assured shorthold tenancy

Assured Shorthold Tenancies

As a tenant, your tenancy will likely be considered an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). There are certain rights you and your landlord have under an AST, as well as common clauses you will come across that will apply to most tenancies. This guide looks at what ASTs are, how they protect you and what rules they put in place.

What is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy?

Put simply, it is an agreement between a tenant and a landlord for living in a rented property. The agreement exists to protect both the tenant and the landlord, as it arranges for a tenant to live in the property for a fixed term, usually six or 12 months, after which time the landlord can either claim back possession of their property or renew the tenancy.

You will be part of an AST if the following applies:

  • You’re renting from a landlord or housing association
  • Your tenancy started after 15 January 1989
  • The property is your main/only accommodation
  • The landlord does not live in the property

However, your tenancy will not be an AST if:

  • The tenancy started before 15 January 1989
  • Your rent is more than £100,000 a year
  • Your rent is less than £250 a year (or £1000 in London)
  • The tenancy is for a business or license premises
  • The property is a holiday let
  • The landlord is a local council

Does the AST need to be a written agreement?

If you’re in Scotland, then yes, your landlord will need to provide the terms of your AST in writing by law. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the agreement can be verbal, but it is highly recommended and encouraged to have a written agreement. This ensures that both the landlord and tenant are protected if any disputes occur.

What terms does the AST need to describe?

If you receive a written agreement, it should thoroughly state the terms of your tenancy, including:

  • The date the tenancy starts* and ends
  • The rent amount*
  • The date rent must be paid*
  • The length of time of the agreement*
  • The address of the rented property
  • The name/address of all people involved (tenant/landlord/agent/guarantor)
  • When and how the rent price is reviewed
  • Your deposit amount and the scheme it is protected by
  • When the deposit can be withheld
  • Bills the tenant is responsible for

*If you don’t have a written contract, these details can be legally requested from the landlord in writing.

All parties should receive a copy of the agreement to sign, which means you are able to read through all the terms before agreeing to them. You should then keep a copy of the agreement that you can refer to in future.

There are other common clauses that are likely to appear on an AST, outlined below. Remember, that breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement can be grounds for eviction, so always make sure you follow them.

The property’s condition

An agreement will clearly outline your duties as a tenant to look after the condition of the property. This can be simple clauses such as keeping the property, and its fixtures and fittings, clean and tidy, or repairing any damage that you personally cause. This section of the agreement may also outline some of the landlord’s responsibilities for the property as well.

Rent review

Landlords may review the amount of rent being paid when the tenancy comes to an end and increase it if they have good reason to do so e.g. in line with the Retail Price Index or property/rent price increases in the local area. A clause in your agreement will confirm this, but any changes to your rent will involve your landlord first writing to you towards the end of the tenancy and then, if you agree to the new price, renewing the tenancy to include the new rent amount.

Subletting

If your landlord hasn’t given you permission to sublet the property, then there will usually be a clause clearly stating this in the agreement. If you are planning on subletting, be sure to read this clause carefully, as it may say you can if you get your landlord’s permission.

Pets

If your landlord has said you cannot keep a pet, then there could be clause in your agreement that confirms this. Again, be sure to read through it carefully, as the landlord may state they will allow a pet if permission is sought.

Decorating

You may want to put up pictures or take down some fixtures or fittings that aren’t quite your taste in the property, but doing so may be breaching the terms of your tenancy agreement. Landlords can put clauses in that state you are not allowed to alter the property in any way or put holes in the walls (for pictures frames or shelves) unless you have the landlord’s permission. The same goes for painting a room a different colour.

Smoking

If you do smoke, the landlord will likely have a clause that states you are not allowed to do so inside the property. You should ask for clarification from your agent or landlord for what, if any, parts of the property you can smoke in, in case the landlord permits it outside.

Garden/shared areas

If your property has a garden or shared area, there may be clauses that state you will have to keep it in good condition, such as cutting the grass or ensuring no excess debris or rubbish builds up.

Smoke alarms/carbon monoxide detectors

If the tenancy agreement states these are your responsibility, then you will have to make sure you test the alarms regularly, replace the batteries when needed and don’t tamper with them.

Landlord’s responsibilities

The agreement may state what the landlord is legally responsible for, as well as any additional responsibilities they may choose to take regarding the property. These will include giving you at least 24 hours’ notice before a visit occurs, ensuring the property is compliant with all health and safety regulations, describing what parts of the property they will repair or replace and any other legal obligations they have.

Ending the tenancy

If you want to leave the tenancy early, then there may be a ‘Break Clause’ which will allow you to do so. This involves giving your landlord written notice that you wish to leave the property and may state that you must forfeit your deposit or pay rent until a new tenant is found. Not every tenancy agreement has this, so be sure to ask your landlord or agent what you need to do to leave a tenancy early.

Changes to tenancy agreement

Some clauses may mention that the tenancy agreement needs to be changed if the tenant requests it to be changed, such as having the agreement allow a pet in the property or allowing the tenant to sublet. The clauses will also mention that a fee is involved when a tenancy is changed. This is legal under the Tenant Fees Act, but you can only be charged if you, the tenant, has requested the change, not if it is the landlord who wishes to change the agreement.

Illegal clauses

Be aware that any clauses in your agreement that are illegal cannot be enforced by your landlord or letting agent, and in most cases,  you will have the right to complain. The agreement should not discriminate against you if you are disabled, and the landlord or agent should change the tenancy to fit your needs if required.

Any fees that are now illegal cannot be enforced, even if you have signed the agreement. If there are any other clauses that don’t seem right, you may be able to complain about your landlord or agent.

The law always takes precedent over anything in your agreement, written or otherwise.

Use an ARLA Propertymark Protected agent

All agents that display the ARLA Propertymark logo have access to up-to-date AST agreements that follow the law and clearly outline a tenant’s rights and responsibilities.

Find an agent who will have your best interests in mind.

 

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