Yes, this article will help you understand your tenancy agreement, with guidance on where to go for further support.

Our Housing Advisers are also here to help you and can review a document. We advise that you email any proposed contracts to Advice so an Adviser can review the document. 
 
In this article:
We also recommend learning more about contracts in our module Signing a Private Housing Contract, Next Steps.
 
 
What is a housing contract?
The contract is a document that you sign when you start a tenancy agreement and it is legally binding. Therefore, it is important that you read it carefully and understand your rights and responsibilities.

Both King’s College London and the University of London Housing Service provide free contract-checking services, so it is always a good idea to speak to an adviser if you are unsure.
If you are renting from a private landlord, the most common types of tenancy are:
  • Assured Shorthold Tenancy 
  • Licence Agreement (living with your landlord or private student halls)
It is sometimes possible to have a different type of tenancy than the one stated on your agreement. The reality of the living situation determines the type of tenancy you have, not just what is written at the top of your contract. If you are unsure, seek advice.

You can also refer to the Shelter Tenancy Checker.
 
Common types of contract for students
 
 

Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

Most student tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST). Amongst other things, this will mean that:
  • You have exclusive right to occupy the tenanted room or house.

  • You are entitled to “quiet enjoyment” of the premises without being disturbed by the landlord.

  • If you have agreed to rent for a fixed term, you have the right to occupy for at least the duration of the fixed term and you will be unable to end your tenancy before the end of the fixed term unless you have negotiated a break clause.

  • Landlords have a legal duty to protect your tenancy deposit.


Landlords can gain possession of the property at the end of the fixed term (or after 6 months if there was no fixed term agreed), but you are entitled to at least 2 months’ notice (in writing) that possession is required.

Important to know:
  • The 2-month notice period has been extended to 6 months during the Coronavirus pandemic. You can check the most up-to-date rules on this on Shelter, housing support website.

  • You cannot be evicted unless the landlord obtains a court order.


ASTs can either be granted to an individual, so that only they have the right to occupy their room, or to joint tenants, who together have the exclusive right to occupy the property.

 

 

Licence

In some cases, the agreement you sign with a landlord may be a licence and not a tenancy. The main difference is that you don’t have exclusive possession under a licence, and therefore may have less protection from eviction than under a tenancy.
Important to know: A landlord also has no legal requirement to protect your deposit under a licence.

Licences may typically include cleaning services and are typically used when you are living with the landlord in their home.

Living with a Landlord
If you are planning to rent a room in a landlord’s home and share facilities with them, you will likely be a lodger.

Generally, you have fewer rights as a lodger, and you should ensure you have a written contract with the landlord setting out the rights and responsibilities you both have. Please contact the Student Advice Service for further information.

 

Common terms to be aware of in contracts
 
 

Joint Tenancy

If you are signing an agreement with more than one tenant, this will mean you have a joint tenancy. Joint tenants have joint and shared liability for the contract. This means that the landlord can ask you to pay for your housemates unpaid rent or costs for repairing damage caused by your housemate. 

If one tenant leaves, it will be the tenants’ responsibility to find a replacement tenant or pay the additional rent. This means you have greater control over who you share your property with compared to when you have an individual tenancy. 
 
Joint tenants will also have exclusive possession of the whole property, meaning the landlord will need to ask permission to enter the property.

 

 

Individual Tenancy

This is when each tenant has their own tenancy agreement with no other tenant names listed on it and you are only responsible for paying your share of the rent.
 
If you have an individual tenancy in a shared flat/house, you will have exclusive possession of only your room. This means that the landlord can enter the communal areas of the property without permission. 
 
You will not have any control over who else lives in the property.

 

 

Right to Rent Check

From February 2016 landlords are required to complete a right to rent immigration check for every new tenant over the age of 18 living in the property. You must prove to your landlord, or their managing agent, that you have the right to stay in the UK.

A landlord or letting agent can’t let you a property if you can’t show you have the right to rent. You have the right to rent if you are:
  • British

  • A citizen of an EU or EEA Country

  • A citizen of another country with no time limits on your permission to live in the UK

If you have a valid visa for work, study, or as a spouse of someone settled in the UK, you have a time-limited right to rent, for the duration of your visa.

 

 

Tenant Fees

Most letting agent fees for tenants were banned from June 2019. As a result, you can no longer be charged for administration, referencing, credit or immigration checks.

You can still be charged to change your tenancy or assign it to someone else after you have signed the tenancy agreement, but in most cases this should only be £50. If you are charged more than this, the agency will need to show evidence of their costs.

If you are unsure whether your agency is charging a prohibited fee or if there are prohibited fees listed in your contract, check our article What fees can I be charged when renting in the private sector?

 

 

Break Clause

You may have a break clause in your contract, which allows either you or the landlord to end the tenancy before the end of the fixed term. The clause must give both you and your landlord exactly the same rights.

It is important to consider whether a break clause is in your best interest before agreeing. It can be useful if you are not sure if you want to stay in the property for a full year, but it could be really inconvenient if the landlord decides to use the break clause during your exams!

If you are on a joint contract, the break clause would end the entire tenancy for your flatmates too, so you would all need to be in agreement for this to work.

If your contract has a break clause, it is a good idea to seek advice as they can be badly written and may not be enforceable. 

 

 

Implied Terms

Landlords and tenants have certain rights and responsibilities given by law, these do not have to be written in the tenancy agreement for them to exist. 
 
Your contract can give both you and your landlord more than your statutory rights, but it cannot give you less than your statutory rights. If there is a term in your contract which gives you less than your statutory rights, it is likely to be an unfair term and cannot be enforced.