Assured Shorthold Tenancies Explained
An AST agreement exists to protect both you, as the tenant, and the landlord and sets out the terms for you to live in the landlord's property. It is normally a written agreement (but can be verbal) that clearly outlines your responsibility for the condition of the property and the responsibilities of the landlord whilst you are their tenant.
A written AST will state the terms of your tenancy agreement:
- Start date and end of the fixed-term
- Rent to pay
- Date rent must be paid
- Address of the rented property
- Name and address of all parties (e.g. tenant, landlord and letting agent)
- When and how the rent is reviewed
- Deposit amount and the scheme which protects it
- When the deposit can be withheld
- Bills the tenant is responsible for
All parties should receive a copy of the AST to sign. Read through all the terms before agreeing to them and keep your copy of the agreement safe in case you need to refer back to it during your tenancy.
If you don’t have a written agreement, the start and end date, rent cost and date to pay rent can be legally requested in writing from your landlord.
Your tenancy will be considered an AST if:
- You’re renting from a landlord or housing association
- The tenancy started after 15 January 1989
- The property is your main/only residence
- The landlord does not live in the property
When a tenancy is not considered an AST:
- Tenancy started before 15 January 1989
- Rent is more than £100,000 a year
- Rent is less than £250 a year (£1000 in London)
- Tenancy is for a business or license premises
- Property is a holiday let
- Landlord is a local council
Illegal clauses in an AST
Just because a clause exists in your AST does not necessarily mean it's enforceable by your landlord or letting agent. For example, any fees that are now illegal under the Tenant Fees Act cannot be enforced, even if you have signed the agreement. The law always takes precedent over anything in your agreement, written or otherwise.
The agreement must not discriminate against you if you are disabled and the landlord should adapt the tenancy to suit your needs. You can also make requests to the landlord and seek their written consent, such consent is 'not to be unreasonably withheld'. This means that the landlord must grant permission unless they have a valid reason not to.
Common clauses in an AST
Remember that breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement can be used as a ground for eviction so be sure to follow them.
Landlords can review the amount of rent you pay when the 'fixed term' ends and increase it if they have good reason for doing so, e.g. in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) or property/rent price increases in the local area. A rent review clause in your AST will confirm this.
Any changes to your rent will first involve your landlord writing to you towards the end of your fixed term to outline the changes should you renew your tenancy. A landlord can not increase rent during your fixed term tenancy.
Look out for any clause on subletting if you plan to sublet the property. You must get permission from the landlord to sublet the property and there could be a clause prohibiting you from doing so. Read our guide on subletting to find out more.
Whether or not you can rent with a pet will be defined in the AST. Landlords who permit pets can not request a higher deposit or a professional cleaning service (at the end of the tenancy) but they can charge a higher rent. The higher rent charge must be made clear to you before signing the AST.
You may wish to hang pictures or take down fixtures or fittings that aren’t to your taste, but doing so may breach the terms of your AST. Landlords can include clauses which state that you are not allowed to alter the property in any way or put holes in the walls (for pictures frames or shelves) without their permission. The same goes for painting a room a different colour so always check with your landlord or letting agent first.
The AST will likely include a clause stating that you are not allowed to smoke inside the property. You should seek clarification as to where you are permitted to smoke around the property.
The garden and shared areas
There is often a clause for gardens and shared areas requesting that they are kept in reasonable condition, such as cutting the grass, trimming hedges or ensuring no excess rubbish builds up. You can't be expected to do any more than the average person and if you don't have the tools to maintain a garden, check whether any are supplied by the landlord.
Smoke alarms/carbon monoxide detectors
Landlords by law must test the smoke and/or carbon monoxide detector on the first day of the tenancy. Beyond then, if the AST states they are your responsibility then you will have to make sure you test the alarms regularly, replace the batteries and don’t tamper with them.
If you want to leave the tenancy early, there may be a ‘Break Clause’ included which will allow you to leave (free of charge) upto a defined date. The AST will also outline the notice period you must give. Beyond that date, you will be liable for the landlord’s costs in re-letting the property and the rent until the start date of the replacement tenancy.
However, any costs incurred can be no more than the maximum amount of rent outstanding on the tenancy. Any costs involved with ending the tenancy early must be displayed on a letting agent's website and in branch.
If you request for a change to be made to the AST which is granted by the landlord, there could be a fee involved. This is known as variation of contact and we suggest to ARLA Propertymark Protected letting agents that this fee can not exceed £50 (including VAT) per agreed variation.
Landlord’s responsibilities for an AST
The AST should 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.
Are you Propertymark Protected?
If you're searching for a property to rent, you need an agent that you can trust and rely on. Our members have voluntarily chosen to become regulated by Propertymark and are provided an up to date and fully vetted AST as part of their membership. Use our search to find a Propertymark Protected letting agent in your area.