Protected Tenancy

Protected Tenancy
Protected Tenancy
Quick Summary of Protected Tenancy

A protected tenancy is a lease that is governed by the Rent Act (1977) and related legislation. Under this legislation, a protected tenancy arose automatically when a person rented a domestic property as his main home. The main characteristics of a protected tenancy were that (1) the tenant could stay as long as he liked unless the landlord would otherwise be reduced to living in a cardboard box in the middle of a motorway, and (2) the landlord could not increase the rent except in accordance with complex statutory provisions. The protected tenancy was very favourable to tenants, but it had two undesirable consequences. First, it led to a more-or-less complete absence of affordable rented accommodation throughout large parts of the UK. Potential landlords would prefer to leave their properties empty rather than risk someone taking an occupation at a low rent forever. Second, it led to the few remaining landlords trying to seek legalistic ways of letting their properties without getting burdened by protected tenants. This led to a barrage of litigation on the difference between a ‘lease’ and a ‘licence’ (see lease or licence).

The Housing Act (1988) disposed of protected tenancies as the default form of residential tenancy. Any new residential property would default to being an assured tenancy. An assured tenancy was less favourable to tenants because, although it offered a measure of statutory protection from eviction, there were far fewer controls on rent. Subsequently, even the assured tenancy was deemed to be too favourable to tenants, and it was replaced in The Housing Act (1996) by the assured shorthold tenancy, which is, on the whole, little more than a licence.

What is the dictionary definition of Protected Tenancy?
Dictionary Definition of Protected Tenancy

A protected tenancy refers to a legal status granted to tenants under certain rent control or landlord-tenant protection laws. In many jurisdictions, protected tenancies provide tenants with enhanced rights and protections against eviction, rent increases, or other unfavourable changes to their tenancy. These protections are often granted to long-term tenants who have occupied a property for a specified period, typically under a regulated or controlled rent scheme. The specific rights and benefits of protected tenancies vary depending on the applicable laws and regulations governing landlord-tenant relationships in each jurisdiction. Overall, protected tenancies aim to provide tenants with stability, security, and affordable housing options, particularly in areas with high housing costs or limited rental availability.

Full Definition Of Protected Tenancy

Protected tenancy is a concept within British law that offers tenants a series of rights and protections, primarily under the Rent Act 1977. This legislation was designed to provide security of tenure and control over rent levels, ensuring that tenants are not subjected to unjust eviction or excessive rent increases. This overview aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of protected tenancy, its historical context, key provisions, and the rights and obligations it entails for both tenants and landlords.

Historical Context

The concept of protected tenancy originated in response to the housing shortages and tenant exploitation observed during and after the World Wars. Initially, the Rent Acts of 1915 and subsequent amendments sought to address these issues. However, it was the Rent Act of 1977 that consolidated various earlier legislations, providing a more coherent framework for tenant protection. This Act remains the cornerstone of protected tenancy law in the UK.

Key Provisions of the Rent Act 1977

The Rent Act 1977 outlines several critical provisions that govern protected tenancies. These provisions can be categorized into three main areas: security of tenure, rent regulation, and succession rights.

Security of Tenure

One of the fundamental aspects of protected tenancy is the security of tenure. Under the Rent Act 1977, tenants have the right to remain in their rented property as long as they comply with the terms of the tenancy agreement. This means that landlords cannot evict tenants without a valid reason, and they must obtain a court order to do so.

Grounds for Eviction

The Act specifies limited grounds on which a landlord can seek possession of the property, including:

  • Non-payment of rent.
  • Breach of tenancy agreement terms.
  • The landlord requires the property for personal use or for a close family member.
  • Significant damage to the property was caused by the tenant.

The court must be satisfied that these grounds are met before granting an eviction order.

Rent Regulation

Rent regulation under the Rent Act 1977 is designed to prevent excessive rent increases and ensure that rents remain fair and reasonable. Protected tenants are typically subject to “fair rents” set by rent officers or rent assessment committees.

Determination of Fair Rent

Fair rents are determined based on several factors, including:

  • The condition and location of the property.
  • Comparable rents for similar properties in the area.
  • The property’s amenities and services.

Once set, a fair rent can only be increased at specific intervals, usually every two years, and must be justified by changes in the property’s condition or market conditions.

Succession Rights

Succession rights are another crucial aspect of protected tenancy. These rights allow a tenant’s family member to inherit the tenancy under certain conditions, ensuring that the tenant’s dependents are not left homeless upon their death.

Types of Succession

The Rent Act 1977 provides for two types of succession:

  • Statutory Succession: This allows a surviving spouse or civil partner to inherit the tenancy automatically.
  • Discretionary Succession: Other family members, such as children or siblings, may apply for succession, but it is subject to the landlord’s agreement and a court’s discretion.

Rights and Obligations of Tenants

Protected tenants enjoy several rights that safeguard their living conditions and financial interests. However, they also have certain obligations to uphold.


  • Security of Tenure: As mentioned, tenants cannot be evicted without a court order and a valid reason.
  • Rent Control: Tenants benefit from fair rent assessments, preventing arbitrary and excessive rent increases.
  • Repairs and Maintenance: Landlords are responsible for maintaining the property’s structure and exterior, as well as ensuring that installations for water, gas, electricity, sanitation, and heating are in proper working order.
  • Protection from Harassment: Tenants are protected from harassment by landlords, which includes illegal eviction attempts, cutting off utilities, or other actions intended to force the tenant to leave.


  • Payment of Rent: Tenants must pay rent on time as per the tenancy agreement.
  • Property Care: Tenants must take reasonable care of the property and avoid causing damage.
  • Compliance with Tenancy Agreement: Tenants must adhere to the terms outlined in their tenancy agreement, which may include restrictions on subletting, keeping pets, or making alterations to the property without permission.

Rights and Obligations of Landlords

Landlords of protected tenants also have rights and obligations to ensure a fair and balanced relationship.


  • Receive Rent: Landlords are entitled to receive rent as agreed in the tenancy contract.
  • Seek Possession: Landlords can seek possession of the property under the grounds specified by the Rent Act 1977, provided they obtain a court order.
  • Access for Repairs: Landlords have the right to access the property to conduct necessary repairs and maintenance, usually with proper notice to the tenant.


  • Maintain Property: Landlords must keep the property in good repair, particularly the structure and exterior, and ensure all installations for utilities are functioning.
  • Respect Tenant’s Rights: Landlords must respect the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the property, meaning they cannot interfere with the tenant’s use and enjoyment of their home.
  • Follow Proper Procedures: Landlords must follow legal procedures for rent increases, possession claims, and other actions affecting the tenant’s rights.

Dispute Resolution

Disputes between tenants and landlords can arise despite the protections in place. The Rent Act 1977 provides mechanisms for resolving such disputes, often involving tribunals and courts.

Rent Assessment Committees

If there is a disagreement over what constitutes a fair rent, either party can apply to a rent assessment committee. These committees are independent bodies that review the case and determine an appropriate rent based on the factors outlined previously.

County Courts

More serious disputes, especially those involving eviction or significant breaches of the tenancy agreement, are usually resolved in county courts. Tenants and landlords can both seek legal remedies through the court system, which can issue binding decisions on the matters in dispute.

Recent Developments and Reforms

The landscape of tenancy law is continually evolving. Recent years have seen proposals for reforms aimed at balancing the interests of tenants and landlords more effectively.

Deregulation and Housing Acts

The Deregulation Act 2015 and the Housing Act 1988 introduced assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs), which differ from protected tenancies by offering less security but more flexibility. These reforms have led to a decline in the number of protected tenancies as newer tenancies tend to fall under the AST framework.

Proposals for Rent Control

There have been ongoing discussions about reintroducing stricter rent controls in response to the rising cost of living and housing affordability crisis. These proposals often seek to extend protections similar to those under the Rent Act 1977 to a broader range of tenancies.


Protected tenancy remains a vital part of British housing law, offering significant protections for tenants against eviction and rent increases. The Rent Act 1977 provides a robust framework that balances the interests of both tenants and landlords, ensuring fair treatment and security. However, the evolving nature of housing needs and market conditions necessitates ongoing evaluation and potential reforms to maintain this balance. Understanding the intricacies of protected tenancy helps both tenants and landlords navigate their rights and obligations, contributing to a more stable and equitable housing market.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 10th June 2024.

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