Last updated: 05/01/2021
If you’re student house hunting for the first time, you’re probably encountering all sorts of letting agent and property jargon you’ve never come across before.
It’s important to understand your tenancy agreement before signing the dotted line, because as soon as you do you’ll become responsible for not just paying rent, but making sure you adhere to any other contract terms as well – for example, you will likely be financially responsible for any damage caused to the landlord’s property during the tenancy.
To help you understand your student tenancy agreement and speed up the lettings process, here are some of the key bits of property jargon you may come across during your hunt for student accommodation!
Someone acting on behalf of the landlord, usually a letting agent – an agent will carry out responsibilities such as managing the property and any repairs, collecting rent and carrying out credit checks at the start of the tenancy. If your student house has an agent, this is likely who you will be speaking to on a day to day basis.
This is the term given to the amount of outstanding rent if the tenant doesn’t pay, and can refer to either a full month’s rent or just a part of it. It’s important to pay your rent on time, as falling into arrears can result in an eviction notice – you can find out more about this below.
Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
Most student tenants will sign an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). Make sure you read and understand this before signing.
You will most likely be offered a Fixed Term contract e.g. September to September. This means you are responsible for rent for the whole of this period, even if you move out during the holidays. Your letting agent will either give each housemate their own contract or create a joint tenancy between you all.
Top tip: Weigh up how well you know and trust your housemates before deciding whether to take on an individual or joint tenancy. Remember - if you are on a joint tenancy and one housemate doesn’t pay their rent, your landlord is within their rights to ask you to pay the shortfall.
Break (or “release”) clause
This is the term given to a clause in your student tenancy agreement that allows either you or the landlord to give two months (or more) written notice to terminate the agreement after a specific date or period of tenancy.
This refers to any living space in your student house that is shared between the tenants – such as the kitchen, living room, hallways and garden. It’s important to understand which areas of the property you are solely responsible for, and which are the responsibility of all the housemates - this can help to avoid deposit disputes at the end of your student tenancy.
This is a sum of money that will be paid to the landlord (or letting agent) at the start of your tenancy. This will usually be returned in full when you move out, subject to the condition of the property. For example, any costs associated with cleaning or property damage could be deducted from your deposit, so it’s important to keep a detailed inventory to ensure you have a record of any furniture supplied by the landlord - and its condition - when you moved in.
If you fail to pay your rent, you may receive an eviction notice. This is a written notice from your landlord or letting agent stating that you must either fulfil the terms of the tenancy agreement (i.e., making up any rent arrears) or vacate the property within a specified amount of time. It’s important to act on an eviction notice and fulfil the terms of your contract quickly to avoid lengthy court proceedings.
Here are a few things you need to know about tenancy evictions.
Fixtures and fittings
This usually refers to the contents in the property that are provided by the landlord, and can include items such as carpets, kitchen units and fitted white goods. If your property has been let out furnished, this will also include any furniture provided by the landlord. Bear in mind that if there has been any damage to fixtures and fittings during your tenancy, this will usually be deducted from your deposit.
Your guarantor, normally a parent or guardian, is responsible for covering your share of the rent should you fail to pay it. Your guarantor should be aware that - as well as being responsible for unpaid rent - they will also be taking responsibility for any damage to the property and could be named in legal proceedings if initiated by the landlord.
An inventory is an itemised list that records the condition and contents of the property at the start of the tenancy, and can be extremely handy in preventing deposit disputes. You can find out more about inventories and how to create one here.
Tenant Deposit Scheme
Once you’ve paid your tenancy deposit, your landlord must protect it in one of three government-backed deposit schemes and has 30 days to confirm to you which scheme your money is with.
Tenants liability insurance
If you’re a tenant living in a rented home, your landlord may have furnished the property before you moved in. However, if any of the landlord’s belongings (such as furniture, fixtures or fittings) were to be accidentally damaged while you’re living there, the landlord may expect you to cover the cost of the damage out of your tenancy deposit.
Tenants’ liability insurance is a cover that can be provided as part of your student contents insurance policy to provide a level of protection for your landlord’s belongings.
A reference provides the letting agent and landlord with information about your identity, credit history, previous addresses, income and more. These checks are mainly to confirm that you will be able to afford to pay the rent and that there is no adverse information detailed against you, such as County Court Judgements for unpaid debts.
As a student, you may not have enough of a credit or employment history to provide a meaningful reference – in these circumstances, you will usually need to assign a student tenancy guarantor that your landlord or letting agent can reference instead.
As a tenant you have the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property – this means a minimum of 24 hours’ notice from your landlord or letting agent if they want to pay a visit. You may also have routine property inspections - if so this will be stated in your student tenancy agreement.
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