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What is a regulated tenancy?

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.

Tenants' rights

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 (see the section on Statutory tenancy for the grounds for possession). Tenants also have the right to have a fair rent set by the Rent Officer (see the section on Fair rents for more details).

Stages of a regulated tenancy

As stated above, 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 her/his residence. So 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 s/he can carry out the ordinary activities of life. This does not prevent the sharing of some accommodation with other tenants. S/he can share areas like kitchens and bathrooms providing s/he has 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 s/he must occupy the premises as his/her home at the end of the contractual period and remain resident.[5]

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 s/he is 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.

[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.

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