An AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy) is a legal agreement in writing that sets out the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenant. It will contain details such as the length of the agreement, the rent payable, and what is and isn’t allowed in the property, such as pets. An AST can vary in content depending on whether the property for let is furnished or unfurnished
The AST is one of the most common in the private rented sector. Tenancies starting, or agreed, before that date but after 15 January 1989, are more likely to be an Assured Tenancy (AT). Click here to learn more about the difference between an AST and an AT.
An AST is applicable for where the property is being rented to just one person, or where there are multiple tenants who know one another and have opted to live together. In this agreement, the tenants have ‘joint and several liability’ i.e. the landlord can claim all of the rent from each of the tenants, not just their own share.
The AST is not applicable if the rent exceeds £25k pa or where there are a number of tenants in the same property but renting separately. e.g. boarding house or student accommodation.
An AST can be for any length of time, but the minimum is 6 months. The landlord and tenant may agree on a fixed term of less than six months but the tenant has a right to stay in the property for a minimum period of six months, regardless of what the agreement stipulates.
If the tenancy agreement is not renewed at the end of the term, it then becomes what is known as a Statutory Periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. The terms of the original tenancy agreement still apply, but the tenancy continues on an agreed period by period basis. There’s also what is known as a Contractual Periodic Tenancy; this is when no term for the end of the let is set and the tenancy agreement simply continues until either party decide to bring it to an end.
Regardless of the status of the agreement (fixed term or statutory), the landlord still has to give two months notice to the tenant and can’t obtain possession (before 6 months of the tenancy agreement has elapsed) other than by satisfying certain of the prescribed grounds.
1. Length of tenancy
An AST varies in length according to what the Landlord and Tenant both agree to, with the minimum period being 6 months.
2. Party Details
The tenant’s full name and (new) address must be inserted in the AST as well as the Landlord’s address or his appointed agent.
3. Statutory Rights
There are basic obligations a tenant and landlord must obey even if they aren’t set down in the agreement, but which are given by law and are implied into all tenancy agreements. These terms form part of the contract, even though they have not been specifically agreed.
Some of the most common implied terms are:
- The landlord must carry out basic repairs
- The landlord must keep the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and heating water in good working order
- The tenant has the right to live peacefully in the accommodation without nuisance from the landlord
- The tenant has an obligation to take proper care of the accommodation.
4. Landlord Obligations
In addition to the above-mentioned statutory rights, there may be clauses relating to insurance of the property and its contents (if furnished). Exclusions may also be specified as agreed to.
5. Tenant Obligations
Apart from the above-mentioned statutory rights, clauses should include;
- Payment of rent in the manner and on the date stated, without any deductions.
- The tenant’s responsibility regarding all utility and council tax bills relating to the property
- Not to be a nuisance or allow any guests to be a nuisance to the neighbours
- To compensate the Landlord should he breach any obligations
Other clauses may include the policy on smoking, pets, children, insurance and allowing entry to Landlords and designated agents and contractors.
All landlords and letting agents renting property under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy in England and Wales are required by law to hold deposits under a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. The Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme was introduced to ensure that all landlords and letting agents treat their tenants fairly, and when entitled to the tenant receives their deposit back at the end of the tenancy.
There are two types of deposit schemes, The Custodial Protection Scheme and the Insurance-Based Protection Scheme. In both instances, the deposit is registered with the relevant scheme and the details of the registration are provided to the tenant. In the event of a dispute, the details can be handed over to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (ADRS) who then arbitrate. Their decision is final and binding and neither party can take the dispute to the courts thereafter. One or both parties may refuse to use the ADRS, in which case the matter passes on for resolution in a court of law.
Read more about Tenancy Deposit Schemes by clicking here :
There should always be clauses detailing the ways in which the tenancy should be terminated i.e. notice period from both parties. A break clause may be included, bu
8. Breach of Contract
Methods of notification are listed here in the event any breach of the obligations e.g. non-payment of rent, as well as any fees or other consequences that may apply.
9. Amending the AST
A tenancy agreement cannot usually be changed unless both parties agree to the changes. However, there are a number of compelling reasons why a tenancy agreement needs to be amended:
- The landlord wishes to increase the rent.
- The landlord wishes to change the specific terms of the agreement e.g. allowing a guide dog for a disabled tenant
- The tenant wishes to transfer their tenancy to a member of their household who has lived with them for more than one year
- The tenant wishes to share the responsibilities of the tenancy by having a joint tenancy.
Click here to read more about the legal aspects of making changes to the AST
Each page of the AST must be initialled by the tenant and his/her full name and signature must be given on the final page. The Landlord’s address and signature (or that of his appointed agent) must appear on the agreement.