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Periodic Tenancies: The Future of Renting in England?

Months in a calendar to symbolise rolling monthly periodic tenancies

What is a Periodic Tenancy?

A periodic tenancy is a tenancy that does not have a fixed term, and rolls from month to month, or from week to week, depending on whether the rent is payable monthly or, less common, weekly.

Most assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) in England are initially granted for a fixed term of either six or twelve months. When this fixed term expires, if it is not ‘renewed’ (which means the parties enter into another fixed term tenancy), it automatically becomes a periodic tenancy.

If the rent was payable monthly, as is usually the case with the vast majority of ASTs, the tenant may then terminate the tenancy with one month’s notice, to expire on the rent payment date.

The landlord, on the other hand, needs to give the statutory notice period under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, currently two months.

The system is a little different in Wales since the introduction of occupation contracts in December 2022. Click here to find out about periodic occupation contracts in Wales.

Potential impact of the Renters’ Reforms in England

Image of the cover of A Fairer Rented Sector, published June 2022
The White Paper published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities

The government published a White Paper in June 2022 called A Fairer Private Rented Sector, which proposed abolishing fixed term tenancies and introducing a “single system of periodic tenancies”. The reforms would enable a tenant to leave at any time by giving two months’ notice. The landlord, on the other hand, would no longer be able to use Section 21. Instead, they would need to rely on new grounds for possession, as yet undefined.

The White Paper argued that abolishing fixed term contracts would give tenants flexibility. Also, it would “enable tenants to leave poor quality properties without remaining liable for the rent or to move more easily when their circumstances change, for example to take up a new job opportunity”.

Further, they argued “with a single tenancy structure, both parties will better understand their rights and responsibilities.”

Whether or not this proves to be true or not, is another matter. Most single lets do last longer than the initial fixed term, and become periodic tenancies by default. However, this isn’t the case for student HMOs, where students usually sign up for 11 or 12 months. The advantage for fixed term contracts for students is that avoids disruption from people moving in and out during the academic year. However, the government wants to give students the same flexibility as other renters.

The government has been consulting on the reforms. Indications from Michael Gove in March are that he is intending to pass the Renters’ Reform Bill into law “during this parliament”, ie before November 2023.

Watch this space – I will keep this article updated.

Last updated: 8 April 2023

what is a periodic tenancy?
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