Contracts and agreements
A contract or tenancy agreement is a legally binding document. It is important to spend time reading and understanding it before you sign. it is important you understand the following areas:
Guarantors are required by most letting agencies and some landlords. A guarantor is a person who agrees to pay rent or damages if the tenant does not make payment.
For students, this is usually parents or guardians but you can ask another relative or your partner, or use a guarantor company such as Housing Hand. Make sure your guarantor is willing to take on this responsibility before you agree to a property.
The guarantor agreement may apply to your rent or damages only, however some agreements may apply to the 'the tenant'. If you are signing a joint tenancy with a group of people, 'the tenant' means the whole group: your guarantor is therefore being asked to guarantee the rent or damages for the whole property.
It is unusual for guarantors to be called upon if the deposit you paid is enough to cover the damages or unpaid rent.
Advice for EU or International students
Landlords and agencies usually require a guarantor who lives in the UK. This may not always be possible for non-UK students. As an alternative, you could offer references from previous landlords, your bank, an employer or sponsor. Housing Hand are an organisation who may be able to provide you with a UK based guarantor.
If you cannot provide a UK guarantor, you may be asked to pay a large deposit, or several months' rent in advance. Don’t agree to this unless you are absolutely certain you can afford it.
There are different types of tenancy agreements and arrangements:
With this tenancy you are only responsible for your own rent and any deposit you have paid. If another tenant doesn’t pay rent or damages the property, your landlord cannot ask you to cover their costs. You have exclusive possession of your bedroom and shared access to common areas.
If you rent a property with a group of friends, this is likely to be a joint tenancy. Each person named on the tenancy agreement is jointly and individually responsible for the rent for the whole property and any other tenancy conditions. For example, if one of your co-tenants leaves the property and stops paying rent, your landlord is entitled to collect the rent owed from the remaining tenants.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies
Where a landlord does not live in the property with their tenants, this form of agreement is called an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). ASTs can apply to joint or individual tenancies. ASTs give you certain rights during the letting period, especially with regards to notice periods. You also have statutory rights and common law rights to protect you. More information on your rights under the terms of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy is available on our housing contract factsheet (PDF).
If you live in the same house as the owner and share facilities, then you have a resident landlord. As their tenant, you are an 'excluded occupier'. Excluded occupiers have limited rights compared to Assured Shorthold tenants. For instance, your landlord can give you 28 days notice to leave a property at any time. If you do share with a resident landlord it is very important you both understand the 'house rules' to avoid conflict, for example when it is appropriate to have guests to stay, or when to switch the heating on.
When you sign a tenancy agreement you are normally required to pay a security or damage deposit to the landlord or agency. The amount can vary but is usually the equivalent of 1 month or 6 weeks rent. The deposit is security against any unpaid rent or damage that you cause. Your deposit should be returned to you in full at the end of your tenancy unless your landlord can prove a financial loss. Landlords can make deductions from your deposit for:
- the cost of replacing any damaged or missing contents of the property,
- the cost of changing locks if keys were not returned on time,
- the cost of repairing any damage (but not wear and tear)
- unpaid rent
Deposit Protection Schemes
Landlords must protect your deposit in a government approved deposit scheme. Within 30 days of receiving the deposit the landlord or agency must provide you with information about: which scheme they use, how to apply for the release of the deposit, and what to do if there is a dispute.
If your deposit is not protected within this time, or this information is not given to you, then you may be able to take the landlord to court and claim up to 3 times the sum of the deposit. Find out more about the deposit protection scheme on the government website: gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection
Some landlords appear to be finding alternatives to using the government approved deposit schemes, for example, taking your money but call it something different such as a bond, charging two months rent in advance instead of taking a deposit or using a guarantor as financial security. Not all of these alternatives are lawful. Find out exactly what your landlord will do with your deposit. If you have any concerns, contact the Accommodation Office.
It is usual for you to pay rent each month in advance and pay by standing order from your bank account to your landlord's bank account. You could be asked to pay by post-dated cheques.
You could be asked to pay 3 months rent in advance on a quarterly basis. Think carefully about your budget before you agree to this.
For instance, if you receive a student loan once a term, is it enough to pay 3 months rent in advance? If you then move to a new property for your next year, can you afford to pay a deposit and advanced rent during the spring and summer terms?
You will need to instruct your bank to stop your standing order at the end of your tenancy otherwise your money will continue to be paid to the agency or landlord.
If you need advice about the terms of your agreement or would like us to go through your contract with you, please complete the housing advice query form and Tash Burden, our Private Sector Adviser will get in touch with you.