Contracts and negotiations
The low-down on private contracts
Contracts and negotiations
If you’re considering renting privately, it’s important to read your tenancy agreement carefully and check the terms and conditions of your contract.
You'll normally need to sign a written tenancy agreement to secure your accommodation.
What's in a tenancy agreement?
Your tenancy agreement should include specific things, including:
- how much rent you pay, when and what it covers
- the length of the agreement. It's usual for contracts to be fixed term for either ten or twelve months
- how much notice you need to give if you want to move out early. In some properties, you may not be able to get out of your contract early and may have to keep paying the rent even if you leave.
If you are not given a written tenancy agreement, you need to ensure you're clear on what terms the property is being offered on - and ask for a written copy of these arrangements.
If you’re moving into resident landlord accommodation, there may be certain house rules you’ll need to check, such as use of the phone, visitors, meal times and curfew.
Agreeing to move into, and pay for, accommodation creates a legal tenancy, and imposes certain legal responsibilities on both you and the landlord – even when there’s no written agreement. So it’s really important to be clear on your rights and responsibilities before agreeing to take up a room or property. It could be difficult to get out of a contract if you change your mind and want to move out later.
If you choose to rent from a private landlord, or go through a letting agency, you may need to provide a guarantor. This is someone who agrees to pay your costs if you’re unable to pay your rent or bills during your tenancy.
The guarantor must be over 18, in full-time work and a UK resident. If you don’t have a guarantor, you may need to pay your rent in advance (either a part-payment, usually of three to six months, or the full amount).
If you’re an overseas student, you’ll need a guarantor who’s based in the UK, is over 18, working and a homeowner.
If you don’t have one of these, you can pay your rent for the full period upfront. Or you could use YourGuarantor, which is a service for international students. They can act as your UK-based guarantor if you’re coming to study in the UK. You’ll then be able to pay your rent in instalments.
It’s usual for your landlord to ask for a returnable deposit. This is usually the equivalent of one month to six weeks worth of rent. This is held to cover any damages that might occur, and you should always get a receipt stating clearly the amount paid and the date the landlord received it.
At the end of your tenancy, if the landlord keeps the deposit in part or full, they need to give you a written list of damages and costs. You’re also entitled to ask to see receipts for work done.
See more information on the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme or watch this Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme tips film for students.
Finally, make sure you get an inventory when you move in, to confirm the condition of the property. You can make a note of any damage that’s already there (and take photos of it, ideally) so you don’t get blamed for it later on. Everyone moving in, and the landlord, should sign this document, to say they agree with it, and both parties should keep a copy.
Types of tenancy agreement
Assured shorthold tenancy
This is the standard agreement used to let whole properties for a fixed period. They can be used for either individual or joint tenancies.
A joint tenancy is where the landlord provides one agreement for a whole property, which is signed by a group of people.
Each person is jointly responsible for meeting the terms of the tenancy, including paying the rent. If one joint tenant leaves the property before the end of the tenancy, the remaining tenants are liable to pay the full rent.
Licence to occupy (lodger agreement)
This is usually used for resident landlord accommodation, where you rent a room in the landlord’s house.