What are a tenant’s rights and duties under Assured Shorthold Tenancies compared to those under Secure Tenancies?

In general, Secured Tenants have more rights against landlords than Assured Shorthold Tenants. Landlords find it easier to evict tenants or renegotiate rental agreements under an AST, so that is the type of agreements most modern landlords prefer.

What is an assured shorthold anyway?

After the Housing Act of 1989 (amended in 1996), Secure Tenancies became rare outside of certain kinds of social housing. The norm became the Assured Shorthold Tenancy. This is typically a renewable short-term rental agreement which lasts 6-12 months. The tenant can continue renting after that time, but the landlord can end a tenancy without a court order after the initial term, with a little as 2 months’ notice.

Your rights under an AST

Your rights as an Assured Shorthold Tenant are almost entirely defined by (and limited to) your rental agreement. If you are entering into an AST, make sue to know and understand every part of this document.

Under an AST, you do not have the same protections against eviction as Secure Tenants. Any time during your tenancy your landlord can issue you a ‘section 21 notice’ requiring you to leave the premises in as little as 2 months, but not before the end of the original term in the rental agreement. It cannot, however, be issued more than 6 months in advance. If, for example, you received a Section 21 notice on the 6th month of a 12 month agreement, you would not be expected to leave until the end of the 12th month. If the same notice had been issued more than 6 months before the effective date, it would not be valid at all. Your specific rental agreement may give you more rights than this.

Eviction under an AST is not automatic, though. If you refuse to leave the property by the date listed in the Section 21 notice, your landlord must still take you to court to evict you, and only an official bailiff can force you to leave. Of course, most tenants do leave voluntarily when served with a Section 21 notice, and the vast majority of rental agreements end amicably at the end of the term of the rental agreement or continue on a month-to-month basis.

Your landlord cannot normally increase your rent during the term of your rental agreement (typically 6 moths or 1 year), but they may insist on renegotiation the agreement after this initial term expires.

You have the right to demand that your landlord makes most common repairs to your home, including electrical systems and plumbing.

What is a Secure Tenancy then?

Before 1989, most rental agreements in the UK were essentially Secure Tenancies, also called ‘Regulated Tenancies’ - meaning that within certain limits they could not be easily evicted unless they failed to live up to their duties under their rental agreement.

Your rights as a Secured Tenant

If you are renting as a Secure Tenant, you have the right to remain in your home so long as you abide by all parts of your rental agreement. Your landlord is likely a housing association, and they would normally only opt for eviction as an absolute ast resort. If eviction does become necessary, the landlord or association would have to gain a court order to proceed.

You also have the right to pay only a ‘fair’ rent. This will be defined in your rental agreement, but your landlord has only very limited ability to increase your rent, which will often be set at or near your local housing benefit maximum.

Your landlord or housing association has a duty to keep your home in good repair, and to make sure that your electrical and gas appliances are working properly.

You also have the right to take in lodgers, unless this is specifically disallowed by your rental agreement. 

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