Living in the UK
The contract/tenancy agreement
It is very important that you understand what you are agreeing to when you sign the contract (or tenancy agreeement). We offer you a free service where you can meet with an adviser who will go through your contract and explain what it means and what you are committing to. During this appointment you will also be able to discuss your deposit or other aspects of the renting process.
The sections below will give you more of an idea of what to look for but we do recommend you come and talk to us for individual advice.
Letting agent fees and redress schemes
Letting agent fees
From 27 May 2015, letting agents must publish full details of their fees and charges on their websites and prominently in all their offices.*
The agent has to make it clear if the fees apply to the whole house or individual tenant.
Many letting agencies ask tenants to pay certain fees before and during their tenancies.
A letting agent may ask you to pay fees for:
- a holding deposit to 'reserve' a property before you sign a tenancy agreement
- drawing up tenancy agreements/contracts and an inventory of the property
- carrying out credit checks
- getting references from your employer, bank or previous landlord
- administrative costs such as phone calls and postage
Most agents will ask for a deposit, when you sign the contract. Some ask for a holding deposit; so they take the property off the market while you take advice on the contract. It is important to understand the type of deposit you are paying before you hand any money over- it might not be refundable if you do not sign the tenancy agreement. Take advice from us!
You can ask to negotiate on the agents fees, however, if you rush into renting before May (of the academic year) you are unlikely to be successful as the agent has many students wanting to rent and can pick and chose who they rent to. After May, the market becomes more advantageous for students as the agents do not want their houses sitting empty for the next academic year and will reduce rent or charges as an incentive.
Letting agent redress schemes
There are three government-approved letting agent redress schemes:
- The Property Ombudsman (TPO)
- The Property Redress Scheme
- Ombudsman Services Property
To find out if a letting agent is a member of their scheme, you can search the redress scheme's membership list. You may have to search all three.
Click the scheme logos to go their websites:
Before signing the contract (tenancy agreement)
A tenancy agreement is a legally-binding document- do not sign without taking proper advice (and not the advice of the letting agent who works for the landlord, not you!)
Do not rush into making a decision or signing for the first property you see. Ensure you have time to think things through and talk with those you are looking to share with. Re-visit the property; you might have missed something. The agent may well pressurise you into signing there and then; resist! It never ends happily if you get carrried along out of fear.
Ask the agent for a copy of the contract to take away with you. Then come to the Student Advice and Support Service to go through your contract and find out exactly what your rights and responsibilities are!
For example, you might not be allowed a car at the property, or no pets! You need to be aware of what you are agreeing to before you are committed.
When you do get to the point of signing a contract, make sure that all the tenants are present and sign at the same time- this is so important; people can pull out if they are not committed and we have seen this happen many times, leaving the ones who have signed with a big problem.
You will probably be expected to pay a deposit, make sure you get a receipt and don’t pay in cash agents by law must let you know if all their fees and charges. Make sure you know what you will be expected to pay under the contract before you sign it. Please see Letting agents fees and redress schemes.
More informaiton about contracts from our Big Guide to Living Off Campus:
Most letting agents will ask you to provide a guarantor for your rent.
These people will have to be employed and live in the UK. The guarantors agreement will mean they will have to pay your rent should you not do so, and very often (depending on the wording) they will also be responsible for the rent of all the tenants.
Obviously, most parents are not going to be very happy to agree to cover the rent of total strangers. You can ask to have the wording of the guarantors agreement changed, or better still negotiate with the agent to have individual contracts rather than one (joint and several) contract with you all on int.
We cannot give your guarantor advice on the agreements and would recommend that they speak to their nearest Citizens advice Bureau or a Solicitors (there will be a charge if they ask a Solicitor for advice).
As international student are unlikely to have access to a guarantor in the UK many letting agents will ask for between 3-6 months rent in advance. We suggest you negotiate on this and try not to agree to more than 3 months in advance.
If you are a parent
We have a section especially for you. Please follow this link.
Before you sign the contract, come to us and have it checked. You also need to know how the money you hand over as a deposit will be used so please now read our section on deposits.
Remember that once you have signed the contract is it legally binding and if you sign too early you may well have changed your mind in the months before the contract starts. Read our section on ending a contract early.