Contracts

Housing contracts can be difficult to understand. SUBU Advice can help you understand the terms in your contract, and explain what your landlord or letting agent can/cannot do.

 

Before signing a contract you need to make sure that you fully understand all the terms within it.

Students are usually required to sign an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. If you live with your landlord and share common areas (kitchen/bathroom) you are considered to be an 'excluded occupier'. You and your landlord’s rights and responsibilities differ depending on the type of contract you have. It’s important to know your rights and responsibilities. SUBU Advice offers a free contract checking service. Drop in to our offices or email us a copy.

Shelter has some useful information on their webpages so ensure you check this out too.

 

Don't feel rushed in to signing up, take your time and consider if the accommodation meets all you needs and that you are happy with all the terms in your contract. The phrases below are taken from contracts, look out for these kinds of things within your contracts. Remember to read your contract thoroughly, and that SUBU Advice can always look over it too for you!

 

Legal Phrases and Clauses

They say: ‘To maintain and use the premises in a good and tenant-like manner and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing to keep the interior of the Premises and the Landlord’s fittings  and fixtures and the Chattels thoroughly cleansed neat and tidy and in good repair and condition’.

 

We say: Look out for legal phrases or clauses that are not in plain English. Ensure you understand what they mean before signing the contract. This basically means you iwll maintain the property to the standard in which it was handed over to you and you will report any repairs within a reasonable period of time.

 

Paying your rent

They Say: ‘You agree to rent the property and its content (if any) until you or I end this agreement. In return you will pay the rent at least five working days before the 10th day of each month.’

 

We Say: Ensure you know exactly what date your rent is due and note this on your contract. This rent is due 5 working days before the 10th of each month so the date will vary month-to-month as weekends and bank holidays are not working days.

 

Their rights vs. yours

They Say: ‘Allow me and my agents to place a ‘For Sale’ or ‘To Let’ notice on the property and allow all authorised people to enter and view the property subject to me/my agent giving you a reasonable period of notice, not exceeding 24 hours. In the case of student lets this may be several months before the tenancy is due to commence. If my agent is unable to contact you they may enter the property with prospective new tenants to view the property’.

 

We Say: You have the right occupy your accommodation as it if was your own and have an underlying right to Quiet Enjoyment. A letting agent or landlord cannot simply let themselves in whenever they want. There is no reason why a letting or landlord couldn’t get in touch with you as they can call, email and write to your address. It is common for letting agents to contact the 'lead tenant' only so although you may not be aware, one of your housemates may be. If this is the case the letting agent has not breached your right to Quiet Enjoyment.

 

They Say:‘I may immediately enter the property and end this agreement, without affecting my rights by law or under this agreement, if you do any of the following.

a) You do not pay the rent in full within 14 (fourteen) days of it becoming due...’

 

We say: Most student lets are assured shorthold tenancies. This means that a landlord has to prove specific grounds to the Court in order to seek possession of the property. They can’t simply enter the accommodation and kick you out as this would be an illegal eviction.

 

Fees

They Say: 'Pay a late penalty charge amount of £10.00 per day per tenant on any rent which you have not paid within 7 (seven) days of it becoming due.... If you are a group of three or more this penalty will apply to each person.’

 

We Say: Most student lets are joint and several which means there is technically only one tenant. If your contract states your rent and deposit as a lump sum (doesn’t split it individually) then charges shouldn’t be applied individually.

 

Rent

They Say: ‘Rent: £950’  ‘Deposit: £1350’

 

We Say: Is the rent and deposit stated on the contract what was advertised and therefore what you agreed to? 

 

Jargon Buster

  • Assured Shorthold Tenancy: most landlords/agents use an Assured Shorthold

  • Tenancy agreement. If you sign a fixed term contract you are liable to pay rent for the full period, unless there is a specific clause in your contract that allows you to give notice and quit the agreement early (this is very rare). This type of agreement means that as a tenant you have exclusive possession of the property. The landlord/agent can have access to the property (e.g. for repairs/inspections), but you should be given notice and they should only contact you during reasonable working hours.

  • Caveat Emptor: Latin for 'buyer beware' – applicable to any market and that includes housing.

  • Environmental Health Service: the local authority department responsible for ensuring that your landlord complies with legislation which is adequate and healthy.

  • Exclusive Possession: a type of tenancy where a landlord is required to have a valid permission before entering the house you have rented.

  • Fixed Term Contract: a contract which you are locked into renting for a specific period (often 6 months or more) unless there is a specific break clause written into the contract.

  • Gas Safety Certificate: all gas appliances your landlord provides must be correctly maintained and a gas safety check carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer. By law, your landlord must give you a copy of the Landlord’s Gas Safety Record (also referred to as the Landlords’ Gas Safety Certificate).

  • Guarantor: a person agreeing to pay your rent in your absence – and possibly that of your housemates if your contract is Joint and Severally Liable.

  • Hidden Costs: money you may find yourself having to pay if you don’t read the small print.

  • Holding Deposit: this is different to Security Deposit, as it is sometimes charged by landlords prior to you signing an agreement as a guarantee that you will take the house.

  • Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO): is a house or a flat that is occupied by more than one household. If the property is on at least 3 stories, and contains 5 or more people, it will need to be licensed by your local council

  • Individual Liability Guarantor Form: a form you can pick up from The Advice Centre that (once signed by your landlord) ensures that your guarantor is only liable for you, even if the contract is joint.

  • Joint and Severally Liable: a housing agreement (an Assured Shorthold Tenancy) signed by all housemates.

  • Letting Agents: an estate agent or other commercial enterprise that earns a profit from helping you find a house or flat and completing administration and legal documents.

  • Licensee: a type of rental agreement (often when you share the property with your landlord) where you have fewer rights than if you live in an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

  • Security Deposit: your payment (held under a recognised scheme) to protect your landlord from potential costs or unpaid bills when you move out.

  • Statute 21 Notice of Eviction: a court notice which needs be served if the landlord wishes to evict you from an Assured Shorthold Tenancy before the end of the fixed term.

  • Statutory Periodic Tenancy: a rolling contract which runs from one payment date to the next (means that if rent is paid monthly then either party is entitled to give one month notice).

  • Unfair Terms: a clause in your rental agreement not written in clear, plain English or that is unreasonable such as:

    • The landlord has the power to change the agreement when s/he likes

    • You have to pay costs for which the landlord should be responsible

    • That the landlord can come round when they wish without a valid reason

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