Understanding Your Student Housing Contract
Student accommodation costs can take a large chunk out of any student finance budget. For a great number of students this will be the first time they will deal with financial and property contracts and it is important to know that their full rights are protected. The types of tenancy that are involved should also be detailed in any student housing contracts.
Legally Binding Student Housing ContractsOnce suitable student accommodation has been found it may be very tempting to jump in and sign a contract. But you should be aware that once the contract is signed it will be considered legally binding, regardless of whether the terms and conditions have been read or not. A golden rule to remember when dealing with any contractual negotiations is to read and fully understand all of the terms and conditions.
Do not sign any contract until all the terms and conditions have been agreed to by both parties. If the terms are vague or not clearly understood then do not sign the contract until they have been explained. This contract will be the reference point if any disputes occur in the future.
Types of Student AccommodationStudent housing contracts will have a list of standard details that are applicable to most tenancy contracts. Included will be the type of accommodation such as assured shorthold tenancy, periodic tenancy and whether or not the tenancy is a joint or sole tenancy.
Assured ShortholdThis is a very common type of tenancy agreement and it will mean that the tenancy is guaranteed for at least six months. In reality the tenancy will usually be for a longer fixed period, usually a year. This type of tenancy guarantees the student rights regarding notice to quit and eviction details.
Periodic or Fixed TermPeriodic tenancies can be reviewed every week or even every month. They work by the student paying rent on a weekly or monthly basis and the notice period should be agreed and written into any contract. Fixed term tenancies will be agreed for a specific period of time, and the contract cannot be broken until this time is up. If the contract is breached then the landlord can demand payment for the rest of the agreed period.
Joint TenanciesJoint tenancies are very popular with students and the type of tenancy is used when a number of students share one accommodation with many rooms. The only problem that may occur with this type of tenancy is if one student moves out then the remaining tenants will have to make up the shortfall in rent until a replacement student has arrived.
If this type of tenancy agreement is going to be considered it may be a good idea to set in an assignment document. This will ensure that the tenant who is leaving will be legally allowed to do so and a new person can take his or her place. If this is not included then the person that has left can still be pursued for rent for the length of the contract.
Individual TenancyAn alternative to joint tenancies can be that all students sharing a house sign individual tenancies. This will mean that each student is responsible for only his or her own rent. There may be some disadvantage to this such as having no say over who moves into a free room. The landlord can have access to any rooms that are not occupied and separate television licences may be required for each student's room.
Other Contract DetailsOther standard details in student housing contracts should include:
- The names and addresses of landlord and tenants.
- Rent payments and frequency of payments.
- Type of tenancy.
- Date of tenancy beginning and ending.
- Notice to quit details.
- Responsibility for repairs to the property.
- Details of council tax exemptions.
- The rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenants.
Break Terms and ConditionsIf a student thinks he or she may need to get out of contract early, say before the normal 12 month period, then they should try and include a break clause. Most academic terms last for around nine months and in some cases the extra months are unusable. Negotiating a couple of months of leeway notice with a landlord can ensure that the student is not held to the contract for the full 12 months.
It would be a wise move for any student to have their student housing contracts looked over by a student advisor. By doing so they can make sure their rights are protected in case any disputes do occur in the future. Never sign a contract or pay any deposits if there is any doubt over any of the contract's terms and conditions.