Assured shorthold tenancy 'protects landlords and tenants'

by Sarah Ashcroft

Assured shorthold tenancies work well for all parties, affording protection and reassurance. Since the inception of this type of tenancy agreement, the laws between landlord and tenant have been "pretty well evenly balanced", according to Tom Enwistle.

The editor of believes the rules for landlords and tenants are fair and protect both parties. He says only a "very determined" tenant could exploit the system to their own gain and disadvantage their landlord.

But while the rules are fair, Mr Entwistle thinks the enforcement system is not keeping pace. "Because the wheels of justice turns so painfully slowly, it can take months to remove a 'tenant from hell', while all that time the landlord is suffering with no rental income," he argues. "The recent cuts involving the closing of some county courts is likely to make the situation worse."

Landlords can use a section 21 notice to evict tenants at the end of a fixed term, and a section 8 notice to evict tenants who are in rent arrears.

One way to avoid this situation, however, is to carry out thorough checks on tenants before signing the contract. References can help ensure that the person living in a property does not turn out to be a "tenant from hell", as Mr Entwistle points out.

"In my view, the most important aspect of renting out a property to tenants is doing pre-tenancy screening, which includes credit checks and referencing," he says.

"Even then you can still have problems, so where landlords rely on the rental income to pay a mortgage they should consider rent guarantee and legal protection cover.

"Not all landlords do these things, but it is becoming much more of a common practice with experienced landlords."

The Association of Residential Letting Agents advises landlords to have "sufficient information" about prospective tenants to properly assess the risk in accepting the tenancy. It suggests checking the current and previous employment status of the prospective tenants as well as their renting history and any references provided.

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Published on: May 15, 2012

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