Private tenancies and your rights

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This information gives a brief outline of the different types of tenancy available and the rights you have if you are renting from a private landlord. It does not cover secure Council or Housing Association tenancies.

If you have any questions about this information please visit a Housing Options officer at the Customer Services Centre.


Not all occupiers have the same legal rights. Generally, you have a tenancy if:

  • You pay rent;
  • You have exclusive use of one room (even if you share bathroom and kitchen facilities);
  • You can stop other people, including the landlord, from entering your home.

In this case, the landlord must give you proper notice if they want you to move out. If you do not leave, the landlord must then get a possession order from the County Court before you can be evicted.

A landlord cannot simply demand you leave or lock you out if you don't - these actions may be seen as Harassment and Illegal Eviction.


If you are not a tenant then you will generally be a Licensee.

Some licensees do not have even the basic legal protection that a tenant has. They are called excluded licences.

You are classed as an excluded licensee when:

  • You are sharing with your family;
  • You are a lodger sharing accommodation with a resident landlord;
  • You do not pay rent;
  • You are staying in a hostel or hotel;
  • You do not have the right to occupy at least one room;
  • You have been offered accommodation temporarily by a friend;
  • The landlord provides services such as cleaning.

If you are an excluded licensee and your landlord wants you to leave it is not necessary for him or her to get a Court Order. However, you are entitled to 'reasonable' notice.

Assured Tenancies

With an Assured Tenancy:

  • You can only be evicted by a Court Order on specific grounds - some are automatic others are discretionary;
  • The tenancy can sometimes be passed on when the original tenant dies.

If you receive a notice seeking possession, please see a Housing Options officer as soon as possible. Council officers can represent you at any subsequent Court hearing.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies

This is the most common type of tenancy. With an Assured Shorthold Tenancy:

  • The minimum term of the tenancy is at least 6 months;
  • The landlord must give two months notice that he or she requires possession;
  • The landlord can get a Court Order at any time after the fixed term and proper notice have expired;
  • The tenancies cannot be passed on if the original tenant dies.

The landlord must give written notice that you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy before you move in and sign a formal agreement. If the landlord fails to do this then you will have an Assured Tenancy.


You will NOT be either an Assured or Assured Shorthold Tenant if:

  • You are a licensee;
  • You have a resident landlord;
  • You are renting the property for a holiday;
  • You are a student renting from a college or university;
  • The property is let to a company with which you have some connection;
  • You do not pay rent.

In these cases you will have very limited rights. Please ask a Housing Options officer for further information.

Tenancies starting before 15th January 1989

If your tenancy started before the 15th January 1989 and your landlord does not live in the same building, you have much greater legal protection.

In this case: 

  • You can ask the Rent Officer to fix a fair rent;
  • You can only be evicted by a Court Order on very limited grounds;
  • The tenancy can be passed on twice after the original tenant dies.

If you do share the same building as your landlord you may have a restricted contract which gives you fewer rights. However, your landlord still requires a Court Order to evict you.

If you have a tenancy that started before 15th January 1989 and you move to different accommodation or sign a new tenancy agreement, you may lose all your legal rights. Please discuss this with a Housing Options officer.

Tenancies starting between 15th January 1989 and 27th February 1997

Generally, these tenancies are less secure than tenancies that started earlier. In addition, landlords are entitled to charge a 'market rent'.

Tenancies starting on or after 28th February 1997

For any new tenancy granted on or after the 28th February 1997 there are important changes to the previous tenancy rules that have been in force since the 15th January 1989.

The main changes are:

  • ALL new tenancies will by Assured Shorthold Tenancies unless the landlord serves a notice stating that it is an Assured Tenancy;
  • Tenancies can be for a fixed term, or from week to week or month to month;
  • There is no need for a written agreement (although it is in everyone's best interests to have one);
  • If the terms of the tenancy are not written down, the landlord must respond within 28 days to any request from the tenant to provide them;
  • Tenants are still entitled to at least two months notice which can only take effect after six months from the start of the original tenancy. The notice must be in writing and the landlord must still obtain a Court Order to evict;
  • Tenants can only apply to the Rent Assessment Committee to fix a rent during the first six months of the tenancy.

If you are a tenant and receive notice from your landlord asking you to leave your home, or your landlord harasses you or threatens you with eviction, please contact a Housing Options Officer as soon as possible.