Signing a Tenancy Agreement
Contracts are legally binding and have long term consequences; come to Student Advice for a free contract check before you make any verbal agreement or sign any contract.
There are many different types of contracts, which depend on the type of accomodation, duration and other factors, such as whether the landlord lives in the property. Shelter Cymru has detailed information on what type of rental agreements exist, and what the differences between them are.
It is important to note that these varrying types of contract afford you varrying rights, including whether the deposit has to be protected, how easy it is to evict you, and how easy it is to move out of the address.
Before you agree to live in a property, you should be sure to read our Finding Accommodation advice, to give you some suggestions on how to stay protected.
Types of Contracts
Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements
These are the most common type of tenancy agreements and afford the tenants much greater protection from eviction than periodic tenancies or lodgers agreements. AST are given where the property owner doesn't live at the address. Sometimes contracts may be AST agreements, even if they say otherwise.
The assured period must be a minimum of 6 months, but in practice typically lasts 12 months.
AST at law do not have to be printed documents, although this is considered best practice by the National Landlords Association.
The property owner must provide on request;
- The start date of the tenancy
- Rent payable and due date
- Any rent review clause
- The name and address of the landlord
- The length of any fixed term agreement.
For the duration of the fixed term the tenant(s) are liable for the rent, and the landlord is under no obligation to extinguish the contract, even if they find a replacement tenant. (Although in practice this is fairly common).
Deposits from AST agreements must be protected in one of three independant schemes. The property, landlord and letting agent must be registered with Rent Smart Wales.
Joint and Several Liability
The majority of student AST agreements are joint and several liability contracts. This means that if tenants A + B + C all sign one of these contracts, and then C stops paying the rent, the landlord could recover the missing rent from tenant(s) A, or B or A+B or C. They could also recover the rent from the guarantor(s) of the remaining, or leaving tenant(s). This same principle applies for any damages made to the property, should this need to be recovered from the deposits.
A lodger’s agreement is provided where the landlord lives in or shares accommodation with the tenants. This type of agreement affords the tenants greatest flexibility in their notice period, and they are not liable for rent for the duration of an assured term (such as in AST). The landlord can however evict the lodgers by giving “reasonable notice”, which is much riskier than an AST.
Deposits from lodgers agreements do not have to be protected in one of three independant schemes.
The property, landlord and letting agent may need to be registered with Rent Smart Wales if their is a subletting arangement.
Occupiers with Basic Protection
These types of contracts are provided by University owned halls. The resident does not have the same rights as an AST tenant, and can be evicted much more easily. The resident is bound by the terms of the contract, and so typically liable for rent for the duration of the contract.
In university owned halls, if a student takes an IOS or withdraws from study, they will be absolved from their contract, and asked to leave the residence.
(Students in private halls of residence, are more likley to have an AST Agreement).
Subletting arangements can be complicated, and so its best to seek proper legal advice before forming any agreement. Remember that this doesn't have to be the signing of a paper contract, and could be a verbal agreement between you and the "mesne" tenant.
Subtenants can be lodgers, or may hold an AST agreement, usually depending on whether the Landlord lives in the property. Remeber that your landlord in this case could be the mesne tenant.
Lodgers arrangements are risky - Eviction is easier and deposits do not have to be protected. If the landlord/mesne tenant takes a deposit, and does not want to give this back, you might have to instigate court action.
Top Tips When Signing Contracts
Are you happy to cover your housemates rent or damages? If you sign an AST agreement with Joint and several liability, you could become liable if they move out, miss rent payments or damage the property.
Promises in writing – Did the letting agent promise to complete any work in the property, or say that bills were included. You need to have this in writing prior to signing the contract or you can assume that it will not happen.
Hidden charges – Are there any hidden charges? Be clear on any hidden costs, and read the small print carefully.You should try to negotiate your rent, you can negotiate rent before you sign the contract, but not after. You can also negotiate terms of the contract, such as summer rent.
Be very clear on summer rent. If people want to live in the property over summer then get this in writing if this is an option. Sometimes letting agents will only allow full or half rent for the entire property.
Check that the property and landlord and letting agent is registered with Rent Smart Wales. Check the property has a HMO licence if it needs one.
Make sure that the house is not in disrepair, particularly any signs of damp or mould.
Do not be pushed into signing a contract – take as long as you need, and do not underestimate the decision.
Make sure that everyone in the house understands their responsibilities.
- Follow the advice on the moving in checklist!