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Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

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What on earth is a short lease and do I have one?

If you are renting a residential property the short and sharp answer is, yes, you most likely have a short legal lease. A short legal lease is a lease of three years or less. If you are renting for a fixed term that is anything from as short as a week up to a maximum of three years you have a short lease.

Lease vs License

Most people who live in rented accommodation are likely to rent under a lease and not a license. However, the key differences are worth highlighting as renters occasionally come across agreements that are labelled 'License Agreement'. Leases give tenants proprietary rights in land whereas licences entail fewer rights as they merely give their holders permission to be on the land. Leases cannot be terminated by the landlord before the end of their term, they oblige landlords to comply with certain repair and maintenance duties and they give tenants overall control over the property.

The basic requirements for a lease to exist are:

The distinction between a lease and a license is a matter of substance not form which means that agreements that are labelled 'Licence' or 'Licence Agreement' are still leases and come with all the rights that leases entail as long as they satisfy the criteria above.

Lease vs Tenancy Agreement

The term 'lease' is conventionally used for business leases or long leases. The terms 'tenancy' and 'tenancy agreement' are more commonly used in the context of residential lettings and can be used interchangeably with the term 'short lease'.

The most common residential tenancies are initially agreed for a fixed period of six months or one year and can be extended.

Periodic tenancies are also short leases. They do not have a fixed term but instead run indefinitely until either the landlord or tenant hands in notice. The length of the periodic term is defined by the term by which the rent was calculated. For example, if your rent is calculated on a monthly basis, you have a monthly periodic tenancy which is extended indefinitely each month until either the landlord or you terminate it.

I don't have anything in writing

Fear not, short leases can be agreed orally and do not need to be confirmed in writing. The terms of an oral agreement are valid just the same as if the tenancy agreement was contained in a written document. However the disadvantage of oral agreements is that it is difficult to prove the existence of specific terms as there is no written evidence of what was agreed.


Assured Tenancies: Residential tenancies that are granted from 15 January 1989 onwards. Tenants are given a degree of security of tenure under the Housing Act 1988.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies: Assured tenancies granted on or after 28 February 1997 are automatically Assured Shorthold Tenancies under the Housing Act 1996, subject to a few exceptions including the lettings to students. The provisions of the Housing Act 1988 still apply.

Non-assured Tenancy Agreement: Tenancies where the rent does not exceed £250 per year, the tenant has another main home somewhere else and the landlord has his residence in the same home but does not share accommodation with the tenant.

Protected Tenancy: These are rent-controlled tenancies. The landlords are restricted as to the amount of rent they can charge.

Regulated Tenancy: These are tenancies that were granted before 15 January 1989 and continued since then which means they are still regulated by the Rent Act 1977. Tenants under the Rent Act 1977 are protected. Tenants have security of tenure as the tenancy continues after the end of the contractually agreed term as a statutory tenancy. Landlords can only terminate the tenancy with a court order of possession.

Secure Tenancy: Tenants have the right to live in their home as long as the rules of their tenancy agreement are not broken.

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