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Renting privately

Are you a tenant or licensee?

It is important to know whether you are a tenant or licensee because the difference in terms of your rights is significant. The law relating to tenancies and licenses is complex and you should seek advice if in doubt.

You are a tenant if

  • You have the exclusive right to live in your premises and exclude all others including the landlord. The premises do not have to be an entire flat or house and can be as little as a single room.
  • Your tenancy is for a defined period of time. This can be either for a fixed term or on a periodic basis e.g. weekly or monthly. This may be stated in an agreement, agreed verbally or implied by the payment of rent weekly or monthly.
  • You are required to pay rent. This can be rent in kind, for example in place of paying for work done. It must be for an agreed sum for a specified period. There must also be an intention to create a legal relationship between the parties. A temporary agreement between relatives would be unlikely to satisfy this requirement.

After the first 6 months of your tenancy or after your contract has expired your landlord can obtain a possession order to evict you. They must first serve you with a valid notice requiring possession. The notice must be in writing and must give at least two months' notice. If the contract has expired or if the tenancy is on a periodic basis the date on which the notice expires must be the last day of a tenancy period and the notice must state that possession is required under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. 

You do not have to leave when the notice expires; however, you may have to pay court costs if your landlord has to obtain a court order for possession. If you are in any doubt then seek advice. 

You are a licensee if

You have a resident landlord whom you share facilities with - e.g. the kitchen or bathroom - or do not pay rent for your accommodation or are staying with family or friends as part of an informal arrangement. As a licensee your landlord does not have to obtain a possession order to evict you. You are entitled to reasonable notice, which can be verbal or in writing. Once this notice expires you do not have a legal right to remain in the property.

Reasonable notice is considered to be one rental period e.g. if you pay rent on a weekly basis you will only be entitled to one week's notice. 

Licensees with basic protection

Some licensees will have more protection than others. If you live in the same building as your landlord or any members of their family, but do not share any facilities (e.g. bathroom) you will have basic protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If your landlord wishes to evict you they must wait for any contract to expire, or if there is no contract they must serve a notice to quit. This must be in a form specified by law and give at least four weeks' notice. After the notice period, if you do not leave, your landlord will need to obtain a court order for possession. 

Service occupiers

If you live in a property as a condition of your employment and you do not share any facilities (e.g. kitchen or bathroom) with your landlord, a possession order from the court must be obtained to evict you.