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Tenancy Agreements

Signing a housing contract can be scary because you do not always know what you are signing and what to look out for. It is important that you always carefully read and make sure you understand the contract you are signing. If you find yourself confused or unsure about any aspect of the contract, you should always have this double checked before signing it. Never be pressured into signing on the day. If you have questions, ask the letting agent or landlord before you sign, or feel free to contact SU Advice and we will do our best to confirm your understanding of the agreement.

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  • Joint Tenants and Liability

    If you sign a tenancy agreement with a group and you all sign the same agreement, you are entering a joint tenancy. You essentially sign an agreement to be bound together to this property. Therefore you are all jointly and individually responsible and legally liable for the rent, utility bills and damage to the property. To put this in perspective, if one of you should stop paying the rent, the landlord can ultimately chase the remaining tenants for this. Please also note that if only one tenant’s name is attached to a utility bill, the company will hold them liable for payment of the bill. Keep this in mind when deciding who the account holder(s) will be.

  • Individual Tenancies

    If you live in a shared house but have individual contracts, then you are only liable for the rental amount that your contract stipulates and any breach will be committed by you as an individual and not the other tenants. This will usually be Assured Shorthold Tenancy which allows you to use communal areas too. If you feel inclined to do so, you can try to request an individual tenancy to reduce the liability you have for the property as a whole. Most landlords are likely to refuse this as  a joint tenancy offers more financial security for them.

    A con of having an individual tenancy is that you will have no say over who the landlord rents the other rooms out to. So you may end up living with someone you would rather not live with.

    If you have an individual tenancy, your deposit should be protected individually and you should be given the details of this protection.

  • Guarantors

    It is often the case that letting agents and landlords will require a guarantor form to be signed by a parent, guardian or another adult who may be required to meet certain conditions in relation to residence, income and/or employment status. This is a guarantee that rent and other bills will be paid by the guarantor should the tenant fail to complete their obligation to pay for these. Something to be clear about is whether your guarantor is responsible for only your share of the rent and bills – or whether they are jointly and severally liable for any shortfall in relation to the entire property. Some landlords or agents may ask for several months’ rent in advance if a guarantor cannot be provided

  • Terms and Promises

    If when you view a property, you and the landlord or letting agent agree on additional terms or agree that something will be done to the property before you move in, you should always make sure this is written into the contract. If it is, this becomes legally binding and they are then legally obliged to uphold any promises. If this is not added into the contract, you may have a tough time getting the work completed. Consider this - if the promised work was not completed, would you still want to live in the property? If not, make sure you get it written into the contract. Something else to consider is whether or not the terms of your agreement are fair. If there is something written into your contract that you think does not sound fair or reasonable, don’t be afraid to negotiate. We would also recommend being reasonable with your requests as this works both ways. If you are unsure about any of the clauses in your tenancy agreement, please feel free to contact SU Advice.

  • Tenant Responsibilities

    You may be wondering what you are responsible for when you move into a house. It is usually stated in tenancy agreements that the property should be in the same state of repair when you leave as it was when you started your tenancy – allowing for reasonable wear and tear. Therefore you as a tenant are responsible for maintaining the property in terms of cleanliness unless stated otherwise in the contract. You are also responsible for paying all rent and bills on time. It’s a good idea to make sure that you uphold your obligations as you may be reliant on a reference from your landlord at the end of your tenancy.

  • Leaving Early

    Sometimes things don’t go to plan and for one reason or another you may be looking to leave your accommodation early. Most tenancy agreements are for a fixed minimum term, usually 12 months. This means that you are unlikely to be able to leave early and if you do, you are still responsible and legally liable for your share of the rent until the end of the fixed term. If you wish to leave the property before the end of your tenancy, you should discuss this with your landlord to see if anything can be done. Sometimes they will allow you to transfer your tenancy to another tenant, but this is at the landlord’s discretion and they will often charge a fee for this. Some agents and landlords will offer different agreements that may not include a fixed term but these are few and far between. It is worth checking this and clarifying before signing if you are unsure.

  • Live-in Landlords

    If you are in a situation where your landlord also resides in the property, it may be worth confirming your status as a tenant. It can be the case that if the landlord lives in the house too, you may be deemed to be a licensee rather than a tenant in which case your legal rights and protection will differ significantly from someone who is deemed to be a tenant. Check your tenancy agreement carefully and contact SU Advice if you would like to discuss this further.