Housing contracts can be difficult to understand. First of all you need to know what type of contract you have and what you, and your landlords rights and responsibilties are. SUBU Advice can help you understand the terms in your contract, and explain what your landlord or letting agent can/cannot do.
Assured shorthold tenancies (AST)
- Most common type of tenancy.
- These are normally joint tenancies with your housemates, although you can get individual AST’s. You will know if it is a joint tenancy as you will all be named on the contract and the rent will be noted as one lump sum.
- You are ALL expected to pay the rent ( if one person does not pay – the other housemates will be asked first even if you all have a guarantors)
- You cannot leave an AST unless the landlord gives you permission to find a replacement person to fill your room or there is a break clause in your contract. A replacement tenant will usually need to be accepted by the landlord or letting agent.
- You will not live in the same house as your landlord
- You can only be evicted from an AST if the landlord can evidence grounds to a court. There are strict, legal eviction procedures and you cannot simply be asked to leave. It is not unusual to be issued with a Section 21 notice when you sign the contract as this states the landlord wants the property back at the end of the fixed-term.
- Your tenancy deposit must be protected within a Deposit Protection Scheme and information regarding this given to you within 30 days of paying your deposit.
NOTE – check if you are a “joint” or “individual” tenant –
- Joint means you are equally responsible for paying the full amount of rent.
- Individual means being separate and only being responsible for your own rent.
Lodger or Excluded Occupier
You are a lodger, also known as an excluded occupier, if:
- If you live in the same house of your landlord or if they have lived there during some time of your tenancy or wish to move in you are called a lodger
- Your tenancy does not have to be written or signed (can be a verbal agreement)
- Landlord can give you two weeks’ notice to leave without paperwork (reasonable notice)
- If you agreed a fixed term (the amount you have to stay) you cannot leave before then – if you leave you must still pay rent. However if this is not in writing it is hard to prove.
- You will pay a deposit which doesn’t have to be protected.
Some students living in halls of residence may only have a licence rather than a tenancy. The implications of this are that they have very little security/security of tenure. It isn’t always clear whether a licence exists. You can get joint and individual licence agreements.
If you are unsure of what type of tenancy you, and therefore what your rights and responsibilities are, then check out this useful Tenancy Checker.
Before signing a contract you need to make sure that you fully understand all the terms within it. It’s important to know your rights and responsibilities. SUBU Advice offers a free contract checking service. Drop in to our offices or email us a copy. Shelter has some useful information on their webpages so ensure you check this out too.
Security of tenure
Security of tenure is the security, or rights of occupation, of an occupier. An occupier's rights are derived from:
- common law
- law of equity
A tenancy gives the tenant a legal interest in the land and property – in effect, legal ownership for the period of the tenancy. Conversely, a licence agreement is permission from the landlord for the tenant to stay in the accommodation. Some students living in halls of residence may only have a licence rather than a tenancy. In essence you have less security if you have a licence and therefore the rules regarding eviction are not as stringent, compared to those who have an AST.