Contracts and Legalities
You’ll sign a contract with your landlord, which sets out everyone’s rights and responsibilities. Before you sign, it's absolutely vital you get the content of the agreement right and that you fully understand it.
Most tenancy agreements provided by landlords for student properties are Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements. If you are intending to live in a shared house, it is likely that you’ll be asked to sign a “Joint and Several Tenancy Agreement" with your other housemates. This means that you could be pursued altogether or separately for any liabilities.
You should ensure that you fully understand what you are responsible for under the Tenancy Agreement.
- Always ask for your agreement to be in writing as verbal agreements can be hard to enforce.
- Ensure that the agreement clearly states the rent, dates to make payments and the way to end your agreement.
What type of tenancy do I have?
There are different types of tenancy that are available such as a joint tenancy, shorthold and licence agreements.
Further information on the different types of tenancy can be found on the Shelter website.
Things to consider
You can request that your landlord puts additional wording into a tenancy agreement. If a property is undergoing building renovations, you can ask for a statement to be included that outlines what work will be completed before the tenancy agreement commences. If a landlord has given you a verbal agreement that they are going to change parts of the property before you move in, then you should also get this put in writing in the tenancy agreement. Once you have it in writing that Landlord has agreed to do this work, if for any reason it is not done, you are in a much stronger position to take further action to get it resolved.
If you’re in any doubt about your rights or responsibilities under a tenancy agreement, ask Student Accommodation. If we can’t answer your question, we’ll advise you where you can get support. We can give you tips and advice on where to go for legal help if you need it.
Shelter has a helpline that you can call to get some initial legal advice about housing issues.
Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP), as set out in the Housing Act 2004, requires all agents/landlords to register their tenants' deposits with one of the statutory tenancy deposit schemes within 30 days of receiving it.
If your landlord takes an amount of money from you for a deposit, they must protect it by registering it with a tenancy deposit scheme and inform you of the scheme details.
You can check if your deposit is protected, using the Shelter Deposit Protection Checker.
There are three Deposit Protection Schemes available to landlords and it is definitely worth reading up on how they operate, you can find more information on the Direct Gov website.
The landlord will inspect the property at the end of the tenancy agreement to ensure that the it has been left in an acceptable state and condition. If it has not, the Landlord may notify the Deposit Protection Scheme that he/she intends to deduct the whole/part of the deposit. The Deposit Protection Scheme will then notify you.
If you’re not happy with the deductions your landlord is proposing, you can ask for it to be taken to Dispute Resolution, but you’ll need evidence to back up your case. This is why it is important to get an agreed inventory at the start of the tenancy agreement. In particular, those photographs you took when you moved in and logs of any correspondence you’ve had with your landlord will be vital.
If there are no deductions to be made, the Landlord will notify the Deposit Protection Scheme that it may return the deposit to you.
Get your inventory right when you move into a property – this minimises the chances a dispute over your deposit.
An inventory should tell you the state of the property at the time the tenancy commences. When you sign the inventory you authorise it is accurate. You may want to arrange a pre-moving in inspection with the landlord to prepare or review the proposed inventory.
Inventories take many different forms, some landlords are known to take photos of the house and provide these to the tenant on CD when moving in. It is more likely a paper-based form will accompany the contract / agreement, detailing the condition of the property and its contents.
When you move in, check the inventory and note anything that is not accurate, take photos and get it back to your landlord quickly. If you do not, you could leave yourself open to charges that were not your fault. This is because when it comes to returning your deposit at the end of the tenancy, your inventory will be the guiding document.
If you’re not provided with an inventory, ask for one. If you don’t get one, do it yourself, take photos and provide it to your landlord.
Your tenancy agreement should set out the rights and responsibilities in respect of repairs and maintenance at the property.
If you come across a repair that needs doing the first thing to do is report it to your landlord / agency (whoever is managing the property). You should then review your tenancy agreement to ensure that it is their responsibility and if it is the landlord/agent's responsibility then they will generally take arrange the works to be carried out and inform you of timescales etc.
A landlord legally has the right to enter the property to inspect it or carry out repairs, but they must give tenants 24 hours notice, although immediate access may be possible in emergencies.
As tenants you are expected to use the property in a 'tenant like manner' which basically translates to keeping the house clean, in the condition you found it and ensuring the property is kept up together by reporting repairs promptly and rectifying issues caused if they were your fault.
You can find a guide to repairs on the Direct Gov and Bath and North East Somerset Council websites.
Most tenancy agreements do not permit set off or withholding rent. You should not, therefore, be tempted to withhold rent to pay for repairs unless explicitly advised to do so by a legal representative. Repairs must be reported to the landlord / agent in all cases. Using the rent for any other means can put your tenancy at risk and could lead to a claim for possession of the property and your eviction from the property.
You should keep a written log of repairs and any communication with the landlord / agency, this will help you if you need to settle any disputes arising from an un-attended repair.
Mould growth and dampness in properties are common problems, often caused excess moisture in a property. The cause of this could be a structural problem or a maintenance issue, however, the most common cause is condensation.
Condensation builds up very easily. The key things are to ensure the property is being ventilated to allow the moisture to escape, and the heating is being switched on to get some warmth into the building. If these things aren't undertaken in the right balance mould can grow very easily and you’ll see a build up of water on surfaces. Key things which add to moisture build up are drying clothes in the property, not ventilating enough after cooking and showering, and not opening bedroom windows / putting the heating on - just sleeping in a room produces a lot of moisture.
B&NES council offer advice on mould growth and dampness . Keep your landlord updated on any issues and ask for their advice, and to check there is not an issue with the property itself. If you are continuing to experience problems do make contact with the Housing Standards Team for advice.
You’ll normally sign a tenancy agreement for a fixed time period and will not be permitted to bring the tenancy agreement to an end early.
You’ll remain liable for the duration of the tenancy agreement, unless the landlord specifically releases you from your obligations. Even if you return the keys to the landlord/agent on vacating the property, your obligations under the tenancy agreement will continue and you’ll still be liable for payment of rent until the tenancy has ended.
It is therefore very important that you read the tenancy agreement and really understand the terms of the tenancy agreement before you sign it. You are legally bound by the terms of the tenancy agreement for the entire length of the tenancy agreement.
A landlord may permit you to leave early if you can find a replacement tenant to take over your responsibility.
Do not leave a property or sign up for another property while you still bound by a the tenancy agreement. If you do so, you’ll be leaving yourself legally and financially vulnerable. In most cases you’ll still be liable for charges, rent and costs whilst your name is still on a tenancy agreement.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your current tenancy and want to leave early please contact us – we can provide you with some pointers and advice on what to do in this situation.
In addition to the tenancy agreement, if you find a replacement tenant to take on your responsibilities at the property, you should also remember to notify the utilities companies and the local authority that you are vacating and obtain confirmation that the new tenant will be substituted.