This article explains about the factors which are included in a housing contract.

Please also look at this article which explains your rights when signing a housing contract. There are many different factors which must be considered when signing a contract:

  • Types of tenancy

There are a variety of different types of tenancy. The most common type of agreement is the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). Landlords occasionally use an Assured Tenancy – the main difference between the two is in the way in which the landlord can gain possession of the property.

  • Fixed term

The majority of agreements will be for a fixed term, generally of nine to ten months. Once you have signed a fixed-term agreement, you are obliged to pay rent to the landlord for the duration of the tenancy. Likewise, the landlord is bound by the fixed term on the contract. If the fixed term ends and no new tenancy agreement is drawn up then the tenancy agreement becomes periodic i.e. rolling month by month.

Occasionally, a break clause is included in a contract whereby either landlord and tenant or just the landlord, are able to give notice during the tenancy to bring it to an end. Such clauses are rare, although they can be beneficial. Some fixed-term contracts will state a ‘minimum fixed term’. In such cases it is advisable that you give your landlord at least one month’s written notice (or however much is stated in your agreement) prior to the end of the tenancy. Failure to give adequate notice can result in the landlord holding you responsible for a further month’s rent (or until sufficient notice has been received). If the agreement doesn't include a break clause then a tenant cannot end the tenancy early without the landlord's agreement. If the tenant leaves anyway they can still be liable for the rent until the end of the fixed period.

If you intend to leave the property at the end of your tenancy you still have to give your landlord the correct notice period which will be written into your tenancy.

  • Joint and several liability

You may be asked to sign a joint tenancy. This is perfectly legal, but you should be aware of the implications before signing this type of contract. Although a joint tenancy will give a group of tenant’s equal rights it also means that they have to share responsibilities. This usually means covering the rent if someone leaves before the end of the tenancy. Taken to extremes it could mean that a single student is left paying the rent for the whole house! The remaining tenant would then have to pursue those that have left for outstanding rent.

  • Individual agreements

If possible, ask your landlord for an individual contract. This means that you cannot be held liable for anyone else’s rent and your contract should be individual to you and your room. You will, however, share responsibilities with the other tenants for the communal areas of the property.

  • Guarantors

The landlord may ask you to provide a guarantor. This is generally a parent or guardian who is willing to guarantee your rent payment and general obligations of the tenancy. Be careful if you have a joint contract – your guarantor can be held jointly responsible for the payment of rent for the whole property.

  • Landlord’s name and address

Always check that the landlord’s name and address is clearly shown on the agreement. You are entitled to know this information. If a landlord (or agent) refuses to provide this information, question why – the best advice is not to sign the agreement.

  • Name(s) of the tenant(s)

If you are signing a joint contract, all tenants’ names should appear on the contract. If the contract is individual then only one person should be named as tenant and the rent should be for one person.

  • Property address

Always check that the full address of the property is entered on the agreement and that it is correct.

  • Rental amount and frequency of payment

The rent shown on the contract should be the amount you have agreed to pay. If the rent is payable monthly but was advertised as weekly, make sure that this sum has been calculated correctly and that you are not paying more than you should be. The date that the rent is due should be stated on the contract, as should the rental period.

  • Method of payment

If possible, request that you pay the rent monthly, either by cheque or standing order. Payments in cash are strongly discouraged. It is quite common for landlords to request post-dated cheques – it is worth remembering that should you need to cancel a cheque for any reason you will probably incur a charge from your bank for doing so. It is also worth remembering that a landlord may be less motivated to resolve problems during the tenancy if the rent has already been paid. However you pay your rent, ask for a receipt for payment.

  • Subletting

Subletting clauses are quite common and most will forbid any form of subletting without prior permission from the landlord. Subletting occurs when the tenant allows others to move in. As a general rule only those named on the agreement can reside at the property.

  • Landlord’s access

The landlord should only enter the property with your permission. This is usually only after prior notice of a minimum of 24 hours. You must give your landlord reasonable access to the property to carry out all necessary repairs. If your landlord fails to give you reasonable notice, you are able to refuse right of entry.

  • Eviction

A clause common to tenancy agreements is a ‘forfeiture’ clause. These imply that the landlord can regain possession of the property during the tenancy. Such clauses are generally misleading – this does not mean that if you are, for example, 14 days late paying your rent, the landlord can evict you from the property. The landlord has to get a court order for possession of the property and you must be at least eight weeks in arrears for this to happen.

  • Verbal agreements

Your landlord is not required to provide a written tenancy agreement. The verbal agreement you make when you agree to take the property constitutes the contract between landlord and tenant. Such arrangements may work, but it is advisable for you to ask for a written contract. Problems may occur over issues such as deposit, rent and length of tenancy. A verbal agreement gives both landlord and tenant certain rights and obligations, in the same way a written agreement does, although terms and conditions are not so easily enforceable. A verbal agreement still offers the tenant a certain security of tenure – the landlord cannot bring the tenancy to an end before the first six months have expired, although a periodic tenancy (running weekly/monthly) can be brought to an end upon giving adequate notice (as generally agreed at the start of a tenancy). If you do not have a written agreement, it is important that you keep a record of your rent payments – ask your landlord to complete a rent book.

You have the right to a written statement of terms. This must include the main terms of the agreement (date the tenancy began, the rent payable and dates of payment, rent review arrangements and the length of any fixed term that has been agreed). This must be applied for in writing and should be provided by the landlord within 28 days of the request.

For further information contact Student Housing.

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