What are the main types of tenancy and how can they be terminated?
Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)
An Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is the most popular form of tenancy. Since 15 January 1989, most new tenancies are automatically ASTs.
A tenancy tends to be an AST if all of the following elements are present:
the property being rented is private accommodation
the tenancy commenced on or after 15 January 1989
the property is the principal place of residence
the landlord does not reside on the property.
There are two types of AST: periodic ASTs and fixed-term ASTs.
A periodic AST runs on a weekly or monthly basis with no firm end-date stated.
A landlord must follow a prescribed process for removing tenants who enjoy this type of arrangement:
1. the tenant must be given ‘notice to quit’
2. if the tenant does not leave the property by the due date on the notice to quit, the landlord can issue a ‘notice of intention to seek possession’
3. the landlord can then apply for a possession order, which gives them the legal right to evict the tenant and take possession of the property
4. if the court grants the landlord a possession order and the tenant refuses to leave the property, the landlord must apply for a warrant for eviction, which authorises bailiffs to remove the tenant from the property.
Fixed-term ASTs run for an agreed period of time.
The landlord must give the tenant notice in accordance with this. If the tenant still refuses to leave the property, the landlord must follow the above steps (from step 2. onwards).
Excluded tenancies or ‘licences’
If the landlord lives on the property and the tenant lodges with them – sharing communal amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom – this may constitute an excluded tenancy or ‘licence’, which typically affords less protection from eviction than an AST.
The landlord only needs to give the tenant ‘reasonable notice’ to quit, which is usually equivalent to the length of the rental payment period – for example, weekly or monthly payments will require one week or one month’s notice respectively.
Thereafter, the landlord can change the locks on the tenants’ rooms – even if they still have possessions inside. However, the landlord must return the tenants’ belongings to them.
A tenancy that starts between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997 is likely to be an assured tenancy, which carries with it a greater level of protection than an AST.
To remove the tenant, the landlord is required to cite one of the grounds for possession in the Housing Act 1988. A typical ground for removal is a tenant falling behind on their rental payments (rent arrears).
What is accelerated possession?
‘Accelerated possession’ is an eviction that occurs faster than normal – usually without a court hearing.
The landlord can only apply for accelerated possession if:
the tenant has a written AST or periodic tenancy agreement
the landlord has issued the tenant with the required notice in writing – a minimum of two months
the landlord has not requested the tenant to leave before the end of the fixed-term tenancy.
The landlord must adhere to strict procedures if they want the tenant to leave their property otherwise they can be found guilty of illegal eviction or harassment.
What are the risks associated with empty properties?
An empty property is an ‘at-risk’ asset, which can potentially cost its owner thousands of pounds annually in:
Council Tax bills
reduced value if it is in disrepair or located in an area with falling house prices.
Further costs may be incurred by the owner if an empty property causes a problem to neighbours.
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