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Assured shorthold tenancies

The most common form of tenancy agreement in the private rented sector is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, unless the rent is more than £100,000 a year or the landlord lives in the same property. Most tenancies are joint tenancies where all the people who share the property are jointly and severally liable. This means that if one person does not pay their rent or bills (if they are named on them), the others have to pay that person’s share.

Most tenancies are for 12 months fixed term, which means you cannot leave before then. If you can get a ‘break clause’ – usually 6 months – in the agreement, then you can leave after 6 or maybe 8 months by giving 2 months’ notice.

Deposits

A typical deposit is one month’s rent, and the first month’s rent is also paid in advance. If you have an assured shorthold tenancy, your deposit has to be protected. The landlord must place the deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme  and must give you written information about which scheme is being used within 30 days of accepting the deposit. This should also be in the tenancy agreement.

At the end of the tenancy the landlord must return the deposit to you within 10 days. However, the Landlord may keep some or all of the deposit to cover unpaid rent or bills, damage to the property or its contents, missing items and cleaning.

If the deposit is not returned to you within 10 days, and the landlord does not give you a good reason, you should inform the tenancy deposit protection scheme that a dispute exists. They all provide a free dispute resolution service.

If you do not have an assured shorthold tenancy and there is a problem with the return of your deposit, which cannot be resolved, then you may have to go to court to get it back.

Most landlords and agents ask students for a guarantor. If you have not got a UK-based guarantor, it is standard practice to ask for 6 month’s rent in advance every 6 months. If you are a UCL student and have no debts to the university, UCL Student Residences  may be able to act as your guarantor. They are based at 117 Gower Street.

Inventories

An inventory should always be carried out when you move in. Both you and the landlord or agent should be present and a detailed list of all items and their condition as well as the condition of the property should be listed. You should note down and/or take photos of any damage or marks on the walls, furniture etc. This list should be signed and copies kept by both parties. See a Shelter Sample Inventory  and a London Student Housing Guide Sample Inventory. 

At the end of the tenancy, this list is used as a way of checking whether anything should be deducted from your deposit. Landlords are not allowed to deduct for ‘fair wear and tear’ but will deduct for missing and broken/damaged items. You should mend or replace anything damaged and make sure the property is as you found it.

Gas Certificates

Landlords must have the safety of all gas appliances checked annually by a person who is Gas Safe registered . You should be given a copy of the record of inspection when you move in. You should also make sure that the check is done every year.

Energy Performance Certificates

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)  must be provided to a prospective tenant before a contract is signed. This should show the approximate annual energy costs for the property and enables you to compare different properties before signing an agreement. You should be provided with a copy of the certificate and the accompanying report when you take up the tenancy.  See a Gov.uk Sample Energy Performance Certificate. 

TV Licences

You need a TV Licence to watch or record TV programmes on a television, computer, laptop, or mobile phone. If you don’t have a licence you risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

If you are in a Hall of Residence, you will generally need a TV licence if you are going to watch live TV programmes in your room, whether on TV or computer.

If you live in a shared house on a joint tenancy agreement, you will probably only need one licence but you should check with TV licensing  to be sure.

You may be able to get a refund if you do not need the licence for the whole year. For further information visit the TV licensing  website.

One person wants to leave

If one tenant wants to move out before the end of the contract, they can only do so if they find somebody to replace them and the landlord agrees. If this happens, the leaving tenant should fill in a ‘deed of assignment’ , which means that they have been taken off the tenancy and are no longer liable for any rent or debts relating to the property, (these can be downloaded from the London Student Housing Guide website ). If they do not do this, then they will be responsible for any unpaid rent or bills even if they do not live there any longer.

Renting as part of a couple or family

We have lots of useful additional advice for students who need to find rented accommodation as part of a family unit, including UCL Student residences’  small number of flats available for students with families or student couples. Find out more here.


Useful websites