It is common practice for landlords to use a standard form of Assured Shorthold Tenancy (‘AST’) agreement that they have either obtained from a national provider or association or had specifically drafted for them, and to keep using that same document each time they let a property.
However there have been a number of changes in housing law that mean that ‘old’ AST documents may be due for a review.
Under the Housing Act 1988 there are circumstances in which a landlord may terminate an AST early provided that it can be shown that a ‘ground for possession’ exists. New grounds have recently been created by statute on which a landlord can rely provided that the terms of the tenancy agreement expressly state that the tenancy can be brought to an end relying on that ground.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 added new Grounds 7A and 14ZA.
Ground 7A is an important addition for landlords with problem tenants as it sets out a number of scenarios in which a landlord can serve a notice seeking possession on a tenant with behavioural problems; for example a notice can be served where a tenant, or another person living in or visiting the property, has been convicted of a serious offence and that offence was (i) committed ‘in the locality of’ of the property or (ii) was committed elsewhere against a person with a right to live in, or occupy housing accommodation in the locality of the property or (iii) was committed elsewhere against the landlord or a third party who is manging the property, such as the landlord’s agent.
Ground 14ZA is less likely to be used by landlords and is applicable where a tenant has been convicted of an indictable offence which took place during a riot occurring in the United Kingdom.
Ground 7B was introduced by the Immigration Act 2016 to make it easier for landlords to evict illegal immigrant tenants of properties in England. Landlords and agents should already be aware that they are, unless exemptions apply, now required to check the status of prospective tenants to ascertain whether those parties have the right to be in the UK before granting a tenancy (“right to rent” checks) and to make sure that someone’s right to occupy the premises does not lapse.
However, if the tenancy agreement was drafted before these new grounds were added then it will not refer to them and a landlord will not be able to rely on the grounds to end the tenancy.
Your AST should also be drafted so that it takes account of the unfair terms in consumer contracts provisions of the Consumer Rights Act 2015; this Act places a duty upon the courts to look at the fairness of terms even if the parties do not specifically ask the court to do so. This could cause problems for landlords if they are bringing a claim against a tenant in relation to a breach of a tenancy term so that even if the tenant has not complained about the fairness of the term the court may assess whether it is fair and enforceable
For further information relating to the points raised in this article or to discuss other property disputes, please contact one of our Commercial Property Litigation Solicitors.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.