Residential Tenancy Law


Residential tenancy law in England and Wales is regulated mainly by the various Housing Acts. These Acts provide the legal framework on which residential tenancies are based. They provide extensive information relating to the regulation of Landlords and Tenants, the rules and procedures involved in tenancy law, as well as providing statutory protection to both Landlords and Tenants on matters such as termination of tenancy, eviction, possession rights, rent increases and rent arrears.

Types of Residential Tenancies:

There are the following types of residential tenancies:

  • The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
    This is the most common type of residential tenancy and has been the automatic or default form of tenancy since 28 February 1997. These tenancies may be either for a fixed term (usually 6 or 12 months) or they may be periodic tenancies, running indefinitely from one period to the next. Under an AST, Tenants have the right to stay in the property for at least 6 months unless the Landlord has grounds for evicting them. At the end of the fixed term the Landlord has a guaranteed right to possession, provided the Tenant is given 2 months notice. Tenancies created between 15 January 1989 and 28 February 1997 will only be AST's if the Landlord served a notice on the Tenant telling him that it was a shorthold tenancy.
  • The Assured Tenancy
    From 28 February 1997, assured tenancies can only be created in cases where this has been agreed in writing. These tenancies provide the Tenant with more security than an AST and may be either for a fixed term (usually 6 or 12 months) or they may be periodic tenancies, running indefinitely from one period to the next. The Landlord has no automatic right to possession with an assured tenancy.
  • The Protected (Rent Act) Tenancy
    These are tenancies that have been created prior to 15 January 1989. The Tenants have a great deal of security of tenure. Although it is now no longer possible to create these tenancies, some may still be in existence.

Main Features of Residential Tenancies:

With residential tenancies, the Tenant is granted the exclusive use and possession of the Landlord's property in exchange for the payment of rent.

In order for a tenancy to come into effect, it is not necessary for the terms of the agreement between the Landlord and the Tenant to be recorded in writing (although this is always advisable). As soon as it becomes evident from the conduct of the parties that a tenancy has been created (i.e. once the Tenant has obtained possession of the property and the Landlord is accepting rent payments from the Tenant) it will become legally binding on the parties.

The tenancy may be either for a fixed term or it may be a periodic tenancy. A fixed term tenancy is where the tenancy is granted for a specific length of time, e.g. 12 months. A periodic tenancy is where there is no specified length of time involved but the tenancy will carry on for additional specific periods, usually determined by the frequency of rental payments, e.g. monthly or quarterly. A fixed term tenancy will automatically turn into a periodic tenancy once the specific length of time has expired, unless the parties reach a new agreement or terminate the tenancy.

Where more than one Tenant occupies the Landlord's property, it is standard procedure for all the adult residents to sign the Tenancy Agreement, with each Tenant being jointly and severally liable. This means that where one or more of the Tenant's default with payments and/or cause damage to the property, the Landlord need not proceed against each Tenant separately for their pro-rate share, but may proceed against just one of the Tenants for the entire outstanding balance. It is then up to this Tenant to claim from the other Tenants their pro-rata shares.

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