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Definition and duration of regulated tenancies

This content applies to England

A regulated tenancy is a tenancy created before 15 January 1989.

Regulated tenancies were given a high level of security of tenure by the Rent Act 1977.

Rights of tenants

Tenants who qualify for the protection provided by the Rent Act 1977 have rights to remain in the property as tenants even after their original agreement with their landlord has expired or has been terminated. In order to evict the tenant, landlords have to prove to a court that they have a 'ground' for possession. Tenants also have the right to have a fair rent set by the Rent Officer.

Regulated tenancy stages

There are two stages to a regulated tenancy:

  • the contractual/protected tenancy : the initial agreement between a landlord and tenant is the contractual period of the tenancy, known as the protected tenancy. This may be a fixed term such as six months or it may be periodic; ie for an indefinite period with the rent paid on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis
  • the statutory tenancy : once the contractual tenancy has come to an end or has been terminated, the tenancy becomes a statutory periodic tenancy; statutory because it is protected by statute law (the Rent Act 1977) and periodic because it is based on the rental period.

Essential elements

To be protected by the Rent Act 1977 the occupier must have a tenancy under which a dwelling house is let as a separate dwelling.[1] During the statutory tenancy the occupier must also occupy the dwelling house as their residence. The following elements must be in place:

  • Tenancy : for an explanation of the differences between tenancies and licences see What is a tenancy? and What is a licence?.
  • Dwelling house : a dwelling house can be part of a house or a flat, it can be a bedsit or even a single room. It can also be two properties that are let together.[2] Whether a mobile home or chalet constitutes a dwelling house depends on the circumstances. It is possible that such a structure is in reality immobile and if it is sufficiently attached to the land may constitute a dwelling house. [3] For more information, see the section on Mobile homes.
  • Let as a separate dwelling : to be let as a separate dwelling it must be let as residential accommodation. In cases where there is mixed use, ie business and residential, it is unlikely that the Rent Act 1977 will apply unless the business use is minimal. The tenant must have a separate unit where they can carry out the ordinary activities of life. This does not prevent the sharing of some accommodation with other tenants. They can share areas like kitchens and bathrooms providing they have exclusive possession of a bedroom.[4]
  • Residence : the rules relating to residence differ depending on whether the tenancy is in its contractual or statutory period. The tenant need not be resident throughout the whole of the contractual tenancy but in order to be protected by a statutory tenancy they must occupy the premises as their home at the end of the contractual period and remain resident.[5] If the tenant no longer resides there, the landlord, if taking possession proceedings, needs only prove that the contractual tenancy has been terminated and the tenant no longer lives there. If the tenant still lives in the premises, the landlord must prove one of the grounds for possession.

Other factors to consider:

  • Joint tenants : in the case of joint tenants occupation by one is sufficient to enable a statutory tenancy to arise[6]
  • Two homes : it is possible to occupy two places as homes and have Rent Act 1977 protection for either or both provided that each is sufficiently used as a home[7]
  • Company lets : it follows that a letting to a company cannot be protected on expiry of the contractual tenancy since a company cannot be resident. It is possible that the company let is a 'sham' and the letting is really to an individual who had been persuaded by the landlord to purchase an 'off the shelf' company in an attempt to avoid the protection of the Rent Act 1977. If this can be shown, then a statutory tenancy can arise
  • Spouses and civil partners : matrimonial legislation has given spouses and civil partners some protection in cases where one partner is the tenant and they are not resident at the start and throughout the statutory tenancy. In these circumstances occupation by a non-tenant spouse or civil partner is deemed to be occupation by the tenant.[8] Where divorce proceedings are taking place, this protection only lasts up until decree absolute
  • Temporary absences : the Rent Act 1977 allows for some temporary absences without depriving the tenant of their statutory tenancy. Important factors to take into account are the length and reasons for the absence, whether the tenant intends to return and what happens to the premises during the absence.[9]

Regulated tenancies granted after 15 January 1989

There are two situations where a regulated tenancy can be granted after 15 January 1989. Both circumstances arise where a tenancy is granted to an existing regulated tenant.

For details see the page Tenancies that cannot be assured.

Assignment rights

Assignment means the transfer of an interest in a property (eg a tenancy) to another person.

A Rent Act 1977 tenancy in the contractual (protected) period can be assigned but the statutory tenancy cannot be assigned as it merely gives the tenant a personal right of occupation. Protected shorthold tenancies cannot be assigned.[10] For further details see the section on assignment.

Succession rights

Succession is the transfer of a property from the tenant to the spouse, civil partner or a member of family upon the tenant's death.

On the death of a contractual or statutory tenant, if certain conditions are met,[11] the successor may obtain a statutory tenancy under the Rent Act 1977 or an assured tenancy under the Housing Act 1988. Which tenancy they succeed to will depend on when the tenant died and whether the successor is the tenant's spouse or civil partner or another member of the family. For further details, see the section on Succession.

[1] s.1 Rent Act 1977.

[2] Langford Property Co v Goldrich [1949] 1 KB 511, CA.

[3] Elitestone v Morris 30 HLR 266 [1997] 1WLR 687; (1997) 30 HLR 266, HL; Spielplatz Ltd v (1) Pearson (2) Pearson [2015] EWCA Civ 804; R v Rent Officer of Nottingham Registration Area ex p Allen (1985) 17 HLR 481.

[4] s.22 Rent Act 1977.

[5] s.2(1) Rent Act 1977.

[6] Lloyd v Sadler [1978] QB 774, CA.

[7] Langford Property Co v Tureman [1949] 1 KB 29, CA.

[8] s.1(6) Matrimonial Homes Act 1983; Sch.8 Civil Partnership Act 2004.

[9] Brown v Brash [1948] 2 KB 247.

[10] s.54(2) Housing Act 1980.

[11] s.2(1)(b) and Sch.1 Rent Act 1977; s.39, Sch.4 Housing Act 1988; para 13, Sch.8 Civil Partnership Act 2004.

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