Assured shorthold tenancy

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Under the housing act (1996) and subsequent legislation, most domestic recurring Leases, whether 'short' or not, will be assumed to be assured shorthold tenancies, unless the agreement makes clear an intention to the contrary. It is, of course, open to the landlord and the tenant to agree a lease on terms that are more favourable to the tenant; the significance of the assured shorthold is that it will apply in the absence of such agreement, and will therefore govern most leases agreed informally. Assured shorthold does not apply to, for example, tenants sharing a house with the owner; these 'tenants' remain Licencees. In practice, the differences between the rights of a licencee and a shorthold tenant are not that great.

The 'assured' in 'assured shorthold' refers to an assurance given to the landlord, not the tenant. The assurance is that he will be able to recover possession and boot the tenant out. An assured shorthold is a long way indeed from the protected tenancy of the 1970s. Under a protected tenancy, the tenant could occupy the premises more or less indefinitely, at a rent that could not be increased; under an assured shorthold, the landlord is very much at an advantage.

Under an assured shorthold tenancy, the landlord can recover possession from the tenant in the following circumstances.

  1. If the original term of the tenancy has expired, and it is at least six months since the tenancy started, the landlord can recover possession without a court order. However, the landlord must serve a notice on the tenant at least two months before he wishes to retake possession. The notice can be served during the initial tenancy term, which means that the the tenant's occupancy might be guaranteed for no more than six months. After the first six months, the landlord can at any time give two months' notice to quit.
  2. If the original term has not expired, the landlord must apply to the court for a possession order. Such an order will be granted if:
  3. the sale of the property is necessary to pay off a Mortgage loan;
  4. the tenant is more than eight weeks in arrears of rent
  1. The order may be granted at the discretion of the court if:
  2. the tenant is in arrears of rent, although not necessarily eight weeks in arrears
  3. the tenant has repeatedly been in arrears of rent
  4. the tenant is in breach of some other part of the tenancy agreement
  5. the tenant has damaged the property or its contents
  6. the tenant is causing a nuisance to surrounding residents, or using the property for illegal or immoral purposes.

The tenant, on the other hand, has no right to bring the tenancy to an end within the initial term, unless the contract specifically allows for this. After the term ends, he must give two months notice.

Because the assured shorthold is a lease, albeit an emasculated one, it is binding on a person who purchases the freehold from the landlord. However, the new owner would be entitled to terminate the tenancy on the same terms as the previous owner, so this isn't much comfort for the tenant.

Land and Property Law