This is a question to the blog clinic from Hazel (not her real name) who is a tenant.
I moved into the property that I rent before 1997 and never signed a tenancy agreement. After having lived at the address for about 10 years the landlord asked me to sign a short term agreement with them but I refused.
The subject has recently come up again but I am reluctant to sign as I am worried that I might lose rights. My landlord is elderly and I want to ensure that when the property passes to their children my rights are protected. Please advise.
If you moved in between 1 January 1989 and 27 February 1997, then it sounds as if your tenancy will be an assured tenancy. This gives you long-term security of tenure as you cannot be evicted under section 21.
The only way your landlord could have created an assured shorthold tenancy at that time was by serving a section 20 notice on you (or being able to prove that this was done) before your tenancy started, and by giving you a fixed term of not less than six months. Which it seems your landlord cannot do.
If you moved in before 1 January 1989 then your tenancy will be a protected tenancy and, in addition to having long-term security, you will also be able to apply for a ‘fair rent’. But it sounds as if your tenancy is an assured tenancy.
Signing a new tenancy
You are quite right to refuse to sign a new tenancy agreement and your landlords cannot force you to do this.
Signing a new agreement will not affect your rights as an assured tenant as these rights cannot be affected or lost by signing a new document – even if this purports to be an ‘assured shorthold tenancy’.
However, the agreement may contain other clauses which may make the tenancy more onerous. I can’t see how signing a new tenancy agreement can benefit you in any way so you should continue to refuse.
If the landlord becomes insistent about it, this could be classed as harassment. You could point this out, and if they persist, complain to your local authority or arrange for a solicitors letter to be sent asking them to stop.
NB Find out more about my services for tenants.