Before signing a housing contract, remember you are signing a legally binding document so it is important that you understand what you are signing before you sign. It is possible to have a verbal agreement, but it is more difficult to establish and enforce your legal position.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies
Most students who rent from private landlords have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, which gives them the exclusive right to occupy a room or house for at least 6 months or an agreed fixed-term period, and entitles them to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the premises. Landlords can recover possession of the property at the end of the fixed term.
It is common for students to live together in a shared house with either an individual or joint Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement:
1. Individual tenancy
Each tenant has a separate agreement they alone have signed, with the exclusive right to occupy their room, and the shared right of access to the common areas e.g. bathroom, kitchen. Each tenant is individually responsible for paying the rent for their room.
2. Joint tenancy
This is a single tenancy granted to, and signed by, a group of people. The tenants, have the exclusive right to occupy all of the premises. The liability for observing the terms of the contract and paying rent falls ‘joint and severally’, meaning everyone in the house is responsible.
What if I live with my landlord?
If you have a ‘resident’ landlord you will not have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy – you will be either an ‘unprotected tenant’ or a ‘licensee’. To qualify as a resident your landlord must have lived in the same building as you continuously since the start of the tenancy and it must be your landlord’s only or main home.
Fixed-Term or Periodic Tenancy
A tenancy may either:
• Last for a fixed number of weeks, months or years – a fixed-term tenancy.
• Run indefinitely from one rent period to the next – a periodic tenancy.
What type of tenancy you have affects the notice you can or must give to end the tenancy.
Many letting agents and some landlords require a guarantor form signed by your parents. This is a form that guarantees payment of the rent and any other bills that you are liable for under the terms of the agreement. If the tenancy is joint, be careful that the form is worded correctly otherwise your parents could find themselves liable for money owed by the other tenants.
Unfair Tenancy Terms
Your landlord (or their agent) should not use unfair terms in the agreement, i.e. impose unfair penalties, restrictions or obligations on you, or they are not clear about what you have to pay.
Citizens Advice –For more information about tenancy agreements use this link