Types of tenancy agreement
Your renting agreement with your landlord is either a tenancy or a licence.
Most private renters have assured shorthold tenancies.
You can usually tell what type of renting agreement you have by looking at your contract.
However, some landlords use the wrong type of agreement so your rights might be different to what your agreement says.
A licence gives you less protection from eviction than a tenancy. For example, you may have a licence if you're a lodger or live in a hostel.
You do not have a licence just because the landlord says that's what you have. It depends on your housing situation.
Key features of a tenancy
Even if your agreement says it is a licence, lodger agreement or holiday let, you probably have a tenancy if:
1. Your landlord does not live in the same building
You probably have an assured shorthold tenancy if you rent a property or room and your landlord lives somewhere else.
You might not have an assured shorthold tenancy if your landlord lives in the building but in a separate flat. You could still be a tenant with protection from eviction.
If your landlord lives in the same building and you share a kitchen, bathroom or other living rooms, you will be a lodger.
2. Nobody can enter your home or room without your permission
The landlord or agent needs your permission to enter your home. The legal name for this is 'exclusive possession'.
You usually have exclusive possession if you can lock the property or your room and you do not get any services where other people can come in without your permission.
If you rent a room in a shared house, you can still have exclusive possession if:
you have a lock on your door
the landlord does not live in the building
your contract is for a specific room and you cannot be moved to a different one
you do not get any support or services such as cleaning in your room - cleaning of communal areas and shared facilities does not count
Joint tenants all have exclusive possession of the whole property.
3. You pay rent
You normally have to pay rent to have a tenancy.
Your tenancy rights are not affected:
if you pay rent in cash
by how often your agreement says the rent is due
If you are not charged rent, you will not have a tenancy and you can be evicted easily.
4. It's clear that you've made a legal renting agreement
You can have a tenancy even if you do not have a written tenancy agreement, as long as it's clear that you agreed to rent the home based on an agreement in writing or even verbally.
You can agree a tenancy agreement by email or message, or in conversation with the landlord or letting agent. It's a good idea to try and get something in writing so you have proof of the terms of your tenancy.
You do not have a tenancy if you are staying with family or friends.
When you sign a joint tenancy agreement with another person or group of people, you all have the same rights and responsibilities.
You are jointly and individually responsible for any:
rent owed by any of the joint tenants
damage caused by any of the tenants or their visitors
If one of you wants to leave and gives the landlord notice to end the agreement, it may end the agreement for everyone.
Fixed term and periodic agreements
Many tenancy agreements are granted for a fixed term, such as 6 months or 1 year.
Other agreements are periodic, which means they roll on monthly or weekly.
There are different rules if you want to:
Your tenancy will usually end automatically if you leave by the last day of the fixed term. Some contracts say you have to give notice so check your agreement.
Fixed term assured shorthold tenancies become periodic tenancies if you stay past the end of the fixed term without agreeing to a new tenancy.
A written agreement should set out the rights and responsibilities of you and your landlord.
Read the agreement carefully before you sign it. Ask the landlord to explain anything you're not sure of.
Certain rights and responsibilities always apply even if the agreement does not mention them or says something different. For example, a landlord's responsibility for repairs.
The agreement may also say who to contact about repairs, the rules on lodgers, subletting and passing on your tenancy. The agreement may have rules about pets, guests or smoking.
Your agreement should say whether you have to pay a deposit, what it covers and what circumstances mean you do not get your deposit back.
Unfair terms in tenancy agreements
Your tenancy agreement must not contain any unfair terms.
An unfair term is one that puts the tenant at an unfair disadvantage or suggests they have fewer rights under the law.
For example, a term saying that:
the landlord can change the terms of the agreement whenever they like
you have to pay for any repairs that are the landlord's responsibility
your landlord can come into your home whenever they like (this could be harassment)
Unfair terms in a tenancy agreement are not legally binding. You still have to follow the rest of the agreement though.
Get advice if you think your agreement includes unfair terms.
Last updated: 29 September 2022