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Tenancy agreement – how long?

Most landlords use an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement to let their property.

So how long should I let a rental property for?

Firstly, many landlords assume the minimum length of a tenancy under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy has to be 6 months. Not so. It is perfectly legal to let your property for less than 6 month. In fact there is no minimum period for an AST. Until February 1997 the minimum was 6 months, however this requirement was removed by the Housing Act 1996.

It’s therefore perfectly legal to go for a short let. The downside though is that with anything less than 6 months a landlord can’t use a Section 21 to obtain accelerated possession until after 6 months of the tenancy has elapsed. If the tenant stops paying rent after month 2, it may well be another 4 months before a order of possession of a rental property is obtained. If you are worried about this exposure to risk one way around this issue is to take a large rental deposit to cover this period.  Landlords can go here to download their free tenancy agreement.

Standard tenancy length

Most landlords opt for a standard 6 month tenancy. This gives them the flexibility to remove the tenant with the much less non fault based method of possession through a Section 21 Notice at the end of the fixed term tenancy. We provide users with a free Section 21 Notice. The reason being is that the Housing Act directs the judge to give possession to the landlord. I have heard of cases where some judges give the tenant over a month to vacate the property after the date that possession was sort, although it is more normal for the judge to allow between 14-28 days for the tenant to move out.

Average length of tenancy

The average length of a tenancy is 9 months. Therefore in many ways it makes sense for a landlord to grant a slightly longer tenancy. One of my longstanding tenants always likes a 9 month tenancy. The advantage to a landlord is that it cuts down on the paper work of having to renew a fixed term tenancy every 6 months.

Shorter or longer tenancy

A longer term tenancy can be advantageous to some landlords in the respect that in periods of low rental demand, when they expect rents to fall; it protects your rental level for a longer period. Conversely, when rents are rising, a long term fixed term means that your rent could well drop behind the market. By presenting yourself as amenable to a longer term tenancy, you may be more successful in attracting a long term tenant. This is certainly always my goal. Long term tenants mean less chance of costly voids and a greater likelihood that you will not get a tenant who fails to pay the rent.

Long term tenancies give a chance for you to develop a relationship and trust with your tenants and that certainly makes the day to day management of the property and tenancy so much easier.

Another aspect of the longer term tenancy is if you are having your tenancy managed by a letting agent. Now letting agents love 6 month fixed term assured shorthold tenancies. Why? Well it means that they get ‘dosh’ twice a year for renewing them. Not only can they charge the landlord a renewal charge but they will often try and fleece the tenant too. Arguably they are only doing what the landlord wants and are maintaining the tenancy. Make sure that as the landlord that this is what YOU want at the outset. If not make sure they know that you are happy to agree a longer tenancy or that you would like to see the tenancy run on to be a statutory periodic tenancy.

My favoured option the hybrid approach

My preferred option would be to go for a hybrid approach. Grant your tenant a 6 month tenancy. I would advise issuing a section 21 notice alongside the tenancy agreement and the prescribed information required by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Then, if after the initial 6 months has elapsed and the tenancy is going well, consider granting the tenant a longer tenancy if they want. I can’t emphasise enough that from my experience long term tenants generally make happy and contented landlords.

What do you do? Let us know by posting your comments

My solutions to your question:
6 months AST – with clause allowing to be extended to 12 months provided both parties agree
6 months, then run as a Periodic thereafter
nick stewart

I run an estate agency in coventry, we have never charged a renewal fee to either landlords or tenants in my view this is why we charge a management fee (which is only 7%). we belive we will grow bigger slowly but with ethics.
Yes there are a lot of agents that abuse the trust of their landlords and tenants, but not all.
David Muir Godiva Estates Ltd

Further info on how long to grant a tenancy for?

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Hello, I was told from an agency that they can’t do 3 month contract with full payment of all 3 months. There is a law which stop them to do that? They not even try to ask the owner about this many times.
Kind regards Cristian

this law was changed: When the Housing Act 1988 first came into force, it implemented a minimum term of six months for ASTs. However, the Housing Act 1996 abolished this rule for all new tenancies commencing on or after 27 February 1997 by inserting a new section 19A into the Housing Act 1988. Section 19A even meant that landlords did not need to provide tenants with an initial fixed term tenancy but could in fact grant a periodic tenancy from the outset.

Hello, I am interested in learning about the changes in the housing act 1996 allowing Assured Shorthold Tenancys to be less than 6 months? I I cant find any specific reference to it is the 1996 amendments.

I would like to rent my house for 6 months because I want to spend my winter months in Spain. Can this be done in Scotland? I was told this is not possible in Scotland but is OK in England.

I had booked two private student rooms in Manchester, because of COVID-19 and some reasons I can not be there, My contract do not start yet, so I ask for refund about one month ago. However the rooms say there are not going to give me any refund, they keep delaying and my room is going to start next week, I want to ask what can I do? Please help ASAP

The common length of an AST is between 6 and 12 months because the 1988 Housing Act set a minimum length of 6 months for assured shorthold tenancy. However in 1996 it was abolished, allowing landlords to give periodic tenancy for ASTs (no minimum or maximum).

Tenants – ok for four years – not married and have two children. She has a solicitor.
They have joint tenancy agreement and her parents guarantor.
They have now split she will leave house and wants us to have a contract with him on a rolling basis. We need to move into the house s we have sold our home in Croydon in order to retire to our cottage.

Ideally out by April 1. Need a new contract with him and guarantor on a short term let basis. Our house should complete by May.
Any thoughts

We are a retired couple living in UK and would like to rent an apartment for winter months Dec to March.
Is that a possibility?
Many thanks

my tenants took 6 month tenancy from nov 1st would not take longer until their london property sold then asked for 3 month extra that I agreed to by text expecting to resign&witness agreement but with offer to sell where I live now must change to live in that house-he refuses and says my text is legal agreement and I must give 6 months notice under covid law asking me to pay removal expenses if I want sooner posession -so if law changes march 31 does this change things -ive stopped sale as I cant find rental and need my own house-they have unsold house/flat in london

I’m not sure those laws exist any more for covid but however long you need to give notice for get the section 21 or section 8 and getting the ball rolling as soon as you can

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