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Housing contract checklist

This checklist is for students signing assured shorthold contracts. Nearly all landlords in Sheffield use this type of contract. If your contract doesn’t make clear that it is an assured shorthold, or uses another title (such as assured contract or licence agreement), please make an appointment to see a housing adviser.

The name and address of the landlord

If the landlord uses a managing agent, the address can be the agent’s address.

The name of the tenant or tenants

If more than one person is named as tenant, the contract will probably be a joint tenancy. Joint tenants can be held responsible for each other’s rent although not all landlords enforce this.

The address of the property

If the contract is for a room in a shared house, the address section should make this clear. For example - Attic room plus shared use of kitchen, living room & bathroom, 1 University Street.

Top Tip

The property is more than just the building, it also includes the furniture and fixtures and fittings such as the carpets and curtains. Make sure you get an inventory so you have a record of everything that comes with the house and its condition.

The length of the contract (Term)

Nearly all housing contracts are fixed term. This means they last for a fixed period of time, usually 6 or 12 months. With this type of contract there is usually no get out for the tenant so if you sign up and then change your mind, the landlord will expect you to find a replacement tenant before you can be released.

Key information about the deposit

  • Amount
  • Circumstances in which the landlord can keep the money (eg damage, unpaid rent)
  • How long you can expect to wait for your refund at the end of the contract

Deposits paid in connection with assured shorthold contracts MUST be protected in a government authorised protection scheme. Some contracts cover this but it is acceptable for information about it to be provided separately at a later date.

Top Tip

Deposits are usually paid when you sign the contract. The landlord then has 30 days to protect the deposit and provide official confirmation of this (prescribed information). For more information on deposit protection click here (http://su.sheffield.ac.uk/student-advice-centre/housing/leaving-a-house/deposit-faqs).

Key information about the rent

  • Amount
  • Frequency of payment (eg monthly)
  • Method of payment (eg standing order)
  • Date of first payment (this will normally be before the contract actually starts)
  • If you have to provide a rent guarantor

Top Tip

Paying rent monthly is not the same as paying 4 weekly. To calculate a monthly rent, multiply the weekly rent by 52 and then divide by 12.

Key information about bills and Council Tax

  • Bills are usually not included in the rent
  • With bills inclusive deals, look out for a cap on how much you can use before you start having to pay extra
  • The house will be exempt from Council Tax provided everyone is a full time studen

Most housing contracts contain lots of clauses setting out things the tenant is expected to do (eg pay the rent on time) or not allowed to do (eg decorate without permission). You should always read these clauses very carefully and talk to the landlord about anything which concerns you. If you are still worried, make an appointment to see a housing adviser BEFORE you sign the contract.

Looking after the house

The landlord is generally the person who is responsible for repairs but tenants are expected to take care of the property (eg keep it clean, and sufficiently warm and ventilated to avoid problems with condensation). Always make sure that you tell the landlord when a repair is needed, preferably in writing.

Letting the landlord in

You are required to let the landlord (or anyone authorised by him/her) into the property but they have to ask your permission first. For inspections and repairs, there is a legal requirement to give 24 hours’ notice. For other purposes (eg viewings) the access arrangements should be set out in the contract. The landlord is not required to give notice in an emergency.

Visitors

Most contracts will not allow you to let anyone else live in the house without the landlord’s permission. Having friends to visit is normally fine but you will be responsible so if, for example, they cause damage, the landlord can make you pay. Some contracts restrict how many visitors you can have at one time and how long they can stay but clauses like this are rarely enforced (unless neighbours or housemates complain) and could be unfair.

Nuisance and annoyance

These clauses are mainly about noise and disturbing the neighbours. If you are very noisy and the landlord gets lots of complaints, you could be threatened with legal action to make you leave. This is rare but does happen sometimes. The University can also sometimes get involved.

Insurance

Most contracts say you must not do anything which invalidates the landlord’s building insurance or makes it more expensive. Some contracts also say you have to insure yourself against causing damage.  If you’re paying a deposit this might seem unnecessary but some landlords will not allow the tenancy to go ahead without it. Some students are covered by insurance from their home address but in most cases you will need your own insurance because you will not be covered by the landlord’s policy.

The following apply even if they’re not mentioned in the contract.

Quiet Enjoyment

This is nothing to do with noise! It means that your landlord must allow you to live in the house without unnecessary interference.

Repairs

Most contracts mention Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985. This makes landlords responsible for repairs to the structure and exterior. It also covers things like plumbing and electrics. Landlords cannot transfer responsibility for these major repairs to tenants.

Gas safety regulations

Landlords are required by law to have gas safety checks carried out every 12 months.

Furniture fire safety regulations

These regulations apply to upholstered furniture (eg sofas).

Lots of housing contracts include charges (eg for replacement keys). Charges which greatly exceed the real cost to the landlord can be deemed unfair (so unenforceable). If you are concerned about charges, please make an appointment with a housing adviser BEFORE you sign the contract.

If your contract is an assured shorthold, your landlord will probably provide you with the following extra documents:

  • A copy of the government guide How to rent: the checklist for renting in England
  • A current energy performance certificate (when one is required, there are some exceptions)
  • A current gas safety certificate (for properties with a gas supply).

Failure to provide these documents will not invalidate your contract but it could make it more difficult for the landlord to evict you.

Right to Rent

From 1st February 2016, landlords are required to check all tenants’ immigration status before they grant a tenancy agreement. If there is no limit on how long you can stay in the UK (eg you are a British citizen), the landlord can carry out this check at any point in the run up to the start of the tenancy. If there is a limit on how long you can stay in the UK, the landlord must check your status no more than 28 days before the tenancy start date. Students in this situation can now get a Right to Rent Nomination letter (http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/certificate-of-student-status/right-to-rent) from the University which confirms their status and makes them exempt from other checks by the landlord.

Page updated 17th November 2016