10 tenancy rights every student should know

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By in Student Accommodation. Updated October 2016.

Moving into a new flat is exciting, but it’s really important to make sure you’re clued up on your tenancy rights before you sign anything. Don’t get ripped off!Rights as a TenantMore often than we’re happy to admit, we hear stories of landlords taking advantage of young people’s lack of knowledge when it comes to their tenancy rights.

We’re here to arm you with the facts, so you know exactly what you do and don’t need to put up with!

Before we get into the nitty gritty, it’s worth first clarifying the difference between a private rental and an HMO. An HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) is a larger property that houses three or more unrelated people in it.

This means that most student flats will qualify as HMOs, and landlords are expected to follow extra procedures when renting their property out like this, so make sure they have everything covered!

For more details on housing contracts, take a look at our tenancy agreement checklist and don’t forget to read our guide on how to get your full housing deposit back!

10 tenancy rights you need to know

  1. Fire and general safety

    Carbon MonoxideThere are a few things that the law requires your landlord to do in terms of safety.

    For one thing, there should be adequate means of fire escape in your property, and at least one smoke alarm per floor of the building.

    Any room that has a fireplace (that’s in use) needs to also have a carbon monoxide detector (if your property doesn’t have one, we strongly recommend buying your own and invoicing your landlord for it).

    If your place classifies as an HMO, then your landlord is also legally required to fit fire alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets on every floor.

    Make sure you check who’s in charge of maintaining these alarms. If it’s you, you’ll have to ensure that they’re working and never run out of battery.

  2. Landlord visits

    atthedoorYou might just be renting your pad, but contrary to popular belief, the landlord (or people acting on their behalf) cannot just walk into the property whenever they feel like it.

    If they want access to the property to give a viewing or carry out repairs, they legally need to give you at least 24 hours before showing up.

    If you’re not going to be able to be there when they come, but you’d prefer that someone you trust was there when they visit, you can ask for a witness.

  3. Appliance checks

    electricsAny gas appliances in the property must be checked yearly by a Gas Safe registered engineer, and there should be a record of every check kept at the property to prove it.

    Ask to see this before signing your contract, and make sure your landlord keeps on top of things whilst you’re living there. Your life could depend on it!

    Your landlord should also make sure that all electrical installations are safe. If they’re providing you with portable appliances (such as kettles or toasters), these should be checked every five years by an electrician. This is called a PAT test.

  4. Infestations

    Rats and Damp
    Of course, it’s not very nice to think about, but student houses have been known to play home to unwanted guests (and we’re not talking about your roommate’s one night stand, unfortunately)!

    When it comes to infestations of mice, rats, bedbugs and bats (yes, bats), you’ll be glad to know that it’s your landlord’s responsibility to sort them out (as long as it’s not your fault they’re there in the first place).

    If you have mice, contact your landlord immediately and they should make plans to get rid of them ASAP.  If you discover you’ve got rats, inform both your landlord and the local health authority, which will make plans for a team of experts to come and deal with them as rats are a massive health and safety risk.

    With bedbugs, it depends on who bought the offending piece of furniture. If you did, then unfortunately it’s your own responsibility to deal with it, but you should let your landlord know. If it was a piece of furniture that’s already there then it’s their responsibility to dispose of it.

    If you’re not satisfied with the handling of the matter then you should ask to leave the property.

  5. Having guests

    Having friends overMost tenancy agreements won’t mention too much about having guests to stay, so it’s normally more about coming to an understanding with your housemates than anything else.

    Do be mindful of those you’re sharing with, especially if your guest will be sleeping in a communal area. If your guests cause any damage, remember that you’ll be liable for it!

    If you or a housemate accepts money from a guest for staying over, or if you choose to rent out any of your rooms temporarily on airbnb or something similar, this is considered sub-letting.

    Sub-letting is pretty much always going to be against your tenancy agreement, so if you get caught, you could even be evicted. The only way to get round this is if you discuss it (very nicely!) with your landlord first, and take it from there. Don’t hold your breath though!

  6. Decorating

    catwallpaperBefore you start painting any walls or doing any major decorating, you’ll need to get written permission from your landlord.

    Most landlords will allow you to paint the wall a different colour if you so wish, as long as you paint it back to its original colour before you leave (if you’re only going to be living there a short time, you should consider whether it’s really worth the hassle).

    Sprucing up your room with photos or framed pictures is always nice, but make sure you’re not causing any damage to the walls. If you start hammering nails in or using blu-tack, you’ll probably find yourself footed with a bill when the time comes to move out.

    As a general rule, the property should look the same when you move out as it did when you first moved in.

  7. Repairs

    STAIRSTOYIf there are any issues with the property that could result in an accident, make sure you report it to your landlord straight away.

    Most landlords will be reasonable and make the necessary changes as soon as possible, but if you’re having a bit of trouble to get the ball rolling, here’s a repairs request template to get it in writing (which should do the trick!).

    In fact, if the repairs are considered an ’emergency’, your landlord is legally obliged to have it repaired within 24 hours; if it’s ‘urgent’ but not an emergency, they need to repair it within four days.

    This law is part of the Right to Repair scheme, which requires that any urgent and emergency repairs costing under £250 are done within this timescale. If your landlord doesn’t abide by this rule, contact Citizens Advice (you’re probably sick of hearing that now!).

  8. Evictions

    Student EvictionThere are a number of reasons why a landlord could legally evict you. These include the following:

    • being at least two months late on rent payments
    • having been regularly late with your payments
    • breaching any of the terms of your tenancy agreement
    • letting the property fall into an unacceptable state
    • causing a nuisance to the neighbours
    • being involved in illegal activities.

    If you receive a threat of eviction, seek legal advice immediately. However, if there’s no court order included in your eviction notice, this is illegal.

    Note that it’s also considered a crime for your landlord to use any harassment tactics to get you out of the property. These include:

    • cutting electricity or gas supplies
    • threats and physical violence
    • refusing to carry out repairs
    • withholding keys.

  9. Notice to leave

    leavenowIf your landlord wants you to move out, they need to provide you with adequate notice. The law states that you must be given at least two months’ notice before you have to vacate the property. If they’re not abiding by this, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

    If you want to leave before your contract has officially ended, you’ll only be able to do so under certain circumstances such as your landlord breaching their responsibilities from the tenancy agreement. Otherwise, you’ll still have to pay for your rent until the end of the lease.

  10. Housing deposit

    Dial of a bank safeEvery landlord is legally obliged to place your housing deposit within a government-owned deposit scheme called a TDP scheme (Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme).

    This ensures that both sides are equally protected in case of any disputes. If your landlord fails to put your deposit in a TDP within 30 days of receiving it from you, you could be due compensation.

    Check out our extensive guide on your rights when it comes to your housing deposit here!

If all else fails…

As you may have noticed, the recurring theme here is that if in doubt, contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (or your uni accommodation office if you’re living in halls).

They’ll be able to help you iron out any grey areas you have, as each individual case can require a totally different approach.

Have you ever had any problems with landlords? We’d want to hear your story. Leave a comment below or if you’d prefer, you can get in touch with us directly

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31 Responses to “10 tenancy rights every student should know”

  1. Jasmine

    25. Nov, 2016

    Hello, me and my housemates moved into a house in September and since then we have had no end of trouble! But recently we have began to receive house viewings. We are more than happy to co operate however not once have they given us 24hour notice even though we have made it clear that we expect this. Just this morning on of the agents let themselves into our property to show some people around and we had apsolutely no knowledge of this happening. What shall we do? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      28. Nov, 2016

      Hi Jasmine, your letting agent should not be repeatedly doing this. I would suggest that you write them an email saying that they MUST give you 24 hours notice before entering the property. You should then get in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau as they can help you resolve an issue like this.

      Reply
  2. Jackie Gallagher

    04. Oct, 2016

    My daughter and her friend both attend university in Glasgow and moved into a flat in Berkely Street. At first all seemed fine until they had a rat infestation. The letting agency attended the property and felt that the report I had from a private pest control company was inaccurate. However it was confirmed by his own pest control that there was indeed rats entering the property. I immediately got my daughter out of the flat and into a hotel for a couple of nights until such times as we were able to co-ordinate a move from the flat. When we vacated the flat it was totally empty, floors swept and in the same state as it was when they originally entered the flat. The letting agency however withheld £50 due to the fact that the floors were not mopped. Can he do this. Do I have any grounds for reclaiming out of pocket expenses (hotel and pest control) due to the fact that their agency was closed for a bank holiday weekend?

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      05. Oct, 2016

      Hi Jackie, sorry to hear you’ve been in this situation. This argument seems to come down to whether the property was habitable. I believe a rat problem can’t be a reason for leaving the property unless it’s extremely bad. However, I would hope that you could reclaim the cost of the pest control + the £50. I would recommend contacting your local citizens advice bureau for more in-depth legal advice as to where you stand on this one.

      Reply
  3. kevin

    03. Oct, 2016

    my daughter is in a hmo,
    does the L/L have to provide a ironing board & iron?

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      04. Oct, 2016

      Hi Kevin, as far as I’m aware they are not obliged to include an ironing board & iron.

      Reply
  4. Paula

    28. Sep, 2016

    Hi my daughter has just moved into a student house with separate tenancies, unfortunately one of the other housemates has had a delay with student finance and has not payed the rent for 2 weeks.the landlord has threatened to kick her out and says that the other 3 student housemates are now going to have to pay more rent to make up hers! Can he do this ? My daughter is so worried

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      28. Sep, 2016

      Hi Paula, if the tenancy agreement is separate for each person in the house (and not a joint tenancy) then your daughter has nothing to worry about. The landlord should not be threatening like this and should be chasing up the guarantor for the other student. I’d make it clear to the landlord that you have not signed a joint tenancy agreement which means you are not obligated to pay for the other housemates.

      Reply
  5. Sandra

    17. Sep, 2016

    My daughter has just moved into a bedsit in an HMO. But we have discovered only form of heating is electric fan heater. This a large room with an old fireplace and wooden single glazed windows . Also the electric is shared with lad in next room and she has to go there to top it up.

    Reply
  6. Gurnam

    04. Feb, 2016

    Is there anyone over the phone who i can speak to about this please because our landlord breaches the agreement all the time by coming in the house whenever he wants when he is supposed to give us 24 hours notice, and weve had mice for over 3 weeks now and the problem is getting worse even though he is putting poison down. I also believe there may be a CO leak hence ive ordered a monitor today.

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      08. Feb, 2016

      Hi Gurnam, I would suggest getting in touch with the Citizen’s advice bureau as they should be able to offer more advice. As for the landlord coming into you property, I would suggest sending a recorded email saying it’s unacceptable.

      Reply
  7. Alex

    25. Jan, 2016

    Hi, I moved into a privately rented flat in Sept ’15 and recently there has been a dispute between one of the girls and the rest of the flat (nothing major, noise issues and some disagreements) Our l/l took it upon themselves to get in contact with our universities and inform them of whats going on. I found this clause in the contract

    ‘The Student agrees that MPM may process relevant information about the Student or the Student’s visitors and any emergency contact person nominated by the Student, for all lawful purposes connected to the Student’s contract. This may include disclosing relevant information about the Student to their institution of study, the Guarantor, the Deposit Protection Service, the police, other law enforcement agencies, the Benefits Service, utility companies, local authorities, immigration authorities or other government agencies, or any person who needs a reference. MPM will give out information about the Student if it has to in order to comply with a court order. This clause includes personal data classed as ‘sensitive’, such as information about health, ethnicity and criminal records.’

    ^ That is the only thing mentioned in the contract about possible contact with a University. But to be honest I’m not finding it very clear. Is my l/l in breech of the Data Protection Act by informing my university of the dispute? The accommodation I am in is in no way affiliated or connected with my university.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      26. Jan, 2016

      Hi Alex, it seems as if your landlord was within their right to disclose the information. However, if you are really disgruntled by the fact that your information was shared and you are still unsure I would recommend getting in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

      Reply
  8. Jeanette

    24. Jan, 2016

    Before Christmas my daughter was physically attacked by a friend of another flat mate in shared private accomodation. Police were involved and he has admitted the attack. She gave notice and moved out on the grounds of safety as the attacker was still visiting the accomodation after the attack. She has been in touch with the university proctor and the university have been in touch with the landlord who is adamant that she pay the fees until the end of the contract ( summer). She is travelling from home which is over three hours a day but the psychological distress of the attack has made a normally vibrant girl anxious an frightened. The landlord has lied to the university saying I have spoken to him( I have only been in contact by email) saying the university will pay the fees , I did not. The university can provide university accomodation if we pay. We have paid fees for this tern ( until April) even though she will not spend a single day there. The only breach in contract is a hat he had entered her room without notice whilst she was out. She also had no heating or broadband connection and he did not respond to her emails however this was only minor as my husband attended and bled the radiators. Surely she cannot be expected to live in somewhere that is unsafe? The accomodation has four people living in it plus her, two are close friends of the attacker so even if he was banned from entering it would make living there difficult and she still felt unsafe facing one of the tenants.
    Any advice would be helpful as the landlord is not behaving in an honest manner.

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      25. Jan, 2016

      Hi Jeanette, I’m extremely sorry to hear of your daughter’s tricky situation. Unfortunately, as far as the law is concerned, the landlord does/may not have to take any action as this is a matter for the police. This makes it very difficult for your daughter to not pay any rent at all.

      If she is looking to get out then I would suggest trying to speak to the landlord about finding another tenant. Fees may have to be paid but it’s better than paying out the rest of the contract for somewhere that she won’t be living.

      If the attack is affecting your daughter and the attacker has admitted it have you thought about pursuing legal action against them? You may be able to claim for losses and distress.

      In terms of breach of contract I can agree that it sounds like the landlord has not been totally reasonable but from what I know this is not enough to terminate a contract (not that I agree with that).

      I hope you find a good solution to this predicament and I’m sorry that I cannot offer a simpler way out of this.

      Jake.

      Reply
      • Jeanette

        25. Jan, 2016

        Thank you for the reply.

        Reply
  9. jan

    26. Dec, 2015

    My daughter is a university student sharing a house with three other girls,she has just been diagnosed with a long term health condition.She has struggled living out not just cause of her illness but the ongoing remarks and arguments from her flatmates regarding her not ‘pulling her weight’ ‘socialising’ etc which are all down to her condition as she sleeps alot and when awake in pain alot of the time.My question is does she have any rights regarding not paying her rent as she is going to have to finish uni,we have tried get a new tenant but to no avail,all this stress is making her condition worse,I am guarantor but cant pay either.

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      30. Dec, 2015

      Hi Jan, I’m sorry to hear of your daughter’s tricky situation. Unfortunately the contract makes it very difficult for your daughter to not pay any rent at all. If she is looking to finish uni then I would suggest trying to speak to the landlord about finding another tenant. Fees may have to be paid but it’s better than paying out the rest of the contract.

      An alternative, once she has left uni, would be to look into disability benefits (if she is eligible) as these could help with paying off any housing and living costs.

      I hope you find a good solution to this predicament.

      Reply
  10. nikki

    07. Dec, 2015

    I am a tenant at a student accommodation in london. I have been terminated from my studies at university and will no longer be in receipt of any funding to be able to pay the rent.
    I cannot find anyone to take over my contract and i cant afford to pay 5000 pounds of rent!
    How can i get out of this tenancy agreement? If i went to court would i win, because it does say in the agreement that if the tenant ceases to be a student then they can be evicted. I want to be evicted!!!

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      08. Dec, 2015

      Hi Nikki, unfortunately if you took this to court you would not have a case as you have signed the (assume 12 month) contract and therefore are liable to pay the full amount regardless of your personal situation. It says that if you cease to be a student that you CAN be evicted so that’s at the landlord’s discretion. Sorry I cannot really help with this and wish you the best of luck in resolving this.

      Reply
  11. Claire

    05. Dec, 2015

    Hi my daughter is in student digs and has an assured shorthold tenancy meaning she is contracted to pay the rent for the rest of the year. Unfortunately there has been some bullying and a lot of stuff going on – she is really unhappy there – she’d like to move out but is she stuck there now?

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      07. Dec, 2015

      This is a tricky one. Has your daughter contacted the landlord about this to discuss the situation. The landlord may be able to advise on whether an eviction is possible or whether your daughter can leave the property and break the contract either by finding another tenant herself or through them (there may be fees involved).

      Reply
  12. Ellie

    24. Nov, 2015

    Hi, I need advice. I have just moved (one week) in a rented flat and found out that there is a big issue with dumpness. I moved a chest of drawers in my bedroom and found out that there is mould growing on the wall. All my clothes and duvet are starting smelling bad. I want to leave the flat after a week of tenancy. I signed a contract for six months. What can I do?

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      24. Nov, 2015

      Hi Ellie, I would contact your landlord about the issue so that they can resolve it for you. If they decide not to then you can take action.

      There’s more on it here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/repairs-in-rented-housing/disrepair-common-problems/disrepair-dampness/

      Hope the issue is resolved.

      Reply
      • Ellie

        24. Nov, 2015

        Thank you Jake, I contacted the agency, they said that must be our fault, we shouldn’t dry clothes in the flat and we should open the windows.
        The first thing is impracticable, since we are in Scotland and I can’t dry clothes outside, and anyway we dry clothes in the living room that is far from my room that is having the mould problem.
        My impression is instead that the lack of insulation of the walls is causing the problem.
        What can I do (or ask them to do) since it seems a structural issue?

        Reply
        • Jake Butler

          24. Nov, 2015

          Hi Ellie, I would suggest replying (via email so that it’s recorded) what you have said above. I would also suggest that you will be contacting your local Environmental Health department. If they are ok with that then you should get in touch with the Environmental Health Department to get them to come and check out the issue. They should be able to tell you whether you landlord needs to do something about it. Let me know how that goes. Jake.

          Reply
  13. Suzie

    20. Nov, 2015

    My daughter has been living in a lovely flat with a super bunch of flat mates, however they have discovered they have a Micky mouse problem
    I suggested they contact the ll as if the mce caused any problem to the house and they hadn’t reported the situation on they could lose their deposit
    Also my daughter has chronic Heath problems and can’t live in unhealthy condition which could trigger her health to decline for some reason she thinks they contact the ll they are to blame
    I have forward the article on to her
    Thank you
    Suzie

    Reply
  14. jenny

    03. Oct, 2015

    Hi.
    I am a LL I purchased property in june. Got tenants for july but house needed slight renovation. Tenancy started in July but tennants moved in around beginning of sept. When new kitchen was put in safety checks were done on cooker. In sept one of tenants left uni due to health leaving the other tenants having now to pay her rent. It was a joint tenacy. I got the gas certs done for the propertyat the beginning of oct. Now the tennants are saying they will take legal action because gas cert was not done when they moved in. I explained that safety checks were done prior but due to the boiler being specialist boiler it required a specialist engineer to come and do gas cert. Now they asking for a reduction on rent. I feel they using a gas cert not being done as excuse for not paying the rent of the tenant who left. I mean its a newly refurbished house. The gas cert been done. It was something I acknowledged to do anyway. Can they take action on me regarding this. I am LL who has provided a comfortable home with a carbon monoxide patch aswell as a carbon monixde detector. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      26. Oct, 2015

      Hi Jenny, I believe this is a tricky one. They do have a case but the courts can sometimes allow for common sense (believe it or not). If you really feel you are in the right then it may be a case of letting them know you’d be happy to go to court over it. It’s up to you. You could also pay for expert legal advice if you wanted to get a definitive answer. I hope that helps.

      Reply
  15. Kirstie

    09. Jul, 2015

    Just moved out of my two bed flat and received a letter yesterday about my bond. Turns out even though the landlord gave permission for us to put canvases and posters up when we first moved in he’s left us with a £150 charge for the blu-tack in my flatmate’s room. Definitely get a written agreement with your landlord if he says you can decorate.

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      10. Jul, 2015

      Yer, this is a big issue. It seems a pain at the time but we would always recommend getting a written agreement from your landlord for any changes outside of the contract. Sometimes even an email will do.

      Reply

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