What is an assured shorthold tenancy?
Most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST).
You’re likely to have an AST if:
you do not live with your landlord
your tenancy started on or after 28 February 1997
Many ASTs start with a fixed term agreement, for example, 12 months. At the end of the fixed term your tenancy becomes a periodic rolling tenancy or you can agree a new fixed term.
Your landlord could use the section 21 process (non fault) to end your tenancy. They can only do this in a fixed term if there’s a break clause or at the end of the tenancy
Your landlord does not need to give a reason for a section 21 eviction.
They could also use a different process called section 8. But they need a legal reason for this. For example, rent arrears.
Unless you agree to move out your landlord must follow the legal eviction process. They must give you notice and then get a court order to evict you.
How you can be evicted
Your landlord must give you a legal notice as a first step towards ending your tenancy.
Assured shorthold tenants must be given either:
a section 21 notice
a section 8 notice
Your landlord might give both types of eviction notice at the same time.
When the notice period ends your landlord can apply to court for an eviction order.
It’s an illegal eviction if your landlord or agent tries to evict you without notice or a court order. Only bailiffs can carry out an eviction.
Section 21 notice
A section 21 notice is the most common way for your landlord to start the eviction process.
It’s sometimes called a ‘no fault’ notice because your landlord does not need to give a reason for a section 21.
You do not have to leave when the notice ends unless you’re ready to do so.
Your landlord can start court action after the notice period has ended. They have 4 months to do this. If they do not apply to court within this time the notice will expire and cannot be used.
Your tenancy rights and responsibilities continue if you stay past the date on a section 21 notice.
Keep paying your rent and only agree a move out date if you’ve found somewhere else to live. For example, if you sign a tenancy agreement for a new home.
Section 8 notice
Your landlord can only give you a section 8 notice if they have a legal reason or ‘ground’. They must prove the ground at a court hearing.
Most section 8 notices are for rent arrears.
You can also be given a section 8 notice for other reasons, for example, antisocial behaviour.
Your landlord can start court action when the notice period ends. The notice will expire if your landlord does not start court action within a year of giving you the notice.
If you want to end your tenancy
You may need to take steps to end your tenancy legally even if you’re willing to move out.
Communicate in writing or by email. Be clear about when you want the tenancy to end.
You’re responsible for rent until the tenancy ends, even if you move out earlier. Your landlord should be flexible if they want you to leave without the need for court action.
Giving notice to your landlord
If you cannot agree on a tenancy end date, you can usually end your tenancy by giving notice to your landlord.
Only give notice under a break clause or with a ‘notice to quit’ if you’re sure you want to leave by the date in the notice.
Your landlord will not need a court order to end your tenancy if you give them a valid notice.
You do not have to leave straight away just because:
the landlord tells you to
your fixed term ends
a section 21 or section 8 notice ends
Pressure to move out before your tenancy ends legally will usually count as harassment.
Ask the council for help if you’re facing eviction
Ending your tenancy
Some fixed term agreements have a break clause which allows you to end the tenancy early by giving notice. Sometimes you can negotiate to end a fixed term tenancy early.
Periodic rolling tenancies are easier to end. You can give a notice to end a rolling tenancy.
At the end of a fixed term
You have options when your fixed term tenancy ends.
If you want to stay, you can either:
agree a new fixed term contract – your rent may increase
stay in your home without signing a new contract – your agreement becomes periodic and rolls on monthly at the same rent
If you want to leave, you can usually end your tenancy by moving out and returning the keys by the end of the fixed term.
Check your contract to see if you have to give notice that you’re leaving.
If you’re a joint tenant you need to discuss what you want to do with the other tenants.
Your landlord cannot increase your rent during a fixed term unless either:
you agree to it
your contract has a rent review clause
A rent review clause sets out:
when an increase can happen
how much notice you’ll get
a method for rent increases – for example, a formula for calculating the new amount
If your fixed term has ended, your landlord can give you 1 month’s notice of a rent increase.
Find out more about rent increases for private tenants.
Your tenancy agreement
You can have an assured shorthold tenancy without a written agreement but most tenancies start with a contract.
Your landlord must give you a written statement of terms if you ask for it. This means:
the start date of tenancy
rent amount and date due
any rent review clause
the length of any fixed term agreement
You also have the right to the name and address of your landlord.
A written tenancy agreement can give you extra rights or responsibilities.
Repairs and safety checks
Before you move in your landlord must give you the latest copy of the:
gas safety record
electrical safety check
energy performance certificate (EPC)
Your landlord must arrange for:
repairs the landlord is responsible for
gas safety checks by a Gas Safe engineer each year
electrical safety checks by a qualified electrician every 5 years
Your landlord or agent have 30 days from when they get your deposit to:
protect it in a tenancy deposit scheme
give you information about the scheme
Your landlord may not be able to give you a section 21 notice if your deposit is not protected or protected late.
You should get a full refund of the deposit when the tenancy ends unless the landlord has a legal reason to keep your deposit.