Below you'll be able to find important information and frequently asked questions, for any further information please don't hesitate to get in contact with us.
A new letting by a landlord who is not living in the same house as his tenant will normally be either an assured tenancy or an assured shorthold tenancy. An assured tenancy will generally allow the tenant to stay for as long as he wants. An assured shorthold tenancy will allow the landlord to take the property back at the end of the agreed term.
Whether they let on an assured or an assured shorthold tenancy, landlords can now charge tenants a market rent. So you need not fear that you will be forced to let at an unrealistically low rent. There are one or two rules, to prevent overcharging, but broadly speaking the rent you agree with your tenant is the rent he must pay.
It used to be difficult to get your property back when you wanted to. Now it is possible to let property for the length of time, which you find convenient and be absolutely certain that you can get it back. This type of letting is called an assured shorthold.
Getting your property back when you want it is now easier than ever before. You have an absolute right to get it back at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy. Although it should be remembered that it is not normally possible for the landlord to get the property back until after the initial 6 months unless there has been a breach of a term of the tenancy agreement, or the tenant agrees to leave at an earlier date. The tenancy can be extended at the end of the initial term either by granting a further fixed term, or allowing it to continue as a periodic tenancy for as long as you wish. If you allow a shorthold tenancy to run on in this way you retain the right to seek possession of the property at any time on giving the tenant two months' notice of your intention to do so, and the court must grant you possession when you seek it.
A full assured tenancy (i.e. one, which is not a shorthold) gives the tenant more security. But you can still get the property back in certain circumstances, and the law will not protect bad tenants. There are seventeen grounds in law on which an assured tenancy may be brought to an end. Some of the grounds are mandatory, so if they are proved the court must order possession, whilst the remaining grounds are discretionary, and the court will grant possession if it considers it reasonable to do so.
Some of the grounds are prior notice grounds, which means that you must tell the tenant in writing before the tenancy is entered into that you may wish to get the property back in some circumstances. These grounds are useful if you are unsure when you may need your property back (though you will not be able to use them during a fixed term tenancy). For example, you may want to move back into what was your main family home because a job in a different part of the country has come to an end.
Some of the answers to the common questions below show how some of the grounds might be used, and others are referred to in the section dealing with problems with your tenant.
If you let on an assured shorthold tenancy, where you have the absolute right to get the property back, your tenant has the right during the first fixed period of the tenancy to ask the rent assessment committee to determine a rent for the tenancy. This is an independent statutory body consisting usually of three people: a lawyer, an expert in property valuation and an ordinary lay person. The committee will only set a rate if there is evidence that you are charging significantly more than other landlords of assured shorthold tenants in your locality. The rent they determine will be a market rent.
If you let under an assured tenancy, which is not an assured shorthold, you and your tenant agree the rent he will pay and you can also agree how it is to be increased. No one can interfere with the rent, or the rent review mechanism, once it has been agreed between you and your tenant - although you and your tenant can agree to a change if you both wish.
If you decide not to include in the initial agreement some means of raising the level of rent you can still do so in some circumstances. You cannot, for example seek to increase a rent for which there is no rent review mechanism for a fixed term tenancy. But you will always been able to increase your rent if the contract says that you can.
What rent can I charge?
You can charge a full market rent. It may be useful to look in the local paper in the property or classified section under accommodation for an idea of local market rents.
How do I create an assured shorthold tenancy?
You simply need to agree the main terms of the letting with your tenant; the monthly or weekly rent, and the length of the term of letting. This should be done with a standard form called a tenancy agreement. These are available from your letting agent or legal stationer.
What happens when the fixed term of an assured tenancy comes to an end?
Your tenant has the right to remain in the property until the court has granted you possession. In the case of an assured shorthold tenancy, the court must grant you possession if you apply for it once the fixed term is over. To bring an end to a full assured tenancy you will need to use one of the seventeen grounds.
How do I get my tenant to leave?
You must give him written notice that you intend to seek a possession order in the court or, in the case of an assured shorthold tenancy where you are relying on the fact that the term of the shorthold has come to an end, simply notice that you require possession. Although there is no prescribed form for this notice it should contain certain information and suitable forms are available from legal stationers.
If you are relying on one of the seventeen grounds, rather than the shorthold, you need to give notice using a special form available from legal stationers. You normally need to give two months' notice before applying to the court to bring an assured shorthold tenancy to an end, although the period of notice you must give will sometimes be longer, for example for a yearly tenancy (one which runs from year to year) where the period of notice required is at least six months.
The period of notice is only two weeks for the 'bad tenant' grounds such as rent arrears, but longer (normally two months) for the other grounds.
If the tenancy is periodic you will need to provide the required period of notice, and the notice must expire on the last day of a period of the tenancy.
Will I be liable for my tenant's Council Tax ?
No, not usually. In ordinary dwellings (i.e. those dwellings which are not Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) the resident (in this case the tenant) is responsible for the payment of the Council Tax for the property. Where the property is an HMO the landlord will be responsible for the payment of Council Tax. Properties inhabited solely by students are exempt from Council Tax and, where the property is unoccupied, the landlord will be entitled to a 50% reduction.
What if the property is mortgaged?
Most mortgage deeds prevent you from letting without your lender's consent. Ask him before taking on a tenant.
What if I am leaseholder?
You should check the terms of your lease, and if necessary ask your landlord's permission.