Student Tenancy Agreements – Know Before You Sign

Student Accommodation Tenancy Agreements

Guarantor? Fixed Period? Security Deposit? If any of these terms bewilder you or bring you into a state of existential panic, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we will cover all the basics, from the various types of student tenancy agreements to getting your security deposit back in your bank account.

‘The Landlord’ may sound like some kind of video game boss that you can never beat, hurling hard-to-read contracts at you like Gambit in X-Men, but as long as you know your stuff, you will be able to pen that signature with perfectly calm, steady hands, confident that nothing will surprise you down the line. This guide will get you to that place. We will cover the types of student tenancy agreements and contracts you can expect to see, what you need to know about security deposits, and lastly, all the info you need on guarantors. Read on to magnify the small-print.

If you’re still looking for accommodation, or haven’t yet started the search, check out our Choosing Student Accommodation Guide first, and then come back when you’re ready to seal the deal on a place you like.

Types of Student Tenancy Agreements

There are two main types of student accommodation tenancy agreements: joint and individual.

Joint Student Tenancy Agreements

If you’re living with your mates all together in one house, you may well be asked to do a joint tenancy agreement. These types of contracts hold the whole group accountable for each individual’s payments. This means if one of you, for example, drops out of uni and decides to live elsewhere, it’s up to all of you to cover their rent.

The landlord is also within their right to ask the rest of you to move out if you cannot or refuse to do this, since the terms of the contract will be violated. The same goes for any damage caused. If your friend puts his clothes through the dishwasher after a night out, you are all responsible for paying the cost of the repair.

As you can see, this type of agreement provides the landlord with more assurance, hence it’s the most commonly offered.

Individual Contracts

On an individual contract, each tenant is responsible for themself. Here, there is one contract between each tenant and the landlord. So, if one person moves out, no one else is responsible for their rent besides them. Same too goes for any damage caused by one person. If the damage is in your room, you pay. If the damage is in communal areas – unless someone owns up – it’s up to all of you to pay.

This type of contract provides the tenant more assurance. You will likely see this in a spare room type situation and in student halls, but it’s unlikely a landlord will offer it to a group who are all looking to move in together.

How Long Are Student Housing Contracts?

The standard length of a student housing contract is twelve months with the first six months as a ‘fixed period’. This is called an ‘assured shorthold tenancy agreement’ (AST). In the fixed period, you cannot be asked by your landlord to leave without specific legal reasons.

You may have to pay for the property even when you are not living there during the summer – make sure to check what you are tied into before signing.

Can You Get Out Of A Student Tenancy Agreement?

If you are in a fixed-term tenancy agreement, your landlord cannot ask you to vacate the property before the contract is up unless it contains a break clause. A break clause allows either you or your landlord to end the tenancy early so long as certain conditions are met, which is usually just a predefined notice period of sufficient length. 

The break clause could be useful for both the tenant and the landlord but can be disadvantageous to both parties too. If your landlord finds someone willing to pay higher rent, for example, he can ask you to leave once you’re past the fixed term. Equally, it gives you the option to leave if you no longer want to live there. So, be sure to check to see if there’s a break clause in the contract.

Student Accommodation Deposits

A security deposit is a lump sum payment that you, the tenant, have to pay upfront as a kind of insurance for the landlord in the event of any damage to the property or failure to pay rent. The deposit amount should be written into the contract of the student accommodation tenancy agreement. As long as everything goes fine during your tenancy, you should receive this money back in full.

Paying your security deposit will be one of the first things you need to do before beginning the academic year. Check out our Ultimate University Preparation Checklist so you don’t forget to do anything else. 

How Much Is The Deposit For Student Accommodation?

Student accommodation deposits are usually around four to five weeks’ rent. This way the landlord can insure themself against one month of missed rent payment at least and guarantee they are covered for some damage you may cause during your time in the property.

Do I Get My Deposit Back?

Well, legally, if you don’t miss any rent and maintain the general well-being of the property, you should receive your deposit back at the end of your tenancy. Easier said than done, however, as some landlords like to try what they can to hold on to your deposit.

If you make sure you read the contract carefully so you know what you can and cannot do within the building; take dated photographs and make notes of all the damage and wear and tear in the property as soon as you move in; check the inventory carefully to make sure it’s all correct; check to see if you need to clean the property upon leaving it; and use a deposit protection scheme, you have the best chance of getting your money back – so long as you don’t actually create any damage! 

What Is A Deposit Protection Scheme?

By law, all deposits (student accommodation deposits are legally treated as the same as all other types of tenancy deposits) taken by landlords need to be registered with a government-approved protection scheme.  These schemes act as a neutral third party and will keep hold of your money until you and your landlord have come to an agreement on whether or not you should get it back and if so, how much of it.

There are only three of these schemes in the UK: the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), and MyDeposits. Before you sign the contract, check with your landlord that they use one of these schemes to protect your deposit. 

You can also check if the property is on record with one of those three companies by contacting them yourself. It will be on record if your landlord has indeed done what is required. If they haven’t, you may be entitled to compensation.

Student Accommodation Guarantors

What Is A ‘Guarantor’ In A Student Tenancy Agreement?

Most landlords will require every student tenant, even on a joint contract, to have a guarantor.  This is a person who agrees to pay your rent if, for whatever reason, you can’t make the payments. This is a worst-case scenario backup plan for the landlord and not just someone else you can rely on to pay your bills when you’re a bit skint.

Do You Need A Guarantor For Student Accommodation?

It depends on the specifics of the contract but it is usually required since it’s a sensible option for landlords – especially with students who typically don’t have an income beyond their student loan. The higher the rent payment, the more likely it will be that you need a guarantor.

Who Qualifies As A Guarantor?

A student accommodation guarantor can be anyone, but it is advisable to choose someone trustworthy. Most people go with their parents or a guardian, but it could also be an older sibling, an uncle, or a grandparent. So long as they have some savings themselves, and are willing to make the serious financial commitment of covering you for many months of rent if need be.

What Can I Do If I Can’t Get A Guarantor?

It may be the case that you just don’t have anyone in your life that fits that description. Also, sometimes the tenancy agreement requires that the guarantor be UK-based, and this can be a problem for international students. Depending on the landlord, there still may be some wiggle room. Here are two things you can try:

  1. Offer to pay rent in advance. If this is an option for you – i.e. you have a lot of cash sitting around that you can offer upfront – it is unlikely that the landlord will refuse this offer, depending on how many months you can pay at once.
  2.  Use a rent guarantor company. There are some companies that will provide the service of being a Guarantor for anyone for a fee. UKguarantor, for example, is a designed-for-students service that will price match any other company, so they seem like a good bet.

What Documents Does A Guarantor Need To Provide?

Usually your guarantor doesn’t have to be there in person, they can just sign the student tenancy agreement you give to them and provide a photocopy of ID like a passport or driving license. 

That should just about cover everything you need to know before putting pen to paper on that contract and officially becoming a tenant. When you’re ready to move in, head on over to our Moving Into Student Accommodation Guide to make sure you’re aware of everything you need to do upon stepping through the door as a new tenant.

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