This article explains what a housing contract is and your rights. If you are looking for information on the different sections in the housing contract see this article.
When you have found a property that you are happy with, you will be expected to pay a deposit and then sign a contract.
What a housing contract is
A tenancy agreement (or contract) is a legally binding document. It details the terms and conditions in relation to the property you will rent, including key points such as the amount you will pay in rent and also the deposit, as well as the period of time you are expected to rent it for.
Once you have signed a tenancy agreement, you have committed yourself to meeting the terms and conditions for the period the contract states and you do not generally get the chance to change your mind. Once it is signed, an agreement is made!
You should not feel pressured into signing a contract straight away - it is quite common for landlords to say that they have got several groups waiting for the house, but this may not always be true.
Always ask to see a copy of the contract before agreeing to sign it! Think of it this way, you wouldn't sign up to something like a mobile phone contract without seeing the terms and conditions first, so why would you do this for something big like your home?!
A contract will include 'tenant responsibilities' - how you are expected to maintain the property, and also 'landlord responsibilities' - what the landlord is expected to do and ensure, so that you can live comfortably and safely in your home.
The tenancy agreement (contract) must have on it as required by law:
- The full name, address and contact detail of the landlord or letting agency
- Clearly state the rental amounts and...;
- ...the period of occupancy.
- The tenant details (yours!) should also be clearly indicated on the contract.
Understand your rights when signing a contract
- Get a written copy of the contract (and the property condition inventory) and keep them somewhere safe.
- Ask for 24 hours to read through any contract.
- Do not sign anything you do not understand.
- If you are not sure about any of the clauses in the contract, please feel free to pop into the Student Housing office (or attach it to an email and send it to email@example.com) and ask for advice before you sign it. It's no good querying something once you have signed the agreement as you won't be able to break it! Please note that the housing team can give advice only but do not take responsibility for private listings nor can we provide legal advice.
- Do not feel pressured into signing for a property you know is not right for you!
- Be wary of owners/agents who want you to sign on the spot. There are a lot of properties available for students so never feel pressured (by your potential housemates, agencies, landlords, parents etc.)
- Be aware that you may be signing a joint tenancy contract*, so make sure you really trust the other people you are renting with.
- Think before you sign.
- A joint contract means all housemates are liable for rent payments and damages in the event one housemate, or more, leave the property. This will also potentially include your guarantor, so double-check it before signing anything.
Factors to consider when looking at the housing contract
See this article on the factors to consider when looking at a housing contract.
Ending a tenancy
- Even if you are in a fixed term contract, you must always given written notice to your landlord that you intend to end the tenancy at that time. It is typically one months' notice but always refer to the clauses in your tenancy agreement in relation to this. Likewise, your landlord must do the same to bring the agreement to a formal end - they may get you to sign something called a Section 21 Notice to Quit, whereby the tenancy can be formally ended.
- Walking away or posting the keys through the letterbox is called 'abandonment' and will not end a tenancy agreement. The agreement will continue even if the tenants have left and the landlord has the right to continue to charge rent.
- If you chose to leave the property at the end of the tenancy, the tenant has the right to leave on the last day of the fixed term. If you stay even one day over the fixed term (without any notice) this will automatically become a "statutory periodic tenancy" (rolling on month-by-month) and you will have to give proper notice unless the landlord agrees to you leaving.
For more information on housing contract contact Student Housing team.