Contracts and legal information for renting private accommodation
Once you’ve found a house, flat or room, you will need to sign a contract. This document will be legally binding for both you and your landlord, so it is important that you take the time to read through it carefully and understand it before you sign.
This page gives you more information on some of the most common terms and issues that you may come across when looking at a contract. If you encounter any issues during the year, there is a range of help and advice on offer both through City and externally from different organisations— please see the section entitled ‘Legal Advice’ for more details on these services.
The ULHS Private Housing Guide can be downloaded or viewed online - an extensive guide to aid your private housing search and contains a large section on signing contracts and what to do if things go wrong.
Please view the ULHS Contract Checking guide. If you need further advice, please contact the ULHS Private Housing Advisors on +44 (0)20 7862 8880 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org (their offices are open from 10am-5pm Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri and 11am-5pm on Tues).
There is also a short but helpful guide on the Gov.UK website which will help you to understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord which gives certain rights to both you and your landlord, for example, your right to occupy the accommodation and your landlord's right to receive rent for letting the accommodation.
There are different types of agreements, such as Assured tenancy, Regulated tenancy and Assured shorthold tenancy. Depending on your type of tenancy you will have different rights. Shelter's Tenancy Checker is a great tool to identify your tenancy type in a few easy steps and provide information on your rights.
No matter your agreement type, your landlord will always have the following basic responsibilities:
- Protecting your deposit: in one of the Government approved deposit protection schemes - see the 'Deposit' section below for more information.
- Informing tenants on rent: you should be informed on rent amount, frequency and how this should be paid. Your landlord is required to provide a rent book if rent is paid weekly.
- Not disturbing tenants: the Landlord is only allowed to enter the property in order to carry out necessary repairs or to do inspections, however proper notice should be given (the exact terms of this may be outlined in your tenancy agreement) and a time should be arranged so that you can be present if you wish.
- Carrying out certain kinds of repairs - see the 'Repairs' section below for more details.
- Meeting safety standards - follow this link to the Gas and Fire Safety sections of our Staying Safe guide for more information.
- Evicting following the correct procedure - see 'End of Tenancy and Eviction' section below for further details.
- Providing their contact details: All landlords have to give their tenants their name and a UK contact address, even if the property is managed by a letting or property agent.
In addition to these basic responsibilities, find out what else to check for in a written agreement from Shelter.
Once you have found a property that you are interested in, you are likely to be asked to put down a deposit. The deposit works as a security for your landlord. It can be used in some cases to cover any repair costs for damage you cause to the property as well as to cover any outstanding rental fees you may owe when you move out.
There are three different government-backed tenancy deposit protection (TDP) schemes to protect your deposit. These schemes were introduced to significantly improve tenants' rights and ensure that their deposits are not unfairly withheld. The schemes also provide help to resolve disputes about deposits.
Tenancy deposit protection schemes:
If you are having an issue relating to deposits and disputes around non-return of deposits, you may contact the tenancy deposit protection scheme used by your landlord. Each scheme has an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service which aims to resolve any disputes without going to court.
Tips to help you protect your deposit:
- Before you pay any type of deposit, ensure you ask the landlord what the deposit covers and when the deposit will be returned to you.
- Ensure you get a written receipt of any money you pay and ask the landlord which tenancy deposit scheme the landlord will be using.
- Within 30 days of you paying a deposit, your landlord must give you details of the scheme they are using to protect it.
- It is also important that you and your landlord agree, in writing, what condition the property is in when you start renting it, including a list of the furniture and fittings (known as an inventory). This should help prevent disagreements at the end of the tenancy.
Read more information about tenancy deposit protection provided by the UK Government.
Households in the UK are liable to pay council tax, even if you are not the owner the property. The rates are set and collected by your local council on a monthly or yearly basis and overdue payment of your council tax bill can lead to prosecution.
Luckily, full time students are exempt from paying council tax. If you live in Halls of Residence, or in a private property where everyone is classed as a full time student, you'll be exempt from paying Council Tax. The government website outlines who qualifies as a full time student.
In order to be exempt it is vital that each resident provide proof of their student status in the form of a letter which sent to your local council. This letter can easily be obtained from either your department or the Student Centre.
The rules are different if you live with someone who is not a full time student but your household may still be eligible to get a discount - please consult your local council to find out more.
Please visit the government website for more information on Council Tax and other public services in your local area.
If you are a full time student and you live within the London Borough of Camden then you can apply online for your Council Tax exemption without needing to obtain a letter from City.
Moving out should be simple; you vacate the property on (or by) the date agreed in your contract and the landlord gives you your deposit back. In order for your departure to go as smooth as possible, here are a few points to consider:
- Money - make sure that you are up to date on your rental payments and that you don't have any bills outstanding.
- Did an inventory take place before you moved in? If so, it's a good idea to review the notes from the pre-moving in inventory and compare with the current state of furniture and fittings. What condition are they in?
- Cleaning - check your contract, you may have already agreed to have the property professionally cleaned on your departure. If not, it's a good rule of thumb to leave the property in the state that you found it (this will usually mean in a tidy state).
- Storage - if you're not able to move into another property immediately and wish to store some of your belongings, there are a wide range of self storage companies to hire - some even offer student discounts.
It is reasonable for your landlord to take money off the deposit to cover, for example, damage to the property or furniture, or missing items which were listed in the inventory. In addition, if you are leaving the property ahead of the agreed end date of your contract, you may be liable to penalty charges subject to the break clause outlined in your contract. Please see Deposit section for more information on deposit deductions and disputes.
If you have been asked to leave your home by your landlord, Shelter's Eviction Checker is a great tool to help identify the legal process your landlord is required to follow. If your landlord chooses to go down the route of eviction it is a good idea to seek advice from housing professionals. Please see the 'Legal advice' section below for more information on where you may be able to find advice, both within City and externally.
What are repairs and who is responsible for them?
Repairs are work that is needed to keep the property in good condition internally and externally. Your landlord has a number of repairing responsibilities in the property. These are determined by law and apply regardless of what is or isn't outlined in your tenancy agreement. This includes repairing and keeping in working order: roof, walls, floors, windows, baths, showers, toilets, basins, fixed heating and gas appliances.
There may also be additional areas of repair outlined in your tenancy agreement that your landlord is responsible for - please check your tenancy agreement for more details.
Note that you as a tenant are responsible for notifying the landlord of any needs of repair.
Telling your landlord about any repair works needed
- If you feel that repair works are needed in your property you should put this in writing to the landlord as soon as possible.
- Keep copies of all letters you send and also receive from your landlord.
- Do not attempt to repair anything yourself - in worst case you could get blamed for the damage and/or cause further damage.
Shelter has a guide to landlord and tenant responsibilities for repairs that may be useful to gain an idea of the sort of things you or the landlord may be responsible for.
If your landlord is disregarding a need for repairs which is either outlined in your tenancy agreement or included in the general legal repairing responsibilities, you should consult an experienced adviser - please see the 'Legal advice' section below for further information on how to get in touch with one. Withholding your rent money or using your rent money to carry out repair work yourself is not advisable as this can result in the landlord taking you to court for rent arrears.
Your landlord does not have right to enter your home without your permission unless it's an absolute emergency. If your landlord wants to inspect the property then they need to give you notice - how much notice and whether this should be verbal or in writing will be covered in your tenancy agreement.
If your landlord agrees to have repair work done in your property, they should carry out all the necessary work without causing disruption to your daily routine. The landlord should also tell you in advance when the work will start and when it is likely to end. In the event the repair works require you to vacate the property then your landlord will need to find you alternative accommodation while the work is being carried out.
Please see the TV Licensing website for information on if you need a license and how to obtain one.
If you do face issues during the year and would like to seek further advice, there are a range of options available to students. Some are based within City, and others are based externally by other organisations. All of them may be open to you regardless of whether you are living within City Halls or in private sector accommodation. Please see some suggestions below.
University of London Housing Service (ULHS)
ULHS Legal Advisors are available to City students. Most enquiries will be responded to over the telephone and by email, however students with complex cases or emergency situations will need to book an appointment. Firstly contact the ULHS team on +44 (0)20 7862 8880 or email@example.com. Full information on the ULHS advice can be found here. Please note that the ULHS team cannot give legal housing advice if the problem you have is with a nominated room in a Hall of Residence booked through City, University of London as this would be a conflict of interest (in this instance, please contact Roof over London and the other options as featured below).
ULHS Office opening times are: 10am-5pm Mon, Wed, Thurs and Fri. 11am-5pm on Tues.
Roof Over London
This is a private rental accommodation legal clinic run by students of the City Law School in conjunction with practicing solicitors on selected Thursday evenings. This service aims to provide students and members of the community with advice on leases, deposits, repairs, and the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. They do not undertake complex cases or court actions, but if you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Clinic Co-ordinator at RoofOverLondon@city.ac.uk. They will try to assist you as quickly as possible and can schedule you an appointment for the next advice session.
City Law School
City Law School’s Free Legal Advice Clinic: similar to the Roof Over London legal clinic, this is a free, confidential and independent legal advice service for civil law matters including landlord and tenant disputes. Sessions are led by qualified lawyers, who are supported by postgraduate law students. Please see their web page for dates of upcoming sessions and information on how to book an appointment.
Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) gives free, confidential, impartial and independent advice to help you resolve problems. Advice may be given face-to-face or by phone, but please be aware that bureaux are often only able to offer advice to people who live or work within their local authority/council; their website has a search option to find the services local to you. The CAB also has a self-help website with downloadable information.
Shelter is a housing and homelessness charity that provides free independent advice and information on your rights and options. If you would like to speak directly with an adviser, you can call their free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 or use their online directory to find face-to-face services in your local area.
Gov.uk is a Government run website that provides information on your legal obligations and rights, and advice to help resolve disputes.
Islington Law Centre
The Islington Law Centre offers advice on a number of topics including housing issues such as disrepair, homelessness, and rent arrears. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone them on 020 7288 7630 for further information on their services. During their evening clinic (Monday-Wednesday 7-9pm) please contact email@example.com 020 7288 7633 instead.
Hackney Law Centre
Hackney Community Law Centre provides free legal advice on issues including housing and homelessness to residents in Hackney and neighbouring London boroughs. For further details, please phone 020 8985 5236, or follow this link to submit an email via their web form.
Deposits:If your case is relating to deposits and disputes around non-return of deposits, you may contact the tenancy deposit protection scheme used by your landlord. Each tenancy deposit protection scheme has an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service which aims to resolve any disputes without going to court.
Legal aid:If you need help to pay for any legal action you may be entitled to Legal Aid to help with the cost of going to court. Legal Aid helps with the costs of legal advice for people who cannot afford to pay for a solicitor or pay for other expert legal advice. Find out more about legal aid.