Assured Shorthold Tenancy – what is it
Most tenancies now are Assured Shorthold Tenancies. This type of tenancy is normally for 12 months with a six-month ‘fixed period’ during which tenants can’t be removed unless certain terms of the tenancy agreement have been broken. This type of tenancy gives tenants protection from eviction and means that a landlord must go through a process of serving notice and getting a court order before they can be removed. You may not have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy if you live with your landlord and you won’t if you are in university halls. Your contract should state what it is.
Your tenancy term should be stated in the contract and, as mentioned above, is normally a year. It’s important to understand that you can’t leave during that time unless you have a break clause (see below). If you do just walk away from the property your legal commitment to paying rent doesn’t end unless you have given proper notice.
The notice clause in your tenancy agreement will normally require you to give at least two months notice before bringing the tenancy to an end. If you don’t give notice then the tenancy continues, even if the contract is only for a year – without notice from either the landlord or the tenant the tenancy can become a periodic tenancy, which arises automatically at the end of the old tenancy. If you slip into a periodic tenancy then you will have to pay rent until you give notice.
Joint and several liability
Most landlords will want tenants to be jointly and severally liable and so will provide a joint contract. This basically means that you’re liable for your own share of the rent and if any of your other housemates can’t pay their share of the rent then you’re liable for that too. Something to bear in mind when choosing your housemates. Some landlords may offer a contract on an individual basis and this means that you’re only responsible for your own rent, bills and any damage you cause.
Not all student housing contracts will have a break clause but when you’re reading the contract through before you sign it, look out for one. What this will allow you to do is to leave half way through the tenancy contract by giving the right amount of notice at the right time. It means that if things change, or if you’re fed up with the landlord, then you have a way out without still being liable for the rent.
All tenancy agreements should state how much rent is payable. If your agreement was for rent that includes bills then make sure this is included in the tenancy agreement before you sign it. Look out for any charges for late payment and make a note of what constitutes late rent payment (normally 7 days).
Yes, this is not the most interesting read but it’s important that you understand what you responsibilities are as a tenant, as this is a legal document. The most important to look out for:
– Cleaning/maintenance obligations. You may have a responsibility to keep gutters clear, to mow the lawn and to clean the windows, as well as the usual requirement not to let the place get too dirty. These may seem pointless but if you don’t do it then you could find yourself facing a whopping charge from the landlord when you move out if they have to pay someone else to do it.
– Noise. Being a student is fun and if you’re in a student area then complaints aren’t likely to be that common. Nevertheless, the tenancy will give the landlord the right to remove you for antisocial behaviour so be aware of that – you need to behave in a ‘tenant like’ way,
– Telling the landlord about repairs. It’s your job to let the landlord know if something needs fixing. If you don’t and that causes a very expensive problem then the cost of that problem could become yours.
– Not causing damage to the property. This is an obvious one but if you do damage the property then you’re going to have to pay for it. That goes for fittings and furnishings provided by the landlord, as well as furniture.
– Having a duty of care towards your visitors. When you have people over to a property you are renting you are responsible to a certain extent for what they do. That includes damaging the property or annoying the neighbours.
– Leaving tenants to ‘enjoy’ their property. A ‘right of quiet enjoyment’ arises when you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and this means that landlords cannot simply walk in whenever they want to. Your landlord – or anyone working from them, including the agent – needs to give you 24 hours notice and have your consent before they can enter the property.
– Doing repairs. You might have to do minor repairs, such as changing a light bulb, but all the major repairs are the job of the landlord. This includes repairs to chimneys, boilers, guttering, drains and walls.
– Protecting your deposit. Landlords using an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must protect the deposit by law. You should be notified within 30 days of paying a deposit which of the three government approved deposit protection schemes has it.
– Safety standards. Landlords must meet safety standards with respect to gas, electricity, electrical equipment and fire safety.
Student tenants don’t normally have a full salary income and so landlords will often request that you obtain a guarantor (usually your parents or another family member). Guarantors guarantee that the landlord will receive their rental payments i.e. if you can’t make the payment yourself, they will do it on your behalf. The guarantor won’t sign the main tenancy but will sign a separate agreement.