Student guide to tenancy agreements
Let studentbeans.com talk you through tenancy jargon and problems.
When you find that perfect house (10 minutes from uni, 30 seconds from your local) it's very tempting to jump in and grab it without paying much attention to the tenancy agreement. However, a little attention to detail could save you big problems later on, so brush up on all you need to know with our simple guide to tenancy agreements.
Different types of tenancy agreements
Fixed or periodic?
Assured Shorthold (Fixed Term) The most common type of contract for students, this means the tenancy is guaranteed for at least 6 months, normally for 12. During this period you and your landlord are bound by the rights and obligations of the contract. The landlord cannot ask the tenant to move out during this period (except under specific circumstances such as rent arrears, and even then a court order is needed). The tenant must pay the rent for the whole of the fixed term.
Periodic Term A periodic tenancy runs from period to period (such as a week, month or quarter). It is a perfectly valid way of setting up a tenancy and means greater flexibility in terms of how long you stay, but does provide less certainty both for the tenant and the landlord. Both will need to give notice before the property is vacated.
Joint or individual?
Joint Tenancies The majority of shared households will have a joint tenancy. This means all the sharers sign up to one joint agreement and are bound together by its terms. It also means that any or all of the tenants can be held liable to the conditions of the contract i.e. if one person stops paying their rent everyone is equally responsible for settling the bill. Number one rule: make sure you trust your housemates!
Individual Tenancy With this type of tenancy you are only responsible for your individual share of the rent. You will have the right to 'quiet enjoyment' or your room, but only shared use of the communal areas. The downside of this is that you have no say in who shares the house with you, and potential housemates can be shown around communal areas and empty rooms at the landlord's disgression.
- Keeping the structure and exterior of the house in good nick (including drains, gutters and external pipes).
- Keeping water, gas, electricity and sanitation installations in good working order (we're talking basins, baths, central heating etc.)
- Providing tenants with their full name and address.
- Allowing tenants to 'peacefully enjoy' their accommodation (unless there is an emergency). Landlords do have the right to enter the property at reasonable times if they need to carry out repairs or inspect the condition of the property, although 24 hours notice must be given, in writing, before an inspection is carried out.
- Looking after the house in a 'tenant-like manner', for example cleaning, replacing light bulbs and unblocking the sink.
- Not damaging the house - if you do you're responsible for the repairs.
- Putting the bins out for refuse collection.
- Being reasonable about noise and parties - give your neighbours warning and try to keep it to the weekends.
- Leaving the property secure when you go out.
- Reporting all repairs needed to the Landlord (preferably in writing). Only when the landlord is aware of the problem does their responsibility for it begin. If the fault is not corrected within a reasonable period of time then seek advice from your Student Advice Centre or the Citizen's Advice Bureau.
What to look out for in a tenancy agreement.
First things first, make sure you read ALL the Terms and Conditions in the contract thoroughly - it might sound obvious but it's easy to miss something if you just skim over them. If anything seems vague or unclear then don't sign the contract until they have been fully explained.Included in the contract should be:
- The names and addresses of the landlord and tenants.
- Rent payments and frequency of payments.
- Type of tenancy.
- Date the tenancy begins and ends.
- Notice to quit details.
- Responsibility for repairs to the property.
- Details of council tax exemptions (students don't pay!)
- The rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenants.
Find out which bills (e.g. electricity, water) are included in the rent and which you will have to pay for separately, and insist that this is stated clearly in the contract.
Make absolutely sure you want to stay in the property for the entire length or the contract. If you think you might need to get out early, you need a 'break clause' to be added, otherwise you remain legally liable for all rent payments whether you're using the property or not. However, be aware it is rare for landlords to accept a break clause, as it means they will have to look for new tenants more frequently.
Remember the contract is up for negotiation - if there is anything you want changed then discuss it with your landlord until you are both happy with the agreement. It's also a good idea to get the contract checked - this can be by a friend or parent or, better still, by your Student Accommodation Centre or the Citizen's Advice Bureau.