Make sure that you view a property before agreeing to anything or handing over any money - you should never sign an agreement or make a financial commitment for a property without having seen it first. If you book accommodation by signing an agreement with a landlord without visiting the property, you may still be liable to pay the rent for the length of the contract, even if you decide not to live there.
Once you have details of available accommodation, contact the landlord and arrange to meet him/her. We recommend you use the property viewing checklist when viewing a private property to ensure you are happy with the property.
You will usually be signing an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement. This is a legally binding contract for a set period of time, often at least ten months, although some landlords and agencies offer longer agreements.
As these agreements are legally binding, you'll generally be liable for the rent even if you vacate the room before the end of the tenancy.
Please ensure that your landlord provides you with a how to rent booklet when you move into your rented property.
Individual tenancy agreements
If you don't know the other tenants before you move in, then you should sign an individual contract for the property. This means that you'll all be liable for looking after the communal areas, but you'll only be responsible for paying your own share of the rent and any agreed bills.
Group tenancy agreements
Group tenancies are usually for groups of friends, who sign a contract together on the same day. By doing this they become jointly liable for paying the rent and any agreed bills for the whole rental period.
Some landlords may request details of a guarantor. This is usually a parent or guardian who will be contacted in the event of non-payment, to pay any outstanding rent. You must always seek an individual's permission first, before naming them as your guarantor.
The tenancy agreement will state how much rent you have to pay and on what date you are expected to pay it. The majority of landlords ask for their rent termly in advance. If you feel that you may experience difficulty paying on the date stated, you must discuss this matter with the landlord immediately. If an all-inclusive rent is offered, the tenancy agreement will state the amount of the cap that the all-inclusive rent covers. For example, if the landlord states that the gas is £5 per person per week, any overspend on this amount will be met by the tenants of the property.
When you sign a contract you'll usually pay an amount to reserve the property, which will then become your returnable damage deposit when you move in.
If you do not take up the tenancy the landlord may retain this money and hold you to the contract.
Any deposit paid to a landlord for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement must be protected in a government authorised Tenancy Deposit Scheme by law. The government has introduced this scheme to ensure that (where entitled) tenants get their deposits back and that there are mechanisms in place to resolve any disputes. The landlord or agent is required to give you details of how your deposit is protected within 30 days of the beginning of your tenancy.
This should include:
- contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme
- contact details of the landlord or agent
- how to apply for the release of the deposit
- information explaining the purpose of the deposit
- what to do if there is a dispute about the deposit.
Find out more about the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
If you have any concerns about the return of your damage deposit, you should first write to the landlord asking for a written explanation. If your landlord doesn't return your deposit because of damage you have caused, he/she must provide you with receipts for items replaced.
Our team is on hand to help, if you have any queries about your contract or your accommodation.
If you believe that your landlord or letting agent has broken any rules that govern how they should act, please read this information.