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Context

So, I'm going through the process of creating a shorthold tenancy with a private landlord in the UK. We've done our references and now are down to signing the contract.

Everything in the contract is fine and pretty standard except there seems to be a clause that has potential to be used as a blanket clause at the landlords discretion for any situation.

Clause 3.3 The tenant must not use the Property for any illegal, immoral, disorderly or anti-social purposes.

Obviously we're not planning to Graffiti up our neighbours flats or anything of the sort.

I'm just curious to know if there are any laws protecting me as a tenant from the landlord abusing that i.e immoral is certainly subjective and realistically he could find anything he doesn't like immoral?

Question

Do any laws exist to ensure there is a limit on what can be considered reasonable? If not, am I within my rights to ask the landlord to expand on that clause to ensure there is no doubt between the two parties?

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Under an AST agreement the landlord is not permitted to evict you on a whim - if you refuse to leave, in order to 'take possession' the landlord must persuade a court to give him a court order.

http://england.shelter.org.uk/legal/security_of_tenure/assured_tenancies/ending_an_assured_tenancy/applying_for_possession_assured_tenancies

In the fixed term the landlord must first serve the tenant a 'section 8 notice' with a 'ground for possession' (there are 20).

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/50/schedule/2

http://england.shelter.org.uk/legal/security_of_tenure/assured_tenancies/ending_an_assured_tenancy/grounds_for_possession_assured_tenancies

Were you to refuse or fight it a court would determine whether the landlord may take possession on the ground in the section 8 notice.

That particular clause you are concerned about is common to the AST agreements I've seen. See for example the government's model agreement:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/695944/Model_Agreement_for_an_Assured_Shorthold_Tenancy_and_Accompanying_Guidance.docx

The guidance isn't specific about "illegal, immoral, disorderly or anti-social purposes" but examples elsewhere include prostitution in the property (doing it yourself or allowing it to be done) or it being used to store stolen goods.

http://england.shelter.org.uk/legal/security_of_tenure/assured_tenancies/ending_an_assured_tenancy/grounds_for_possession_assured_tenancies/discretionary_grounds_assured_tenancies#7

I'm just curious to know if there are any laws protecting me as a tenant from the landlord abusing that i.e immoral is certainly subjective and realistically he could find anything he doesn't like immoral?

It is unrealistic to assume the landlord can take possession based on saying anything he doesn't like is immoral.

Do any laws exist to ensure there is a limit on what can be considered reasonable?

Statute isn't specific about what's "reasonable". Ultimately what's reasonable is what the court says is reasonable. You can look at case law.

http://england.shelter.org.uk/legal/security_of_tenure/assured_tenancies/ending_an_assured_tenancy/grounds_for_possession_assured_tenancies/discretionary_grounds_assured_tenancies#1

If not, am I within my rights to ask the landlord to expand on that clause to ensure there is no doubt between the two parties?

You are free to ask the landlord what that clause means and to define it specifically - the landlord is free to do so or walk away from the deal.

Consider that landlords tend to want tenants who will pay on time, keep the property clean and warn them about maintenance problems - I doubt the majority have any interest in their tenants' private lives that the landlord comes to know about unless the landlord anticipates an economic impact.

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Tenancy agreements are regarded as consumer contracts, and so must be "fair". What constitutes "fair" comes from a mixture of the law and previous court cases.

In this case, if a landlord wanted to evict you for any of the stated reasons, he would have to convince a judge that what you had done was in breach of this clause, and that it is sufficient to warrant an eviction.

Because breach of tenancy agreement obligations is a discretionary ground, even if the judge agrees that you have broken the agreement, he is not required to issue an eviction order.

Realistically, if the landlord really wanted to evict you, he would wait for any fixed term to end, and issue a section 21 ("no fault") notice instead. The only defence to a section 21 notice is that the landlord hasn't followed the correct procedures, so it avoids having to interpret the agreement altogether.

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