Before you sign a contract don't forget - tenancy agreements are legally binding. Breaking any of the terms in a contract may result in either financial and/or legal consequences.
Types of tenancy
The majority of tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies and these can be periodic or fixed, joint or sole. For advice on the type of contract you are being asked to sign take a copy to the Students’ Union Advice Centre (SUAC) BEFORE you sign it, pay any money to a landlord or agent or make any verbal undertakings to move into the property. For more information on contracts for considering living in the private rented sector go to Shelter.
Periodic tenancies are renewed continually, either weekly or monthly, and can be ended after a set period of notice has been given.
These are for a set period of time (usually one academic year) and cannot be ended early. But, both private landlords and University housing may allow you to end the tenancy if you find a replacement to carry on with your contract.
Joint and Sole
A joint tenancy is one you share with your housemate/s. All of your names will be on the contract and you will all be ‘joint and severally’ responsible for rent, damages etc. The main problem with this is that if someone leaves for whatever reason, the rest of you become liable to pay their rent.? So if four of you sign at £300 per month, and one of your group goes home after two months, your rent increases to £400 per month. While it’s possible for you to then chase him/her through the small claims courts, it can be time consuming and costly.
Sole, or individual, tenancy
This means that you have your individual space, for example your bedroom, but that you all share communal areas (and any costs that may be incurred to do with them). You will also sign an individual contract. If you leave your accommodation early, without complying with the contract, you will be liable for the remainder of the rent until the end of the academic year. This goes for both Uni and Private housing.
Be clear on what you want
You can negotiate a contract with a landlord.? If there’s something you disagree with in the contract – talk to them. The only time you will be able to do this is before you agree to take the property on as this is when you have some bargaining power, but make sure you get any agreements in writing on the contract.
The minimum you should expect to see in any contract is:
People included on the agreement
Address of the property
Length of the fixed term
Amount of rent and what it covers (i.e. water bills)
Details of how and when the rent is payable
Be aware that even if you go through an agency, they have a legal obligation to provide you with the landlords’ details.? You can request these in writing, and expect a response within 21 days, or they are breaking the law.
You should ask for a copy of the full contract as it will have details about the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord, and the tenant, and explain ways in which the terms of the agreement may be broken. Read the CUSU Advice Centre housing section on rights and responsibilities.
If you have any difficulties contact SUAC.