In response to the question “What is an assured tenancy?” the following guide provides an overview of this type of tenancy, including how assured tenancies are defined, together with the general rights and responsibilities for landlords and tenants under an assured tenancy agreement.
What is an assured tenancy?
Assured tenancies are a form of long-term tenancy for single or joint tenants occupying domestic property in England and Wales.
The assured tenancy is typically granted by social landlords, such as Housing Associations or Housing Trusts, although it is possible for a landlord in the private housing sector to create an assured tenancy.
These types of tenancy agreement are governed by the provisions of the Housing Act 1988, which defines an assured tenancy as follows:
“A tenancy under which a dwelling-house is let as a separate dwelling is for the purposes of this Act an assured tenancy if and so long as the tenant or… each of the joint tenants is an individual, and the tenant or… at least one of the joint tenants occupies the dwelling-house as his only or principal home.”
There is no statutory definition of ‘dwelling-house’, although this can encompass either the whole or part of a house, including flats or single rooms, so long as the tenant has exclusive possession of at least their own bedroom.
Are any tenancies excluded?
What is an assured tenancy and are any tenancies specifically excluded?
There are certain types of arrangements that cannot be an assured tenancy, namely those falling within one of the exceptions listed within the 1988 Act.
These include the following:
- Tenancies that began before 15 January 1989
- Tenancies to existing regulated tenants
- Tenancies with high rateable values, or high or low rents
- A business tenancy or tenancy of licensed premises
- Tenancies of agricultural land or agricultural holdings
- College or university accommodation
- Holiday lettings
- Resident landlords
- Crown tenancies
- Local authority and other public body tenancies
- Accommodation for asylum seekers
- Tenancies secured under the homelessness legislation.
Please note that for some of the excepted situations set out above, they too have their own limited exceptions. Further, even where a tenancy is not an assured tenancy, the occupier may still be afforded the basic protection provided under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
As such, a landlord will still be required to obtain an order for possession to be able to lawfully evict a tenant refusing to move out, save except where that tenant is occupying the property under what’s known as an excluded tenancy.
What is the term of an assured tenancy?
What is an assured tenancy and what is the typical length of this type of tenancy?
An assured tenancy may either last for a fixed number of months or years. This is called a fixed term tenancy. Alternatively, an assured tenancy can run indefinitely from one rent period to the next, for example, weekly or monthly. This is called a contractual periodic tenancy.
When an assured fixed term tenancy comes to an end, the parties can either:
- agree a replacement fixed term tenancy
- agree a replacement tenancy on a contractual periodic basis
- do nothing and allow the assured tenancy to run on, with the same rent and terms, known as a statutory periodic tenancy.
The landlord does not have an automatic right to regain possession of an assured tenancy at the end of a fixed term (see below).
Is there a standard form of assured tenancy agreement?
What is an assured tenancy and is there a standard form of agreement?
Whilst it is possible for the parties to draft the terms of their own assured tenancy, standard form agreements are available from law stationers, housing advice centres or can be downloaded from reputable sites online.
Broadly speaking, the terms of any assured tenancy agreement must strike a fair balance between the landlord and tenant, containing such terms in plain and intelligible language. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, a tenant will not bound by a standard term in a contract with a landlord if that term is unfair.
The provisions within an assured tenancy agreement must also not conflict with any duties on landlords imposed by legislation, for example, a landlord’s basic repairing obligations under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Any statutory rights and responsibilities will still apply to the parties even if they are not expressly included within the written tenancy agreement, or where the terms of that agreement seek to exclude these provisions.
What are the responsibilities of the landlord?
What is an assured tenancy and what are the responsibilities of the landlord?
In most cases a landlord is statutorily responsible for repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, as well as other repairs to baths, sinks, basins and other sanitary installations, as well as heating and hot water installations.
The landlord is also responsible for the safety of gas and electrical appliances, which will involve carrying out an annual check on all appliances supplied under the terms of the tenancy, as well as ensuring that any furniture and furnishings meet the statutory fire resistance requirements.
What are the responsibilities of the tenant?
What is an assured tenancy and what are the responsibilities of the tenant?
Under an assured tenancy the tenant has a duty to take proper care of the property and use it in a responsible way, to pay the rent as agreed and to abide by the terms of the tenancy agreement, unless, of course, those terms are in direct contravention of the tenant’s legal rights.
Typically, the tenant is also responsible for the payment of council tax, together with any water and sewerage charges, as well as any other utility bills such as gas and electricity. That said, it is always sensible to set out within the written tenancy agreement responsibility for the payment of any bills other than rent.
What are the general rights of the landlord?
What is an assured tenancy and what are the general rights of the landlord?
In addition to the right to receive rent in the amount and at the times set out under the tenancy agreement, the landlord also has the legal right to enter the property upon reasonable notice in writing, typically 24 hours, for the purpose of inspecting the property.
In addition, the landlord has the right, again upon reasonable notice, to enter the property to undertake any necessary repairs. However, for the avoidance of doubt, it is always best to set the arrangements for access, as well any procedures for getting repairs done, within the tenancy agreement.
What are the general rights of the tenant?
What is an assured tenancy and what are the general rights of the tenant?
The main legal right of the tenant under an assured tenancy agreement is not only the basic right to occupy the property, but the right to quiet enjoyment of that property, ie; without interference from the landlord.
This means that the landlord must ask the tenant’s permission before gaining access to the property (see above). Moreover, the landlord cannot evict a tenant without an order for possession from the court.
Further, under an assured tenancy, certain occupants living with the tenant may enjoy the right to succession. In other words, if someone who is not a joint tenant passes away, the tenancy may pass to their spouse, civil partner or co-habiting partner, as long as they were living with the tenant at the time of their death. That said, this right can normally only pass on once.
What protection is afforded to the tenant under an assured tenancy?
What is an assured tenancy and what protection is the tenant afforded?
Under an assured tenancy the tenant has the right to remain in the property unless the landlord can prove to the court a ground for possession as set out under the provisions of the Housing Act 1988, for example, illegal use of the property, anti-social behaviour or rent arrears.
As previously indicated, the landlord has no automatic right to repossess the property at the end of a fixed term, but rather this will carry over into a statutory periodic tenancy unless otherwise agreed.
Where the assured tenancy has been agreed for a fixed term, the landlord will only be able to seek possession during the fixed term on limited grounds, and only if the tenancy specifically makes provision for this. For periodic tenancies, the landlord can seek possession at any time on any of the statutory grounds.
Some of these grounds are mandatory, in other words, so long as the court is satisfied that the ground applies, it must grant an order for possession. The others are discretionary, which means the court will only grant a possession order if it thinks it reasonable to do so, based on all the facts of the case.
How is an assured tenancy set up?
What is an assured tenancy and how is this type of tenancy set up?
For tenancies starting on or after 28 February 1997, following changes made to the 1988 Act by the Housing Act 1996, the landlord must either give the tenant a notice which says that the tenancy is not a shorthold tenancy prior to the beginning of the tenancy, or include a simple declaration in the tenancy agreement to this effect.
In addition, the landlord can also decide once the tenancy has started that it should be on assured terms by again serving notice. By way of example, following an initial probationary period under an assured shorthold tenancy, a landlord may be more willing to grant the greater security of tenure offered by an assured tenancy where the tenant has not broken any terms of the agreement.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law and should not be treated as such.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.
Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.