What are the key features of a student tenancy agreement?
What should one be on the lookout for when reading a student tenancy agreement? Especially if they have no prior experience with private renting? This article explores some key features of the student tenancy agreement, and identifies potential issues that a student should understand before they sign their new tenancy contract:
- Start date and end date which usually coincide with the academic year
- Rights to exclusive possession
- Damage to property
- Break Clauses
- Joint Liability
- Utilities and broadband
What is a Student Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement?
A student tenancy agreement is a legal agreement between a landlord and a Full Time student to let an identified residential property for a specified term at an agreed rate. The agreement is supposed to cover the rights and obligations of both parties in sufficient detail, to act as a reference whenever a disagreement arises. What are the other key terms of the tenancy agreement?
The student has a right to know the landlord’s arrangement for deposit protection within a month of the deposit being received. According to the National Student Accomodation Survey 2020, 14% of UK students struggle to get their deposit returned to them. It is crucial for student tenancy agreements to clearly list the conditions under which sums will be withheld from the deposit, so that such difficulties can be averted. It is important to agree on the inventory at the start of the tenancy to facilitate the discussion if and when damage claims are made. The 3 government approved tenancy deposit protection services are Tenancy Deposit Solution, MyDeposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
Rights to exclusive possession
Students, like other tenants, have a basic right to enjoy their home. This means that they are entitled to the exclusive possession of the property, and can keep people out if they so wish. Yet, inappropriate or unannounced landlord visits was the 7th most reported problem for student renters in the above mentioned survey. This could be addressed in the contract by specifying legitimate reasons for the landlord to visit e.g. maintenance, or to show prospective tenants the house. Further, the contract should identify the notice period the landlord must give before a visit, generally it is at least 24 hours in advance.
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Damage to property
A common problem for renters is dealing with damages to the property and its contents. It is important to know that the landlord is legally responsible to repair any damage to the structure or exterior of the property i.e. external gutters, drains, pipes and windows. The student tenancy agreement must reflect this. Damages to other parts of the property can be repaired by either the student or the landlord, but the parties must know beforehand what they are responsible for. The agreement should also outline the procedure for reporting damages so that they are dealt with as efficiently as possible. On check in, the landlord must provide an inventory which details the condition of the property so that at the end of the tenancy, the landlord and tenant can easily determine if the tenant has caused any damaged. The landlord can then deduct the cost of repair from the deposit.
Another issue for tenants to be aware of is the existence of break clauses i.e. a term in the student tenancy agreement that provides for the early termination of the agreement before the fixed term expires. Break clauses give either the landlord or tenant the right to end the agreement before the agreed date, and it is sensible for student tenants to be aware of such clauses in their agreements in case either party decides to trigger them.
Lastly, if there is more than one tenant, the student tenancy agreement should say how legal responsibility will be shared between the parties. If liability is “joint and several”, this means that each joint tenant is liable for the whole agreement as though they were the only signee. On the other hand, if liability is individual, then each tenant is only liable for their share of the rent and the agreement. For example, if they are renting rooms individually in a HMO (Houses in multiple occupation). When living with housemates, everyone should know if -as is often the case- they will personally be held liable on behalf of everyone.
Some private landlords require that the tenant has a guarantor to guarantee their rent in the event that they are unable to make rent payments. A guarantor is usually a family member such as a parent. The guarantor will enter into a deed of guarantee with the landlord in order to confirm their acceptance of the guarantee. Having a guarantor is often a condition of the tenancy which means that the tenant will need to find a new guarantor if the guarantor is no longer able to guarantee the tenant.
While many understand their student tenancy agreement, many do not. If something does not make sense or seems strange, it is in the student’s interest to seek advice and then discuss the matter with the landlord or letting agent. Signing a student tenancy agreement has legal implications for both parties, therefore it is crucial for all parties to understand the contents of their agreement, in particular the small print.
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.