Private Student Housing Contracts
What you need to know about your student contract, before making any decisions.
- Posted Wed, Jan 13, 2021 2:30 PM
When you moved into your new student home, you would have been asked to sign a contract.
This is a legally binding document, that may have some serious consequences if you choose to break any of the terms and conditions of the contract, for any reason.
We know many students feel strongly about their situation at the moment, in regards to not being able to return to campus, but still being expected to pay rent and bills, even if you are not living there.
Before you take any action, The Union urges you to read the terms and conditions of your contract, to make sure you don't end up in a potentially worse situation!
Contracts can be complicated and difficult to understand - if there is something which you are not sure about - ASK!
Is your contract joint liability or individual liability? Depending on your contract, your course of action may have consequences for your housemates too!
Most landlords or agents, especially when renting to students, use a Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement.
This usually means that your contract for the property is for a fixed term of 12 months.
If you signed this type of fixed term contract when you moved in, you are liable to pay rent for the full period.
There are rare occasions where there is a specific clause allowing you to give notice to quit/ terminate your contract early. This is why you need to read your contract carefully before deciding a course of action.
As part of this type of contract, this means that you as a tenant have exclusive possession of the property. The landlord/agent can access the property (for repairs or inspections), but you should be given notice and they should only call during reasonable working hours.
Landlords are not free to write into contracts any terms and conditions they want.
They are restricted in what they can do by the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999), which apply to all rented tenancies.
Any clauses deemed unfair could be unenforceable. This only refers to the standard terms of a contract (not clauses that have been separately negotiated).
Examples of Unfair Terms could be:
- Penalty charges
- Exclusion by the landlord/agent of accepting responsibility for loss or damage to personal property
- Ambiguous legal clauses
If you have any questions or queries, you can contact the Competition and Markets Authority (formerly the Office of Fair Trading) or the Students' Union Advice Service, or the University Housing Support.
As part of your agreement, you may have been asked for someone to be your guarantor - most likely your parents or a guardian.
It is also important to understand that if you entered into a contract with joint liability and your guarantor signed a general guarantee, there is a significant financial risk to your guarantor.
It is important that both you and your guarantor understands that if you default on rent or the cost of damage they will be responsible for making payment.
If another tenant moves out or fails to pay the rent, your guarantor could be taken to court under the terms of the guarantee, even if you have paid your rent.
Check your contract and see if your guarantor will be liable if you or any of your housemates decide to take action.
The first thing you can do is speak to your housemates about what course of action you want to take, to make sure you're all in agreement.
You can then email your landlord about negotiating the terms of your agreement. You could ask for a reduction in rent and/or bills whilst you are not occupying your student house.
We have a template which you can use for this - check it out here.
You can also check out our Renters Rights Pack - created by your Elected Officer Hayley, which has all the information you need to know about your rights as a renter.
Remember: It has been a difficult time for everyone - your landlord is human too! Speak with care and consideration, and hope that they pay you the same courtesy.
The University of Portsmouth Students’ Union has a vision of creating a positive impact with every Portsmouth student during their time at University.