Housing

Student Housing

Wherever you live and whatever housing problem you have, DSU Advice can give you support. We can help whether you are looking for somewhere to live or with the current place you are living in, be that hall or house.

Common queries we can help with are problems getting a damage deposit refunded from a previous landlord, students being threatened with eviction, the state of repair of a property and harassment by landlords. We are experienced in advice on the return of deposits if kept unfairly by landlords .

We offer advice on all housing issues as well as a contract checking service all year round to students and we strongly advise you to get our opinion on the contract BEFORE signing. Drop into DSU Advice or telephone to book an appointment with an adviser.

Below is some useful information on all aspects of housing, whether you're looking for somewhere to live or need some guidance on your current housing.
 

 

Finding somewhere to live

If you are coming through clearing, De Montfort University doesn't have any spaces left or you are just returning for a new academic year ,you will probably be looking to rent privately. 

When you start to explore your housing options, don't feel pressured or panicked into signing up for the first house you see. It is vital you take time at the beginning of the house hunting process to get organised and think about what your priorities are.  Don't accept high rents and poor conditions.  Remember if you make a bad decision at this point you may stuck in the accommodation for a year. 

House hunting checklist

Think about your different options: -

Halls
If you are going to be living away from home for the first time, halls can be great and good preparation for moving into the private rented sector.  Halls are a great way to make friends and you will be conveniently placed on campus so travelling to University shouldn't be an issue.

Purpose built - private student halls 
The setup is similar to University Halls, but they are owned by private companies. If you are considering this option , do your research, into what you are getting for your money and if there are any up-front charges

Private rented houses
Living in a privately rented property can be appealing as it enables you to decide where you want to live and with who. 

HMOs
A property that is occupied by three or more unrelated people, who do not form a single household. Some HMOs require a licence. Landlords in England and Wales must obtain a licence for properties where five or more unrelated people live over three or more storeys. Local councils may also set additional licensing requirements

Looking around 
When you inspect a property you should take your time and work methodically through the house. Never sign a contract without looking round the house and reading the contract! Try to speak to the previous year’s tenants. What do they think of the property? What’s the landlord like? Does he/she complete repairs quickly? The following list should give you a rough idea of what to check.

Deciding who to live with:
When choosing who you are going to live with consider differences in lifestyles to minimise any tensions in the future, even if you’re planning to live with close friends. Sharing accommodation like this can mean shared responsibility for bills and housework, as well as space. It’s worth considering the following:

What are your priorities?
Think about what are the most important traits in a housemate – is it someone who’s tidy, fun, a good cook or doing a similar course?

How much privacy do you need?
Some people will happily never close their bedroom door, whilst others really value their own space and possessions. By working this out before you move somewhere you can prevent a lot of tension.

What are your bad habits?
Everyone - including you - has different habits and tastes. You need to make sure you recognise this and learn to be tolerant.

Early bird or late owl?
You might want to think about whether you mind what time people go to sleep and wake up as a factor in your compatibility as housemates.

Be honest about your interests
You need to be realistic about what everyone needs from a housemate. Make sure everyone will be compatible housemates, to minimise any tensions in the future.

Things to look out for:
Damp:
Is the property damp? Obvious signs include peeling wallpaper or flaking paint. Mould on the walls may be due to damp but it could also point to condensation, particularly in the bathroom. Damp properties are hard to heat and can damage your health, particularly if you have asthma. Remember, if the property feels cold and damp in June, how will it feel in the middle of January?

Electricity and gas:
What sort of heating is used in the property? Electric fires or fan heaters cost a fortune to run and should be avoided. Aim to get a property with central heating. Make the landlord switch the heating on when you inspect the property so that you know it works. Are there enough power points in the rooms for all your needs? --Do the plugs get hot when switched on? If the house is fitted with gas appliances, the landlord must supply a gas safety certificate for each appliance. Only licensed engineers can issue these certificates. They must be Gas Safe registered. Look for the Gas Safe Register name on the certificate. Faulty gas appliances can kill you! 

Plumbing:
Do all the taps work? How do you obtain hot water? Using an immersion heater can be expensive, try to get a property with central heating. When you run the taps, does the water run away properly? Does the toilet flush?

Furniture:
Is there sufficient furniture in the house for your needs? Is the furniture in good condition? Try sitting in the chairs and laying on the beds, will they last for a year? Any soft furnishings in the house, e.g. sofas, beds, must comply with fire safety regulations. Consult Consumer Helpline for further details.

Pests:
Look out for mouse/rat droppings or holes. Are there any slug trails? Look in cupboards and around exterior doors for evidence of ants, cockroaches or woodlice. Properties close to the canal and river often suffer from pests.

Security & Safety: 
Is the house secure? Student houses are often the target of thieves. Are there any window locks? What are the locks like on the front and back door? Is the house in a reasonable area? Is there an adequate escape route in the event of a fire? Are there any smoke alarms? Do the windows open?

General:
Check and double check everything. Do all the appliances work? Just because there is a washing machine in the kitchen, it does not mean it works. Get the landlord to switch it on ! If it doesn’t work will he/she replace it or reduce the rent? You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, so why rent a house without checking it thoroughly? Remember if you make a bad decision now you may have a year to regret it.

Top Tips 
•    Don't rush!  The idea that the best houses will get snapped up is one encouraged by landlords and lettings agents. 
•    Always view the property and try to speak to the current tenants. They can tell you about what it is like to live in the property and what the landlord/lettings agent is like when dealing with issues.
•    Be cautious!  Don't be pressured into signing a contract - make sure you have time to make a considered decision.  Once you have signed the contract you are legally bound by this and it is almost impossible to get out of the contract.

Money 

Can you afford the property?
This may seem obvious, but you should ask yourself whether you can afford your chosen accommodation. Remember the true cost is more than just your weekly rent. Can you afford the deposit and retainer? Find out exactly what the rent includes, e.g. gas or electricity. Who pays the water rates and broadband and any other bills or charges?

Summer rent/retainers
Many students pay summer rent (normally half rent) to retain their chosen house during the summer vacation. You are advised not to pay this unless you are desperate to secure a particular house. Summer rent is money for nothing. The only way that landlords can get away with charging it is because students are panicked into taking the first house they see. There are always houses left, even when term starts. You can save yourselves a small fortune by delaying your house hunting until closer to the start of term. 

Fees and charges:
Before signing a contract, check whether there are any other fees to pay in addition to the rent and deposit.  For example:
•    Does the landlord or letting agent charge a non-refundable referencing, booking or admin fee?  These can range from around £50 to over £200 per tenant. 
•    Look out for ‘check out’ costs at the end of the tenancy too. 
•    It’s always worth asking if these fees are negotiable before you sign, especially if there’s an oversupply in your local market.

Receipts
Always obtain a receipt for any money you pay to the landlord. Ask the landlord to state what the money is for, e.g. summer rent/retainer, monthly/termly rent, deposit. Never pay cash to the landlord without obtaining a receipt.

Guarantors 
Many private landlords/agents require a third party to act as a guarantor for the rent payments before they'll agree to let a property to a student. It's important for anyone considering being a guarantor, or for a student who needs to ask someone to be a guarantor, to fully understand what's involved. 

What is a guarantor?
A guarantor is a third party, such as a parent or close relative, who agrees to pay your rent if you don't pay it. Your landlord can ultimately take legal action to recover any unpaid rent from your guarantor. Your landlord may want to check that your guarantor is able to pay the rent in the same way that they've checked your ability to pay. For example, by carrying out a credit check. There is a legal requirement for a guarantee agreement to be in writing. The agreement sets out the guarantor's legal obligations.

Is a guarantor only liable for unpaid rent?
It depends on what the agreement says. In many cases, a guarantee agreement also extends to other conditions under the tenancy, for example, any damage caused to the property. If an agreement does extend to other conditions of the tenancy, then it's best that the guarantor checks the tenancy agreement. This way they can see exactly what obligations they are guaranteeing.

Does the guarantor have to live in the UK?
Landlords will usually want a guarantor who lives in the UK, as it's easier for them to take legal action against a UK resident if they need to. This may present a problem for you if you're an international student, so if you can't get a UK-based guarantor, you may be asked to pay more rent in advance.

Guarantors of tenants who live in shared accommodation
If you share accommodation with other tenants under one tenancy agreement, that is, a joint tenancy, it's common for the guarantee to apply to all of the rent, and not just your share. It's best to check the guarantee agreement carefully and ask the landlord or agent any questions if something is unclear. As soon as the agreement is signed, the guarantor is bound by its terms and conditions. It may be possible to negotiate with the landlord for a variation to a guarantee agreement. This would ensure that the guarantor's liability was confined to only your rent payments or any damage caused by you.

When does the guarantor's liability end?
This depends on what the guarantee agreement says and/or what is agreed verbally. Many guarantee agreements are open-ended and will refer to liability ‘under this tenancy/agreement’. This means that liability could extend beyond the fixed term, to any extension, as well as to certain variations such as rent increases. If this is the case, the guarantor’s liability may continue for as long as the tenancy exists and will only end if the tenancy is legally ended by:

•    service of a valid notice to quit by the tenant, or
•    by mutual surrender of the tenancy between the landlord and tenant, or
•    a possession order from the court.
•    A variation in the tenancy agreement; a variation in the tenancy agreement could bring the guarantor's liability to an end. For example, a change to the rent or a renewal of the tenancy would count as a variation unless: the agreement said that the guarantee applies to any future variations or renewals, or the guarantor consents to the variation.

Checking the guarantee agreement
It's always best to check any guarantee agreement carefully so that the guarantor knows how and when their liability ends. It may be possible to negotiate a variation to the guarantee agreement so that the guarantor's liability is limited. For example, by specifying the start and end dates the agreement applies to, such as the length of the original fixed term only.

Contracts, tenancy agreements & licences 

It is important to understand the differences between the various types of tenancy agreement. Your security of tenure (right to occupy the accommodation) will depend on the type of agreement you sign. 

There are two main types of tenancy in the private rented sector:

Assured Shorthold 
From the 28th February 1997 the contract you sign will, in virtually all cases, automatically become an Assured Shorthold Tenancy unless your landlord gives you a special notice (see below). The main difference between an Assured Shorthold and an Assured Tenancy, is that the landlord gets an additional right of possession which the courts must enforce if the landlord wants you to leave. If the contract you originally signed did not stipulate a minimum fixed term for the length of the tenancy, then the court will not grant possession in the first six months. However, if you originally agreed to a minimum fixed term, the court will not grant possession before the expiry of this period (provided that your contract does not have a break clause enabling the landlord to bring the tenancy to an end before the expiry of the fixed term). Therefore, you should ensure that the contract you sign covers the full period of time that you want to stay in the property as you cannot be made to leave before this time unless you seriously breach your contract.

Assured tenancy 
This type of tenancy will become increasingly rare following changes in the law that came into force in February 1997. This tenancy can only be created by the service of a ‘notice’ which states that you are an Assured Tenant. Alternatively, if the contract states that it is intended to create an Assured and not an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, this will have the same effect. The main benefit of an Assured Tenancy is that they offer better long-term residency rights.
However, for many students this is not an important issue, as they typically move house on a yearly basis.

No written contract/tenancy
Although you may not have a written contract it does not mean that you do not have a tenancy. If your tenancy commenced on or after the 28th February 1997, it is almost certain that you will have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.The problem in not having a written tenancy agreement is that it can be difficult to prove what was originally agreed when you entered into the tenancy. Assured Shorthold Tenants can make a written request to the landlord for a statement of basic terms which govern the agreement. These include; the date on which the tenancy began, the rent and dates for payment, details of any rent review clause and the length of the contract. If the landlord fails to comply with this request within 28 days, they are committing a criminal offence.

Individual/joint tenancies
Signing a contract with a group of other people can have very serious implications, as it is likely that the agreement will be viewed as a joint tenancy. The law looks upon the individual tenants in a joint tenancy as one entity. The most obvious problem in this situation arises if one of the group wishes to leave. Potentially the remaining group incur liability for the whole rent. The only avenue open to the group is to try to re-let the room or sue the student who has left. However, one important benefit of joint tenancies, is that the landlord will not have any right to put in a tenant of their own choice. This can be particularly important where a group of women are sharing and the landlord wants to fill the vacant room with the local mad axe-man! With individual contracts the situation is reversed. You will only be liable for your own rent but the landlord may have the right to fill a vacant room. This is because your tenancy will probably be for your individual room and not the whole house.

Signing the tenancy agreement
Hopefully by now you will have inspected the property and you should have had some time to read your prospective contract. All contracts contain various terms and clauses and it is important to read and understand these. In general, you will be bound by the terms of your contract so never sign anything you are unsure of. If there are any repairs necessary or if any furniture needs replacing, get the landlord to state in writing that he/she will repair or replace it prior to the start of the tenancy. Your bargaining power is far greater before you sign the contract than afterwards.

Unfair contract terms:
Before 1995 if you signed a contract you were legally bound by most terms in it even if later you thought they were unfair or one-sided. Some terms have always been legally ineffective even if you appear to agree to them. For example a landlord cannot deny responsibility for the condition of the property even if there is a clear term in the contract which does this. However since 1995 it has been possible to challenge terms as “unfair” even if you have agreed to them. A good example is the common term in ‘hall’ agreements that all students in a particular ‘block’ are liable for acts of vandalism even where it cannot be proved who were responsible. 

Moving in 

Now that the day has come to move into your newly acquired palace, you should undertake the following points as soon as possible.

  • Take pictures of the property so that you have proof of its condition. A good photo may be the best asset you have when the time comes to reclaim your deposit.

  • Notify the gas/electricity/telephone/water authorities that you are the new occupants in the property. If the last tenants didn’t pay the bills when they left, you may get lumbered with their bills. Remember to put the bills in different names, one person should not make themselves liable for all the bills.

  • Consider whether you need a TV Licence - more information here

  • Get an inventory of all the property in the house and its condition. If your landlord does not give you an inventory, do your own and keep a copy – this is for your own benefit to protect your deposit so note everything that already shows wear or damage. 

  • Obtain a Council Tax exemption certificate from the Student Gateway and deliver it to the Leicester City Council offices.

  • Immediately inform your landlord of any disrepair in writing and keep a copy along with proof of postage or an email receipt. 

     

Living in the property -know your rights

Find out the name and address of your landlord:
Many students rent their homes from an agent and consequently, they never know who their landlord actually is. You should never forget that in law the contract is between you and the landlord, not the agent. The agent is merely the go between.

An example of where it would be useful to know the landlord’s address is where you have reported disrepair to the agent but nothing has been done about it. You would also need the landlord’s address if you wish to sue for non return of a deposit.

By law, an agent must supply the name and address of the landlord if you request it in writing or they commit a criminal offence. If you write requesting this information, it is a good idea to send it by recorded delivery, so that the agent cannot state that he has not received it.

Quiet enjoyment:
This is a legal term and it relates to your right to live in the property without interference.In practice, it means that you can refuse unwanted visitors access to your property and this includes your landlord. Persistent attempts by your landlord to gain access to your property or entering when you are out may constitute harassment. This is a criminal act. A Landlord does however have a right to gain reasonable access to inspect the property.

What happens if the landlord/agent wants me to leave before the tenancy ends?:
If the landlord wants you to leave your house they MUST obtain a court order. The landlord will have to serve you with a ‘Notice of Seeking Possession’ (NSP). This is a special legal form. The landlord cannot just write to you telling you to leave. Possession can only be sought on specific ‘grounds’. These grounds cover a number of areas including things like rent arrears. If you are served with an NSP, seek advice quickly.

Harassment/Illegal eviction:
These are serious criminal offences and you should never let anyone force you out of your house
Any of the following acts may constitute harassment:
•    constant visits from the landlord or their agent without warning
•    entering your home without your permission
•    cutting off your gas/electricity
•    harassing you because of your sex, race or sexuality
•    threatening you with violence

Any of the following acts will constitute illegal eviction:
•    forcing you to sign agreements which reduce your rights
•    locks being changed while you are out
•    being physically thrown out
•    preventing you from getting into part or all of your home

The law states that “any person” who commits these acts shall be guilty of an offence. This covers not only the landlord but also any member of their family or an agent. 

Repairs:
Irrespective of whatever your contract says, your landlord is obliged by law to maintain the basic fabric of your house. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that he/she must:
•    maintain the structure in good repair. This includes drains, gutters and external pipes
•    keep the installations for supplying water, gas, electricity and sanitation in good repair. This
includes basins, sinks, baths and toilets
•    keep the systems for the provision of heating and hot water in good repair

The landlord cannot avoid liability for these repairs. However, the landlord is not liable to repair any damage that you or your guests cause.

Serious disrepair:
If the property you are living in suffers from serious disrepair (for example, badly leaking roofs, dangerous wiring, or unsanitary plumbing) then the local Environmental Health Department should be your first ‘port of call’ as they are likely to intervene quickly to complete repairs. 

First you should tell your landlord about the problem. He/she incurs no liability until they are advised about the problem. It is best to put everything in writing and always keep copies of any letters you send. You could also contact the Environmental Health Department at the Council. They have wide ranging powers and can force the landlord to carry out repairs.

Being a good neighbour:
•    Introduce yourself to neighbours
•    Respect your neighbours - try to keep noise to a minimum. Be sure to let your neighbours know if your house is going to be empty for a considerable period – whether this is you going on holiday, on a placement or on a study break. This means they can keep an eye out for anything suspicious and that they know they are next to an empty property.
•    Love your home - even if the landlord is responsible for maintenance, there is still no excuse! Let the landlord/agent know if there is a repair needed.
•    Keep it locked! - Remember to lock your windows and doors. No-one wants to get burgled, or live next door to somewhere that keeps getting broken into. It’s upsetting, it’ll make your insurance go through the roof and everyone feel unsafe. A quarter of all burglaries happen through unlocked windows and doors.
•    Party monster? - If you a planning to have a few people over, do tell your neighbours. Having the occasional party is everyone's prerogative. If you decide to hold one, hold it at the weekend or at a time agreed with your neighbours. Tell your neighbours about the party, keep the noise to a reasonable level, and agree a time to end it by. Make sure your friends leave quietly and you clear up any debris.
•    Find out when bin day is - it’s the local authority’s responsibility to provide a waste collection service, but as residents we all need to make sure that we help it run effectively. No-one wants a street with rows of overflowing bins.

Can I leave before the tenancy expires?
If your tenancy is for a fixed term you will not be able to leave unless:

•    there is a clause which allows you to give notice (this is rare)
•    the owner/agent agrees to release you
•    you find a replacement tenant for your room (known as an assignment)

Unless one of the above points applies you will still remain liable for the rent if you leave the property. However, if the owner/agent fundamentally breaches the tenancy, for example, by letting the property fall into disrepair, you may be able to leave early without liability for further rent. Seek advice on this before leaving.

If you are a periodic tenant, then unless your contract states differently, you will be able to give notice in line with how you pay rent, so if you pay rent monthly you can give a month’s notice. The minimum notice period is four weeks. This applies even if you pay rent weekly. The timing of the notice is important, seek further advice.

If you have not signed a contract, notice can be given in line with how you pay your rent, subject to a minimum of four weeks' notice.

Safety 
It is important to be safe in your home. 

Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide leaks can lead to severe illness and even death. The main cause of this is usually faulty gas appliances emitting dangerous levels of this silent, odourless killer.Regulations have been introduced to tackle this and they state that all landlords must have their gas appliances checked for safety every twelve months by a Gas Safe registered engineer. They should also provide all new and existing tenants with a copy of the safety check record.

All students should demand this evidence from their landlord, regardless of whether this is a university, college, private individual or a lettings agency. There are also a number of detection devices are available on the market to monitor carbon monoxide levels in your home.

Fire, furniture and electrical safety
Other important issues for potential tenants to consider when they are seeking accommodation are those of fire, furniture and electrical safety.
•    Ensure that smoke detectors with working batteries have been fitted in appropriate places within the property, and check to see that there are fire blankets in the kitchen;
•    Make sure each gas appliance is checked annually by a Gas Safe registered gas-installer (your landlord should deal with this). 
•    All furniture and furnishings should be made from fire-resistant materials and there should be a label attached which confirms this compliance;
•    Check all electrical plug sockets for signs of damage, and that there are sufficient socket outlets for your needs;
•    Ensure that there is a clear, safe and uncluttered means of escape from the building, and be especially wary of properties where the windows are barred.

Moving out 

What happens when your contract ends?
Just because your fixed term tenancy has ended, it does not mean that you have to leave your property.

If the fixed term has expired, you can do either of the following things:
•    agree to sign a new tenancy for another fixed term
•    do nothing and let the tenancy expire. In this situation, you will become a Statutory Assured
    Shorthold (or Assured) Periodic Tenant

However, if you originally signed an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, then the landlord can give you two months notice and then obtain a possession order. If your original shorthold tenancy was for a non-fixed term period, they can seek possession after six months. A special form is not required for this type of possession proceedings but it must be in writing.

Never forget that irrespective of what your landlord says or whatever type of contract you have, the only way you can ever be forced to leave your house is if the landlord has a court order. This will not apply if you share the accommodation with your Landlord.

Packing
Prepare your packing in advance, doing it in one day is very stressful and mistakes are easily made as useful things are binned and rubbish is packed into boxes. Try to take some care over your packing too - you only have to unpack it all somewhere else. Rushed and messy filling of boxes will result in problems and frustration at your new place. It's seriously worth trying to sort out odd papers, notes and books too. 

Handing in Keys
Your landlord/agent will tell you what to do with your keys when moving out. You may need to hand them in person, if you have paid a key deposit. The landlord/agent may want to arrange a property check with you before you move out.  Just remember to leave all the keys that you were given or you could face deductions from your deposit for new ones. It will probably be cheaper for you replace any lost keys than leave it up to your landlord - who will probably also charge you 'time' for having to go and get the new keys.

Mail Redirection
Royal Mail offers a redirection service for mail that is delivered to your address. This can be found here. It is always worth leaving a forwarding address with your landlord too, or leave a note in the house If it's not possible/inconvenient to leave address with the landlord, is there nice neighbour who would be willing collect any mail for you and pass it on?

Cleaning
Chances are you moved in to your house when it was reasonably clean - and you will be expected to leave it in a good state too (check your contract - it most likely will be mentioned in there). It doesn't take long to give everything a really good clean, polish and vacuum - if you're sharing a house a couple of hours work each should have the place looking great - especially if you have kept on top of everything over the year.

Failing to leave the place clean and tidy will mean your landlord will have to do it - this could mean getting cleaners in at professional rates. But you've moved out, so it won't be you paying? Wrong. Your landlord has your deposits and cleaning up after you is one of the most common reasons why you won't get it all back. It's really easy to avoid having to pay this, so make sure you don't lose money because of this.

Also, many houses come with an inventory - check this before you leave or again you could be charged for missing or broken items. It's best to have reported anything broken or lost to your landlord throughout the year - especially anything beyond normal wear and tear. If you've had a bad experience with your landlord though the year too, it might also be worth getting a few photos of the state you left the house in and of any "problem" items, just in case they try to pull a fast one. 

Housing Glossary 

Tenant: A tenant has exclusive possession of all or part of a property (i.e. they can exclude others from the property or room). Tenants are required to pay rent and have the right to live in the property for a set period of time (e.g. 12 months, or monthly). Tenants may have different rights depending on the type of agreement they have.

It is important to understand what type of renting agreement you have. These are some of the most common types of agreement for students.

Assured short hold tenancy (AST): This is the most common type of tenancy in the private rented sector. Key points about the AST include that the tenant has six months guaranteed possession, and agreed rent, and legal entitlement to tenancy deposit protection (TDP). Assured shorthold tenants cannot be evicted without a court order.

Excluded Tenancies: You will probably have an excluded tenancy if you live with your landlord and share facilities such as kitchen or living space. Excluded tenants have fewer rights and can be evicted without a court order.

Licenses: Educational establishments may issue licenses rather than grant tenancies e.g. for places in halls of residence. They can do this if the occupier does not have exclusive use of their accommodation, for example if a service such as cleaning is offered.  However, some private halls of residence offer assured shorthold tenancies. A licensee will not have the same rights as a tenant and will often only have basic protection from eviction. The notice period will depend on the agreement, but often at least four weeks' notice is required.

Subtenant: Someone who rents their home/room from another tenant. Subtenants can have different rights depending on the circumstances and the type of agreement.

Contracts: Contracts can be verbal but it is always best to make sure you have a written agreement.

Fixed-term contract: A fixed-term contract includes a beginning and end date. Often students will rent on a 12-month fixed-term contract. If you leave before the end date, you are likely to be liable to pay the rent until the end of the contract, unless there is a break clause in the agreement or the landlord agrees to let you out of the contract early. Landlords will usually only release you if you find a replacement tenant.

Rolling (or periodic) contract: You will have a rolling contract if your agreement contains no end date, or if you remain in the property after the end of a fixed term. A rolling contract can be ended by the landlord or tenant giving notice in line with the contract or any other legal requirements.

Individual contract: If you live in a shared house but have a separate agreement with the landlord, you will have an individual contract.  This means that if another tenant leaves, the landlord/agent cannot ask that you cover their rent.  However, you may not have any say over who replaces the previous tenant.

Joint contract: If you and your housemates all sign the same contract with the landlord then you have a joint contract.  This means that you are ‘jointly and severally liable’ for any money owed under the contract.  So, you may be asked to pay another joint tenant’s rent if they leave the contract early.

Deposit: A deposit is a returnable sum payable to the owner/agent.  It is normally held against any end-of-tenancy rent arrears, willful damage and any essential cleaning.

Dwelling: Your main place of residence.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): A document that provides an energy efficiency rating for the property and an estimate of utility cost.  Landlords are required by law to show prospective tenants an EPC. 

Possession action and eviction: The legal process by which a landlord can remove an occupier from their property.  Assured shorthold tenants cannot be evicted without the landlord serving a notice and obtaining a court order and then a bailiffs warrant.  Other occupiers may be evicted more easily.  Always seek advice about your rights if you think you are at risk of eviction.

House in Multiple Occupation (HMO): A property that is occupied by three or more unrelated people, who do not form a single household. Some HMOs require a licence. Landlords in England and Wales must obtain a licence for properties where five or more unrelated people live over three or more storeys. Local councils may also set additional licensing requirements.

HMO licence: A document confirming that a shared property meets physical, safety and management standards and that the landlord is a ‘fit and proper’ person.  If a landlord is found to be letting a licensable HMO without one, they can be fined up to £20,000.

Gas Safety Certificate: By law, landlords must arrange for a gas safety check to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer every 12 months.  An up-to-date gas safety certificate must be provided for all rented properties in the UK where there are gas appliances present.

Landlord: Someone who rents out a property.  The landlord is usually the owner of the property.

Letting agent: Is an organisation or an individual who carries out functions on behalf of the landlord. This may include arranging lettings, collecting rent, arranging repairs, administering the deposit and generally managing the property on behalf of the landlord.  Some letting agents just arrange the tenancy and do not have any involvement in managing the property.  This is known as ‘let only.  Other properties are ‘fully managed’ by an agent.

Private Rented Sector (PRS): The Private Rented Sector (PRS) is defined as accommodation that is privately owned, that is, not by a social landlord, and rented out, usually at a profit. The PRS covers all forms of accommodation and varies in quantity and quality from place to place. It currently makes up approximately 13 per cent of the UK housing market and continues to grow.

Purpose-built accommodation: This is accommodation – usually large – which is let specially to students. It may be ‘halls of residence’ type accommodation, and may be catered or ‘cluster flats’ where smaller groups cook their own food. Individual rooms may have en-suite bathrooms, or share facilities. The may be run by a university or college, or by a private supplier.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme: If you have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement (or a standard agreement with a private landlord in Northern Ireland) then your landlord must register your deposit with a government-authorised tenancy deposit protection scheme.  These schemes will safeguard the money and offer independent adjudication in the event of any dispute.