They differ from assured tenancy agreements because they are not lifelong. Instead, they have a specified fixed term for which the tenancy agreement is active. After this fixed term period ends, a landlord can choose to enter a new tenancy agreement, roll the tenant onto a periodic tenancy agreement, or evict the tenant. There does not need to have been a breach of contract by the tenants at this period to justify the eviction.
After February 1997, all tenancy agreements in England and Wales are treated as assured shorthold tenancy agreements unless they are stated otherwise. Tenancy agreements before this, from 15 January 1989 to February 1997, were treated as assured tenancy agreements.
To evict a tenant, a landlord has to provide notice of a sufficient period and can do so by providing the tenant with a Section 8 or a Section 21 notice.
Landlords can evict their tenants during a fixed term period under certain circumstances, the main situation being if the tenant breaks a term or terms in the tenancy agreement. This is where the Section 8 notice is used.
Whether a Section 8 notice will be granted by the court and the notice period that has to be provided to the tenant varies depending on what ground the notice has been applied for.
For example, there are a number of grounds that result in mandatory possession being granted. There are also discretionary grounds that will not necessarily mean a court will grant you possession automatically.
Notice periods have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the governments protection of tenants during this period. Please see image A below to identify relevant notice periods for all Section 8 grounds.
Section 21 notices are used to regain possession of a property after the fixed period for an assured shorthold tenancy agreement ends, or at any point during a periodic tenancy with the applicable notice period.
Assured shorthold tenancy agreements with a fixed period of over two years may come with a break clause. Both the tenant and the landlord will be provided with a break clause although each one will differ.
A tenant's break clause means that the tenant can give three months’ notice to their landlord and end their fixed period early.
A landlord’s break clause gives a landlord the opportunity to end the tenancy agreement at the six-month period after serving the tenant with a notice period equivalent to an applicable Section 21 notice. For this, a landlord will need to get a court order to support their eviction and regain possession of the property.
Covid-19 has also affected the Section 21 notice period length. Before COVID-19, the Section 21 notice period was typically two months’ notice. Now the current notice period is four months in England and six months in Wales.
One of the legal obligations for landlords before the tenancy has started is that they must ensure that their property is fit for human habitation, as referred to in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
This includes the provision of at least one smoke alarm on every floor that the tenants have as living accommodation, as well as a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance.
Private landlords should have the property gas safety and energy performance certified, with copies of the certification given to the tenants. As well as this, the electrical installations within the property should be inspected by a professional and a copy of that report should also be supplied to the tenant.
During the tenancy, landlords are responsible for repairing (in a reasonable time of becoming aware of) any damage to the structure or exterior of the property, as well as any gas, electricity, and water supplies. This includes (and is not limited to) pipework, wiring, boilers, and bathroom features like baths, sinks, and toilets. They are not required to improve any of these features, provided they meet current regulations and are working adequately.
If the property is damaged after the tenancy started by something that is covered by insurance and the tenant cannot live in the property then the tenant is not required to pay rent unless they were responsible for the damage. This lasts until the property is once again habitable.
With the advent of the Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill at the start of 2021, government has updated the model agreement for a shorthold assured tenancy to prohibit blanket bans on pets by landlords.
In fact, the default position on pets in the model agreement is now that pets are expected to be permitted on the condition that the landlord must be made aware through a request by writing and they are given 28 days to respond.
The Bill is designed to help people with pets find rental accommodation that will accept them provided they are responsible pet owners. Responsible ownership is set to be determined by a certificate that can be awarded by a vet that proves the animal is microchipped, has all up-to-date vaccinations, has had up to date worm and flea medicine, and (depending on the animal) can respond to basic commands.
Ultimately, whether pets are allowed or not is still up to the landlord’s discretion. They can refuse permission for pets if they are exempt from allowing pets due to a medical or religious issue, or if they can provide any other valid reason for not allowing them. This could relate to the practicality of owning a certain type of pet in a certain type of property.