Tenancy types: A breakdown

If you’re renting a property, it’s vital you understand what type of tenancy you have. If you’re paying rent to a private landlord then you have either a tenancy or a licence. Throughout this post, we provide a breakdown of some of the tenancy types available.

Tenancy or licence

As a paying occupier, you’re likely to have either a tenancy or a licence. Tenancies are much more common, and they also provide greater protection from eviction. Of course, any agreement you reach with your landlord can provide you with extra rights. However, crucially, any agreement cannot take away any of the rights current legislation gives you. These rights depend on the tenancy (or licence) you have.

It’s also important to know that you don’t have a tenancy or licence just because the landlord says that’s what you have, and the type of tenancy or licence held depends on a number of factors. Use Shelter’s online tenancy rights checker to help or visit one of their local centres.

Rights if you have a verbal agreement

If you have a verbal agreement, as opposed to a written agreement, you can still have rights as a tenant. If your landlord accepts rent from you for living in the property then any verbal agreement may still be legally enforceable.

Written agreements are far more common than verbal ones, and you should always ask for your agreement in writing so that you and the landlord both have a copy. This means any disputes are easier to resolve and both parties will know their rights and responsibilities. However, if you don’t have one, it’s important to know that your rights can’t be taken away from you.

Rights in a joint tenancy agreement

In a joint tenancy agreement, all tenants have shared rights and responsibilities. This means that you’re all responsible for paying the rent, so if one person can’t, the others will have to cover for them. This is known as ‘rent liability’.

Furthermore, in a joint tenancy agreement all other obligations are shared. This includes aspects such as keeping the property in good repair; so if one tenant were to damage the property, the other tenants may be held responsible for getting this fixed.

Also if the situation arose where one person wanted to leave the tenancy and end the agreement, then the tenancy won’t necessarily come to an end. If one person leaves before the end of the term, a new agreement can be reached with the landlord.

What type of tenant am I?

If you have a written tenancy agreement, it should tell you what type of tenancy you have. However, there’s also a possibility that you may have a different tenancy to what your agreement says. It’s important this is correct, as different tenancies give you different rights.

The type of tenancy you have depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • The date you moved into the property
  • Who you live in the property with (whether you live with your landlord, other tenants in a shared house, etc.)
  • Whether you’re a student renting through a university rather than a private landlord
  • The type of house you live in and whether support services are provided by the landlord

If you know all of this information, you can work out what tenancy type you have. These are as follows:

Assured tenancies

With an assured tenancy, you’ll have more protection from eviction. Private tenants with assured tenancies have long-term tenancy rights, and you may have an assured tenancy if you started your agreement on or after the 28th of February 1997. You’re likely to be an assured tenant if:

  • You pay your rent to a private landlord; and
  • You are a person and not a company or business occupier; and
  • You have full control over your home. This means the landlord can’t enter the property whenever they please; and
  • Your landlord doesn’t live in the same building; and
  • You started your tenancy between 15th of January 1989 and 27th of February 1997 and your landlord didn’t give you a notice stating that you have an assured shorthold tenancy

You can read more about assured tenancies here.

Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs)

Most new tenancies are automatically ASTs, and this is now the most common form of tenancy. These usually run for 6-12 months, and they give you the right to have your deposit protected and be given notice of eviction. You should receive a contract to sign before you move in and this will detail how much rent you’ll pay each month, who’s responsible for repairs and how long the tenancy lasts. You can read more about ASTs here.

You’ll have an AST if:

  • You’re renting a private property; and you started your tenancy either on or after the 15th of January 1989 but before the 28th of February 1997 but only if a certain prescribed notice was served before the tenancy commenced. (Be aware that after the 28th of February 1997 any ‘assured tenancy’ will automatically be an AST, unless a notice has been served before the tenancy commenced specifying that it won’t be an AST); and
  • The property you’re renting is your main home; and
  • You are a person and not a company or business occupier; and
  • Your landlord doesn’t live in the property with you

Crucially, it can’t be an assured tenancy or an AST if:

  • Your tenancy was agreed before the 15th of January 1989
  • You pay more than £100,000 per year in rent
  • You pay less than £250 per year on rent (this rises to £1,000 in London)
  • You have a business tenancy or a tenancy for licensed premises
  • The property is a holiday let
  • Your landlord is a local council

If this is the case, then you’re on a different type of tenancy or licence, these can include:

Excluded tenancies or licence

If you lodge with your landlord and share rooms with them – such as the kitchen or the bathroom, then you may have a shared tenancy or licence. In this type of agreement, there’s usually less protection from eviction. You can find out more detail about what qualifies for an excluded tenancy here via Shelter.

Regulated tenancies

If your tenancy started before 15th January 1989 then it may be a regulated tenancy. As part of this, you can apply for what’s known as ‘fair rent’, which is set by the Valuation Office agency. If you have a regulated tenancy, you’ll also have increased protection from eviction.

These are long-term tenancies with private landlords, and you may still be a regulated tenant if you later signed a new agreement with the same landlord.

Regulated tenancies can be either for a fixed term (a year, for example) or periodic (month to month or week to week). For more about regulated tenancies, click here.

What if my agreement expires?

If you have a fixed-term tenancy (if you signed up for a year, for example), then it may expire. If this is the case, your landlord can either give you a new agreement or have the tenancy renewed as a ‘periodic tenancy’ where it continues as before, but may only roll from month to month or week to week. If you wish to leave the property when your tenancy expires, you’ll have to provide your landlord or managing agent with written notice. This should be stated in your tenancy agreement.

If you’re still unsure about what type of tenancy you have, then consult Shelter’s online tool. This should inform you all of your rights.