A contract is a legally binding agreement. Do not sign any contract unless you (and all your housemates) are completely confident that it’s fair and reasonable and that you can meet its terms.
It’s well worth checking with University of London Housing Services or the Students’ Union UCL Rights and Advice Centre before you sign any contract. These legal advice services are free to UCL students. Their friendly advisors can explain any legal terminology to you, as well as help ensure that you have the right kind of contract with no ‘dodgy’ clauses.
Advice from UCL students
- Read it carefully and get a second opinion.
- Make sure you know what any jargon means.
- Query anything and everything you don’t understand or like the look of.
FREE CONTACT CHECKING SERVICE
University of London Housing Services provide free housing advice appointments where they can check over your contract for you before you sign. During this process they check on your landlord and see if they have had any trouble with them in the past. This avoids problems down the line as they can suggest any relevant changes to your contract. In addition to this, they can give advice on council tax and utilities, as well as explaining any legal jargon in your contract.
A couple of handy things to know the meaning of are ‘break clause’ and ‘deposit’.
A break clause is a clause in your contract that allows you to end your tenancy early. It may be after a certain amount of time, or under a certain condition. It may also allow your landlord to end the agreement early too.
There are 2 types of deposit that you will be asked for when you are renting a property: a holding deposit and a safety/tenancy deposit.
Holding deposits are a maximum of one month’s rent and these are paid to the landlord/agent when you are sure that you want to rent the property. The agent will then take it off the market and consider your offer. If you change your mind then you will lose this money. If your offer is rejected then you will get your money back. If your offer is accepted then your holding deposit will go towards your safety/tenancy deposit.
Safety/tenancy deposits are equal to up to 5 weeks’ rent, and this is kept in a government protected scheme. If your landlord goes bankrupt/rogue then your money is still protected. This money can also be used by the landlord at the end of your tenancy to fix/clean anything that you left in a poor state. If you want to dispute this claim then the deposit protection scheme will mediate this. Your landlord should send you details of where they are storing your money within 14 days of you sending it.
Before you sign the contract, make sure you are 100% ready to sign. It is a legally binding document so it would be very difficult, if not impossible to revoke it once you have signed. ULHS can make sure you have the right type of contract. Usually a contract between friends is jointly and severally liable, meaning that you are all responsible for one another. This means that if one of you breaks something or falls behind on rent, then the others will have to pick it up. Make sure you are sure of your flatmates before you get into a legal agreement with them!