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Rights of subtenants who do not live with their landlord

This advice applies to England

A subtenancy is created when an existing tenant lets some or all of their home to another tenant - the subtenant.

If you're a subtenant and don't share any accommodation with your landlord, the rights you have generally depend on when your tenancy started and the type of tenancy you have. This page gives more information on these things and your general rights.

Do you share any accommodation with your landlord?

If you share some accommodation with your landlord, or a member of their family and the landlord lives in the same building, then you'll have different rights to those explained on this page. Accommodation doesn't include storage areas or means of access, such as a staircase or entrance hall. It does include rooms such as a kitchen or bathroom.

The type of tenancy you have

The type of tenancy you have will help you establish what your housing rights and responsibilities are.

Many subtenants will have an assured shorthold tenancy. You will have an assured shorthold tenancy if:

  • your tenancy started on or after 28 February 1997, and
  • you pay rent to your landlord, and
  • you don't share any accommodation with them.

It's possible, but less common, for a subtenant to have an assured tenancy. This is likely to be the case where:

  • you moved into your home between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997, and
  • you got a notice saying that the tenancy was not to be an assured shorthold tenancy 

If you became a subtenant before 15 January 1989, then it's possible that you have a protected tenancy. You should check this with an adviser, because if you are a protected tenant you will have stronger housing rights.

Is your tenancy for a fixed term or is it periodic?

Your tenancy may be for a certain period of time, for example, 6 months. This is called a fixed term tenancy.

Or you may have a periodic tenancy. This is one that runs from one rent period to the next, for example, from month to month. A periodic tenancy can arise when you stay on in your home after the fixed term has run out without signing a new agreement for another fixed term.

Paying rent

You must pay your rent when it's due, otherwise your landlord can take action to evict you. Your tenancy agreement will normally state how much the rent is, what it includes, to whom and when it should be paid. Certain rules apply as to how and when rents can be increased.

If you're on a low income, you might be able to get help to pay your rent by applying for Universal Credit or Housing Benefit.

Getting repairs done

Your landlord is responsible for doing certain repairs that are set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Generally, this means that they're responsible for keeping in repair:

  • the structure and exterior of your home, for example, the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors
  • basins, sinks, baths, toilets and their pipework
  • water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters.

Your landlord has to make sure your home is safe to live in - this is called being 'fit for human habitation'. This applies to most types of tenancy.

Your home might be unfit for human habitation if for example:

  • it has a serious problem with damp or mould

  • it gets much too hot or cold

  • there are too many people living in it

  • it’s infested with pests like rats or cockroaches

  • it doesn’t have a safe water supply

It doesn’t matter if the problem was there at the start of the tenancy or only appeared later.

Your landlord also has certain responsibilities for gas and electrical safety, furnishings and asbestos. For example - they must provide an annual gas safety check.

You can check how to ask your landlord to make repairs.

Your right to stay in your home

Regardless of whether you're an assured, assured shorthold or protected tenant, you have the right to stay in your home until your landlord gets a court order to evict you.

The legal process that your landlord has to follow to give you notice and to evict you depends on the type of tenancy you have.

If you want to leave

If you have a fixed term tenancy

If you have a fixed term tenancy, you have agreed to rent your home for a certain period of time.

If you want to move out before the end of the fixed term, you can only do so if:

  • there is a term in your agreement, known as a break clause, which allows you to end the tenancy early. If there is a break clause, it should say how much notice you have to give, or
  • your landlord agrees to you ending the tenancy early. This is called surrender.

If you leave before the end of the term without your landlord’s consent, you are liable to pay the rent until the term ends even if you aren’t living there.

If you stay beyond the fixed term, even for one day, a periodic tenancy begins. You will then have to give your landlord notice if you want to move out.

If you have a periodic tenancy

You're expected to give notice to end a periodic tenancy. This is called a notice to quit. If you don't give the correct period of notice to end your tenancy, you may remain responsible for paying the rent.

As a starting point, it's best to check your tenancy agreement as it's likely to set out what notice you have to give.

If you have a joint periodic tenancy, one of you can end the tenancy by serving a notice to quit. This ends the other joint tenant's right to live in the property.

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