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Definition of service tenant

This content applies to England

This page provides a definition of a service tenant.

The term 'service tenant' describes an employee who is not a service occupier, and whose occupation satisfies the normal requirements of a tenancy.


For the definition of service occupier, see the page on Service occupiers. For information about the key elements of a tenancy see What is a tenancy?.

The term does not have a special legal meaning, but is a general one to describe an occupier who also happens to be employed by her/his landlord. For example, a local authority may specifically grant tenancies of its properties to key workers such as teachers and social workers, or a private employer may rent a flat to one of its employees.


A common feature of service tenancies that often excludes them from statutory protection is the existence of a low rent or the absence of rent altogether. Both the Rent Act 1977 and the Housing Act 1988 exclude tenancies where the rent is below a certain amount.[1]

It is common for service tenants to pay no rent, but it may be possible to prove there is some consideration in the form of reduced wages. However, in order to be statutorily protected, a tenant would need to quantify an amount above the low rent limits, for example, by referring to wage rates for non-tied workers in similar employment.

Tenancy type

If the landlord/employer is a housing association then, for the purposes of this section, the occupier is a private sector tenant if the occupation started on or after 15 January 1989, and a public sector tenant if the occupation started before this date.

For more information about housing association tenancies, see PRPSHs and housing associations.

[1] s.5 Rent Act 1977; para 3, Sch.1 Housing Act 1988.

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