Your Guide to an Assured Shorthold Tenancy

More often than not, when you move into a new property, you will have to sign an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) contract. Signing any kind of contract can feel like a big deal, so we’re here with a conclusive guide to help you understand how an AST works. 

What is an assured shorthold tenancy contract?

An Assured Shorthold Tenancy contract is a form of rental agreement between tenant and landlord. It can only be used by private landlords and housing associations, and not for business tenancies. The property in question must be the tenant’s main accommodation, so cannot be the landlord’s accommodation or a holiday let. The rent must also be more than £250 per year. 

An AST is designed to offer some security of tenure to the tenant. So long as the tenant pays rent and complies to the conditions set out in the agreement, they are entitled to live in the property for the agreed length of time. If the landlord wants the tenant to leave before the end of the tenancy, they must follow specific eviction procedures.

What does an AST contract cover?

An AST contract should outline all the terms and conditions of the tenancy, including the start date of the tenancy, the rent and deposit amounts and the length of the fixed term agreement (if any). It also covers what the tenant can use the property for, what that can’t do, and details of responsibility for damage. 

It may also include a rent review clause, which allows the landlord to increase the rent. This must detail when an increase can happen, how much notice you’ll get and a rationale or method for any increases. 

Some ASTs also include a break clause, allowing the tenant to end the contract early with acceptable notice. 

What other types of tenancy contracts are there?

The other types of tenancies include: 

  • Excluded tenancies or licences, which are often used for lodgers who share communal spaces with the landlord. These include less protection from eviction.
  • Assured tenancies, all of which started between 15th January 1989 and 27th February 1997 and provided more eviction protection. 
  • Regulated tenancies, which started before 1989. Tenants have more protection from eviction and can apply for a ‘fair rent’. 

How long can an AST last?

An AST can either be fixed term or periodic. A fixed-term AST usually lasts six or 12 months, but there is no minimum term and the maximum term is seven years. A periodic tenancy rolls weekly or monthly. ASTs automatically convert to a periodic once the initial term comes to an end. 

What should I look out for before signing an AST contract? 

When signing an AST contract, make sure you have discussed any rent review clauses and ensured that the landlord will protect your deposit in a Government-approved scheme and provide Gas Safety and Energy Performance Certificates. 

Most importantly, it’s essential that you read the contract thoroughly. If any errors are made, the AST could be invalid and may make it difficult to begin your tenancy. 

What happens if I want to end my tenancy early? 

It’s not always easy to end a fixed-term tenancy early unless you have a break clause in your contract. You will either have to continue paying rent until the end of your term or try to get your landlord to agree to terminate the tenancy. 

If you have a periodic tenancy, you can end it at any time by giving your landlord notice, but you will have to pay rent until the end of the notice period.

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