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Rights of the tenant in an assured shorthold tenancy

An assured shorthold tenancy is a tenancy that gives a tenant the legal right to live in a property for a period of time. A tenancy might be for a set period such as six months (this is known as a fixed term tenancy) or it might roll on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis (this is known as a periodic tenancy).

There are certain basic rights that a tenant has in an assured shorthold tenancy.

The right to live in the accommodation undisturbed

A tenant has the right to live in your accommodation without being disturbed. They have the right to have control over their home so that their landlord and other people cannot freely enter whenever they want to.

A landlord cannot limit or otherwise interfere with a tenants right to live in their accommodation or they could be found guilty of harassment.

The right to live in a property in good repair

The law says your landlord has to keep the structure and exterior of the property in good repair. This includes:

  • The roof
  • Guttering
  • Walls (but this doesn't include internal decoration)
  • Windows and doors

Your landlord must also keep the equipment for the supply of gas, electricity, heating, water and sanitation in good repair. The accommodation must have a valid gas safety certificate for any gas appliances in the property. Any furniture provided should be fire resistant.

A tenant is however responsible for taking a certain amount of care for the property. This might include unblocking a sink or changing a fuse when necessary. Depending on what the tenancy agreement says a tenant can have more responsibility for the upkeep of the property.

A tenant's right to information about their tenancy

If your tenancy started after March 1997 a tenant the right to ask their landlord to provide a statement of the terms of their tenancy. The information that must be provided is as follows.

  • The start date of the tenancy
  • The amount of rent and the date it must be paid
  • How and when the rent may be changed
  • If the rent is charged weekly a rent book must be provided
  • The length of any fixed term

This information must be provided within 28 days of a request being made in writing by a tenant.

Protection from eviction

Fixed term tenants

During a fixed term tenancy a landlord must have a reason to evict a tenant. The reason could be one of the following:

  • The tenant has rent arrears
  • The tenant is constantly or regularly late with the rent
  • The terms of the tenancy have been broken
  • The tenant has allowed the condition of the property to get worse
  • The property is being repossessed
  • The tenant has caused nuisance or annoyance

If the landlord wishes to evict a tenant before the fixed term is up he will need to apply to the court for a possession order. Before applying to the court he must first serve the tenants with a correctly written Section 8 Notice specifying the grounds the landlord has for regaining early possession.

The court will not give a possession order unless it is satisfied that a valid reason exists. In some cases the court must also consider whether it is reasonable for the tenant to be evicted.

A landlord can give two months' notice without having a reason but the notice can not run out before the end of the fixed term. For further information on the notice required see the page Section 21 Notice to Quit.

Periodic tenants

If a tenancy is periodic or if the fixed term has come to an end and no new fixed tenancy has been arranged, a tenant can be evicted fairly easily. There is no need for landlords to give a reason to the court but s/he must be able to show that the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy and that the correct Section 21 Notice to Quit has been served. You can get an up to date notice here.

The notice must be at least two calendar months or the same period for which rent is paid, whichever is longer. The notice should end on the last day of a rental period (the day before rent is due). If the tenants don't leave by the end of the notice period, a landlord can apply for a court order.

Despite eviction in a periodic tenancy being a relatively straightforward process, a tenant does have a certain degree of protection.

A tenant cannot be evicted before the landlord has gone to court and the court has agreed to the landlord regaining possession of the property. The court has to give permission on a written notice known as a possession order. The court has no choice but to make an order to evict assured shorthold tenants if the correct procedure has been followed. It is possible for tenants to get the court to delay the eviction for up to six weeks if they can show they will face exceptional hardship.

If the tenants don't leave by the time a court order takes effect, a landlord can ask the bailiffs to physically remove tenants from a property.

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