Signing up to rent a house or flat is a major financial commitment. You will probably be paying thousands of pounds a year in rent. Before making such a large purchase, you need to be fully aware of what you are signing up for.

Types of contract

Fixed term

Fixed term contracts are for a certain number of months (usually 12) or specify a start and end date. By signing it you are committing to paying rent for the time period stated. You will not be able to move out and stop paying rent unless you find someone else to take your place (and even then, check that a change of tenants is explicitly permitted).

Joint tenancy

This is where all the tenants’ names are on the same agreement, which means that all tenants are equally liable for each other’s rent. If you sign a joint tenancy for a five person house at £65 a week you are actually agreeing to be liable for £16,900! Make sure you know and trust your future housemates. After all, not only are you sharing financial responsibility with them, but you have to share a living space for a year.

Agreements

If the landlord agrees to do any renovations or repairs before you move in, get these promises written in to the contract before you sign it. Get the landlord to specify exactly what work will be done, and the dates by when it will be completed.

Deposits

Most landlords will ask you to pay the equivalent of a month’s rent as a deposit. This deposit should be returned to you at the end of the tenancy, providing the property is left in a good condition.

When you pay a deposit to the landlord or agent, they must then pay it into a ‘tenancy deposit scheme’. These protect your money and ensure it is returned to you when you move out. Ask for written details of the scheme your deposit has been paid into. If the landlord does not pay it into a scheme you can take them to court for three times the deposit.

Location

It can be tricky to strike a good balance between affordable rent and a convenient or desirable location.

Remember that if you are not in halls of residence, you may not be near to your university campus. Think about how you will be able to get to and from classes, taking travel expenses into consideration. If you are in a popular area, the rent may be twice as high as properties in the ‘less desirable’ parts of town.

Ask a student

It can be useful to ask students in higher years about where to live and how much you should be paying. This may even put you in a position where you will be able to find a property quicker, for example if these students know of people moving out.

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