

For an assured or an assured shorthold tenancy to exist, certain conditions must apply. The accommodation must be:

  • let as a separate dwelling 
  • let to an individual (or individuals) who occupies it as her/his only or principal home.[5]

The assured or assured shorthold tenancy status will cease if the property is not being occupied in this way, and possession proceedings can be taken against the tenant.

The principles of assured tenancies are set out in the Housing Act 1988.[6] Please see the section on Assured tenancies and the section on Assured shorthold tenancies for more information about these tenancy types.

Terminating an assured or assured shorthold tenancy

Most PRPSH tenancies are periodic tenancies. If the tenancy was originally a fixed-term tenancy and the fixed term has expired, then the tenancy is a periodic tenancy.

If the tenancy is an assured tenancy and the PRPSH wants to recover possession, it must serve notice of proceedings for possession. Within 12 months, the PRPSH must commence possession proceedings or else must serve a fresh notice.[7] The provider of social housing must prove grounds for possession (some of which are discretionary, others mandatory) and must also obtain a court order.

If, however, the tenancy is an assured shorthold, the landlord provider has more options. Either:

  • the landlord can use the above procedure, which involves proving that there are grounds (and perhaps reasonableness) and/or
  • the landlord can issue notice and obtain a court order using the section 21 notice procedure: this is sometimes known as the 'assured shorthold ground'.[8] The landlord must give at least two months' notice, and cannot apply for the court order until the end of any fixed term. It is important to establish the correct date for the notice, but in principle, provided that the notice is valid and validly served, the tenant will have no defence to proceedings.[9] NB Where a fixed-term tenancy was granted for a minimum period of two years and granted on or after 1 April 2012, a PRPSH  landlord must give the tenant at least six month's notice that it will not be renewing the tenancy, in addition to a section 21 notice.[10]

The section on Assured tenancies gives further details about the grounds for possession of assured tenancies. The section on Assured shorthold tenancies gives information on possession of assured shorthold tenancies.

Assured and assured shorthold tenancies and rents

Assured and assured shorthold tenants pay market rents which, unlike fair rents, can include an element reflecting scarcity of accommodation in the open market. Most are periodic tenants whose rents can be increased on an annual basis, and any dispute can be referred to a Rent Assessment Committee (RAC). PRPSHs are required to set rents in accordance with certain targets, which are on average below those in the private sector, and which reflect size, property value, and local earnings.[11] In Wales, the requirement is to fix rents as low as possible.[12] Service charges may also be included in the rent. Please see the section on Market rents for more information.

[1] para 1.2, Tenancy standard, HCA, April 2012.

[2] s.20 Housing Act 1988.

[3] s.19a Housing Act 1988.

[4] Sch.2A Housing Act 1988, as inserted by Sch.7 Housing Act 1996.

[5] s.1 Housing Act 1988.

[6] ss.1-19 Housing Act 1988.

[7] s.8(3)(c) Housing Act 1988.

[8] s.21 Housing Act 1988, as amended by Housing Act 1996.

[9] s.21 Housing Act 1988, as amended by Housing Act 1996.

[10] s.21(1A) and (1B) Housing Act 1988, as inserted by s.164 Localism Act 2011.

[11] Appendix 1: Detailed information on calculating formula rents, Rent standard guidance, HCA, April 2015.

[12] cl.1.2.2 Regulatory Code for Housing Associations Registered in Wales, Welsh Government, 2006.

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