Moving into a house after university halls could be the first time you use a letting agent, sign a tenancy agreement and become responsible for more than just a room. To help you get on your way, we’ve created a list of some of the key things you’ll need to know when signing a rental agreement and what they mean for you.
Most tenants will sign an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). You will most likely be offered a Fixed Term Contract initially e.g. September to September and you will be responsible for rent for the whole of this period, even if you move out as soon as your final term finishes or for any holidays.
You may be offered a rolling contract at the end of your fixed term tenancy, which usually means you’ll have to give a minimum of one month’s notice when you want to leave. Your landlord will normally have to give you two months if they want you to move out, but check your contract so you know exactly what the notice period is.
Your letting agent will either give each housemate their own contract or create a joint tenancy between you all. Make sure you know your contract type – if you have your own contract and your housemate doesn’t pay their rent, you won’t be affected. However, if you are on a joint tenancy and one housemate doesn’t pay, your landlord is within their rights to ask you and the other housemates to cover this cost.
The landlord or letting agent may insist that you need a guarantor. The guarantor is responsible for covering your share of the rent should you fail to pay it. Typically guarantors are either parents or guardians - remember to check your letting agent’s guarantor criteria. Your guarantor should be aware that they will be held responsible for any damage to the property and could be named in legal proceedings if started by the landlord.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Your landlord must protect your deposit in one of three government-backed deposit schemes and has 30 days to confirm to you which scheme your money is with. When speaking to the letting agent or landlord make sure you check which scheme you’ll be signed up to. Find out more about deposits.
Credit checks and references
You might have a credit history check carried out against you or your guarantor. Credit checks are used by agents and landlords to provide them with information about your identity, credit history, previous addresses, income and more. These checks are used to assess if you can afford to pay the rent and that there aren’t any unpaid debts against your name.
Your rights as a tenant
As a tenant you have the right to a minimum of 24 hours’ notice from your landlord or letting agent if they want to visit the property. You may have routine property inspections, which will be stated in your contract. Make sure this is detailed out when reading through your contract and if it’s not included, ensure it’s added in before you sign.
This notice period should also apply to any tradesmen requiring access to the property for standard repairs or checks, such as boiler and gas checks. Emergency repairs will not be subject to the 24 hour policy.
Your landlord should expect fair wear and tear to the property and in return you are expected to maintain the property to an acceptable standard. Your contract might say that you are responsible for maintenance of some of the fixtures and fittings, such as cleaning carpets and curtains. Check your contract for further details on what you’re responsible for.
Which letting agent to choose?
There are lots of different landlords and letting agents to choose from. Speak to your friends and course mates for recommendations. Your university and student union may have a dedicated section offering advice and support, as well as information on where to find landlords.
Good quality agents will display memberships for organisations such as the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) or the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) so check they have accreditation before proceeding.
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