For shared rented flats/houses and whole rented flats/houses (ie where the property owner is not resident) you may be required to sign a tenancy agreement. Resulting from the Housing Act 1996, all tenancies starting on or after 28 February 1997 are automatically Assured Shorthold Tenancies.
The usual tenancy period for students is either for 6 months or for the academic year (ie 9/10 months). Try to avoid signing for 12 months unless you intend staying in the property over the summer vacation as you will continue to be responsible for paying the rent until the expiry date, unless the owner agrees to terminate the contract.
When signing such a fixed term agreement, it is important to find out what happens if you wish to leave before the fixed term expires as you could be liable for the rent for the whole period.
Landlords must supply information on:
You should ask the landlord to set out in the tenancy agreement:
With an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement you will either be an individual tenant or a joint tenant.
For shared rented flats/houses most tenants will have an individual tenancy agreement, which means that they are only liable for their own room (for instance, if one or more sharers fail to pay their rent or leave before the expiry date of the tenancy without the permission of the landlord, the landlord can only take action against the defaulting tenant(s).
For whole properties there is usually one joint agreement signed by all the sharers and only one rent to collect for the whole property. If you are a joint tenant you should be aware that you would be jointly and severally responsible, meaning that all sharers are jointly responsible for each other's obligations (for instance, if one or more sharers default on their rent or leave before the expiry date of the tenancy without the landlords permission, then the remaining sharers would have to make up the difference on the rent until you find a replacement (with the owner's permission).
Some owners do not give written agreements as there is no legal requirement for them to do so and verbal agreements are still legal. However, if you have exclusive possession of the property, a contract will exist and a tenancy will have been created. Where a tenancy is created you will have certain rights and security of tenure even though there is no written agreement. However, written agreements are useful because each party knows what their responsibilities and duties are and the possibility of misunderstanding the terms of the agreement are reduced.
Do make sure you read through carefully and fully understand any tenancy agreement before you sign. Never sign anything you do not understand. If you cannot accept the terms and conditions of a tenancy agreement do not sign to move in. Always get a copy of the signed Agreement.
On finding a place to live, you will probably have some additional costs, see below
You may be required to pay a deposit (usually equivalent to one month's rent) either before or at the time you sign a tenancy agreement. The deposit is usually held against any damage/loss, unpaid household bills, rent arrears or dirty condition of the property after the expiry date of the agreement. It is important to make sure in writing the amount paid, exactly what it covers, that it is returnable and the circumstances under which part or all of the deposit may be withheld, and arrangements for getting your money back at the end of the tenancy. Information on the tenancy deposit protection scheme is provided below.
Remember: Generally deposits cannot be used by the landlord to pay for fair wear and tear. Similarly, you will be in breach of your contract if you withhold your last month's rent in lieu of return of your deposit unless that landlord gives you permission to do so.
From 6th April 2007, all deposits taken by landlords or agents in respect of Assured Shorthold Tenancies must be protected with one of the three government approved schemes. This must be done within 30 days of the deposit being paid and you should be provided with a notice giving all the prescribed information within the 30 days. It is advisable to check with all the scheme administrators to find out whether your deposit has been protected with their scheme. If it is clear that your landlord has not complied, then you can go to the Small Claims Court and ask for the money either to be returned to you or to be protected with the Tenancy Deposit Protection Sercice.
The three government approved schemes are:
At the end of tenancy, the condition and contents of the property should be checked against the agreement made at the start of the tenancy. You then agree with the landlord or agent how much of the deposit will be returned to you and the amount is returned within 10 days. If no agreement can be reached about how much of the deposit should be returned, the scheme which is protecting the deposit will offer a free service to resolve the dispute. You can also contact the The Dispute Service - 0845 226 7837.
- Any form of money that is taken at the beginning of a tenancy agreement on the understanding that it will be returned to you at the end of the tenancy needs to be safeguarded, whether its is called a 'deposit' or not.
- When signing a new tenancy agreement with your landlord/agent, ask how your deposit will be protected. Your landlord/letting agent must be able to provide you with the details of the Government-approved scheme protecting your deposit.
- Lodgings accommodation, where students share their accommodation with a resident landlord are currently not covered by the scheme.
Further information on the Tenancy Deposit Scheme is available form:
Department for Communities and Local Government
The owner may require an amount (usually one month in advance). This is usually used to cover the last month of your tenancy.
It is in your best interest to agree an inventory with the owner of the contents of the property at the start of your tenancy as this will avoid disputes at the end of your tenancy. This should list all the furnishings and their condition, including photos of any damaged items (for example stained carpets, marks on walls etc). Invite your landlord to inspect the property and highlight any damage before you leave. This gives you the opportunity to rectify any problems thus preventing deductions being made from your deposit. Always keep a copy of the signed and dated inventory.
Most tenants renting whole properties or shared accommodation are liable for the gas, electricity and telephone used during their tenancy. In addition you should check whether you will be expected to pay for water charges.
Students renting either a house share or a complete property may be asked to provide some form of personal or financial reference. Increasingly, owners are requesting the names of guarantors to be supplied, to be used in the event of students defaulting on their rent.
Council Tax is a charge made by Local Authorities (Councils) on residential properties to pay for local services that they provide such as rubbish collection, the police and the fire brigade.
Only properties occupied exclusively by full-time students are exempt. If you are a full-time student and you share a property with part-time students or non-students there will be a bill for the property but you should be disregarded for the purposes of calculating the bill. It is up to the other members of the household to decide how the bill should be apportioned and paid. Confirmation of your student status to the landlord or Local Authority is required to obtain an exemption or reduction in your bill. You can order an exemption letter through your myUniHub account. You must be enrolled and attending a full-time programme.
If you share a property with the owner (i.e. lodgings) then the owner will be liable. Part of the cost may be passed on to you through your rent, but the local authority cannot make you pay the bill. See Rough Cut: Council Tax 2012/13 for further information.