This article explains the basic form and content of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement and what a tenant can expect from such a lease.
Please note, the information contained on this page is about short leases, not long leases which were originally granted for a minimum of 21 years.
Click here for more information about the differences between freehold and leasehold ownership.
Our specialist leasehold team represent both landlords and tenants throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset – and nationwide – from our offices in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge and Amesbury.
Assured ‘Shorthold’ Tenancies
Most residential tenancies issued are Assured Shorthold Tenancies. Assured Tenancies on the other hand, are those usually provided by the local authority or a Housing Association. An Assured Shorthold Tenancy is normally for a fixed period of time for a specified rent. It only offers the tenant a limited amount of security of tenure in that the landlord is able to terminate the tenancy at the end of the agreed fixed period.
A tenancy of this kind does offer the tenant protection from eviction by virtue of the Housing Act (1988). A landlord is unable to remove a tenant from the property without following the correct procedures which involve having a reason for the removal and obtaining a court order.
The Tenancy Agreement
The tenancy agreement will contain all the arrangements established between the landlord and tenant. It will therefore dictate the amount of ground rent payable and how often these payments are to be made. It does however contain less obvious information, which is often overlooked by tenants.
The agreement will detail the landlord’s responsibilities regarding the maintenance of the property. It is important to ensure that the maintenance clause within the agreement is comprehensive and that if as a tenant, you are paying a substantial service charge that this will be used effectively. Check for provisions regarding decoration during tenancy and what happens when the tenancy comes to an end. If you are taking out a short term tenancy for only a year then you will not want to be responsible for redecorating the property at the end of your tenancy.
Look at the amount of deposit required by the landlord and ask yourself whether or not it appears proportional for the property. If the deposit is an unusually large amount, feel free to ask the landlord why this is. Deposits often form a common ground for negotiation.
Where possible any tenant obligations that are restrictive, for example not to keep pets on the premises, should be subject to the landlords consent. This means that the landlord should consider any requests you may have instead of an automatic denial.
Note some clauses which are subject to the landlords consent are automatically extended by law to say ‘not without the landlords consent, which is not to be reasonably withheld’ ask a solicitor for more information regarding these type of clauses.
Your Lease – Implied terms
Your tenancy agreement will contain many express provisions as agreed between both you and the landlord. You should be aware however that by law it also contains implied terms binding you both.
The following are some examples of implied terms, which a landlord must observe:
- To maintain installations of gas and electricity
- To maintain water supplies
- Ensure the property has good sanitation amenities
- The tenant has the right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the property
The tenant also has to obey implied terms such as keeping the property in good condition and not causing unnecessary damage. The landlord will usually make this clause express within the agreement.
Break Clauses in the Lease
A break clause is a term which allows a tenancy to end earlier than the agreed term. These are very important if as a tenant you need to get out of the lease before it ends, the term acts as a safety net.
Normally a break clause will specify certain dates which you are able to get out of the lease, so bear this in mind during the tenancy. Not only this but often if you do not keep to the terms of the lease, for example if you breach a repair clause or do not pay your rent on time, then your rights under the break clause may be lost.