The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) was originally introduced in 1988 and later amended in 1996. Along with the buy to let mortgage, it was a major factor in initiating the buy to let boom.
Unless there are otherwise good reasons you should always let residential property on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.
The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement
Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements (ASTs) are normally signed for either 12 months with or without a 6 month break clause, or 6 months. As far as the tenant is
concerned, the granting of an AST guarantees them six months security of tenure except in exceptional cases where a judge may order that their behaviour has nullified the agreement.
Always ensure that both yourself and the tenant(s) sign the Tenancy Agreement and that the signatures are witnessed. It's a good idea for both you and the tenant to initial each page of the agreement. Give the tenant a copy of the agreement and retain a copy for yourself.
It's vital that any AST specifies that the tenant is responsible of paying the Council Tax, TV licence, water rates and gas and electricity bills.
Remember that where there is more than one tenant that ALL officially named tenants must sign the agreement and that they understand that they are joint and severally liable for the rent. This means that if there are say two tenants and one of them disappears the other is responsible for all of the rent.
Where do I get an AST from?
Be careful about this. There are ASTs available for free download over the internet but the old maxim usually applies that you get what you pay for.
The Solicitors' Law Stationery is a good source, The Residential Landlords' Association is another, or to be really sure you could download one from the government website.
This link takes you to a PDF download that includes preliminary guidance about your responsibilities as a landlord etc plus general guidance.