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Congratulations on having found that perfect student house or flat to share with your friends. Now it’s down to the nitty gritty of sorting it all out!
As a private tenant, it’s likely that you’ll have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement used to let whole properties for a fixed period. It can be used for either joint or individual tenancies.
A joint tenancy agreement is where the landlord provides one agreement for a whole property which is signed by all members of the property with each person jointly responsible for meeting the terms of the tenancy in full.
An individual tenancy agreement, or sole tenancy agreement, is where one person in the property has signed the tenancy agreement with the landlord and is responsible for paying all the rent and bills. Although everyone else still has to pay their share, the person whose name is on the tenancy agreement is responsible for providing the money if one or more people don’t pay up their share.
Separate tenancies means everyone living in the property will have their own agreement with the landlord and are responsible for paying the amount of rent each month as stated in their agreement.
If someone drops out of your accommodation whilst in a contract in a joint tenancy you will need to replace them or cover the remaining rent between you. In an individual tenancy agreement, you'll still have to replace them or their rent, however on the named person is responsible. If you have separate tenancies, which are common in managed or private halls, you won't be responsible for the other tenants.
Your written tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord, and will include information such as the name and address of your landlord; the address of the property you’re renting; how much rent you are paying and how long you can stay in the property.
The agreement may also include when the rent is due each month; how it should be paid; what it covers, e.g. bills, TV licence; what furniture is provided, if any; whether you have to pay a deposit and how the tenancy agreement can be brought to an end. It's likely that you'll sign an agreement to last a year and after that you can either find a new property, sign a lease for a further year or the tenancy will automatically revert to a rolling contract which means that you won't have to give as much notice and won't be liable for the rent for the year (just like a mobile phone contract!).
Although the language of tenancy agreements is a feat to get over in itself, you should check for any unfair clauses, such as one saying you have to pay for repairs that are the responsibility of the landlord, or one saying your landlord can enter the property whenever they like, without giving you notice.
If you think your tenancy agreement includes any clauses that seem to be unfair, you can ask a housing advisor at your university accommodation office to look at the agreement for you.
It’s more than likely that you’ll have to nominate a guarantor. A guarantor, usually one of your parents or a guardian, is someone who agrees to take over the payment of your rent and bills if you fail to pay. They will have to prove that they can pay the rent if anything happens and will have to sign the agreement along with you. The guarantor must be over 18, in full-time employment and a UK resident. If you do not have a guarantor, you may be asked to pay a portion or all of your rent in advance.
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To secure your property and show that you are serious about it the landlord will normally ask for a deposit (usually one month’s rent). The deposit will also be used by the owner as an assurance that any damage to the property will be covered. It’s held under what’s known as the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and, as long as there are no defaults in payment or damage, you’ll receive the money at the end of the tenancy agreement.
You might also be asked to pay one month’s rent in advance, but don’t hand over any money until you’ve inspected the property and are happy with its condition and any agreements you made when registering your interest. After this, rent will normally be paid every month by standing order.
Some letting agents also impose a reservation fee or an administration fee to sign the tenancy agreement.
As a student, you have the same rights as any other private tenant. There are some landlords out there that try and rip off students, so do your research into the type of tenancy you have and know your rights.
When you move in you’ll also get an inventory of the contents of the accommodation. If you don’t get one, ask the landlord to provide one. The inventory lists all the items provided in the property and if you break something it’s your responsibility to replace it. If there are items missing or broken on the list when you move out you’ll pay for them via your deposit - you landlord should write a list of damages and costs - whilst if you’re up to scratch the inventory will help you get your full deposit back when you leave. If there’s something broken or damaged when you move in it’s a good idea to take a note or photograph it so you can state your case if they come asking for money when you move out.