Negotiating a tenancy contract
There is no standard or model contract that landlords/letting agent are required to use, but you can download a sample joint Assured Shorthold Tenancy contract from our ‘Contracts’ webpage here. If you are unhappy with the tenancy agreement you are being asked to sign, you can ask that it is changed.
Agreement on the contract is a two-way process between you and the landlord/letting agent.
Don’t feel that you should accept what is offered as the proposed terms are all negotiable. The closer to the start of the academic year, the more landlords/letting agents are likely to accept changes rather than risk leaving a property empty. You can negotiate yourself a good deal.
When to negotiate?
You need to negotiate BEFORE you sign a housing contract. Once you have signed the contract you have agreed to abide by all the terms within it. It is a lot more difficult, if not impossible to negotiate after you sign.
Who to negotiate with?
If the landlord is using a letting agent, you should start negotiating with them. If that does not work, then contact the landlord directly and negotiate with them.
What can you negotiate?
If you consider the rent too high, research similar properties in the area and compare them. Highlight your concerns and see if the landlord/letting agent will adjust it in line with the market. If the contract would involve monthly rental payments, can you offer to pay termly in advance to get a reduced rent accepted? This might help the landlord with their cash flow.
Rent payment dates
If the rent payment dates do not correspond with your student finance or other income try to renegotiate the payments schedule. You do not want to be late with your rent because you don’t have your student loan.
The length of contract
You are responsible for paying the rent for the full fixed term. You may want to negotiate what this fixed term is – it’s normally 12 months, but you may want 9 or 10 months as you will be returning home for the summer. If you are paying a rent of £80 and you can negotiate a term of 9 months instead of 12 months, you could save over £1,000. Equally you may want to include a break clause which allows a tenancy to be terminated before the end of the fixed term.
The type of contract
If you are in a group, you can avoid joint and several liability for the whole rent for the property if the landlord agrees to grant you each a tenancy for your own room. In this case you would be solely liable for your rent. See ‘Types of contracts’ section.
Inclusive/non-inclusive of bills
If rent is inclusive of bills, is there a cap? Are you liable for bills in excess of the cap? What happens if your usage is under the cap? Will the difference be refunded? Make sure the contract is clear on these points.
Who is responsible for tending or maintaining the garden? If you are responsible, will the landlord provide the necessary tools?
Landlord to maintain and repair electrical appliances
Check the landlord’s repairing obligations in the contract and if necessary negotiate to add the following: “The landlord agrees to keep in repair and proper working the electrical appliances supplied by the landlord, including fridge, freezer etc”.
If there is anything you want adding or removing into the contract or want when your tenancy starts, ask for this now i.e. additional storage in the kitchen, rooms, painting etc. We provide a contract checking service, come and see us before you sign.
You should insist that any changes you have negotiated are written into the contract to reflect what you have agreed, or you may have difficulty later proving what was agreed.
You can also read about negotiating a tenancy contract in the following extract from our “Guide to living off campus” (click on the image below).