What are tenancy agreements?
Whatever the type of room you rent there's a high chance you'll be asked to sign a contract or agreement of some kind. This is to protect you as well as your landlord but it's worth knowing a little about the types of agreement you'll encounter.
Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement
Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) are the most common form of rental in the UK when the landlord doesn't live in the property - it's the default agreement if you don't specify another type when letting your property. An AST allows the landlord or tenant to end the tenancy after an initial six month period, by giving notice to quit.
It's a legal requirement for all deposits taken by landlords using ASTs be protected by a tenancy deposit scheme
You'll probably have one of two types of AST if you're sharing
- Shared AST - Basically you rent the property as a group and all sign a joint contract with the landlord
- By the room AST - Each of you has your own individual agreement with the landlord
Renting a room as a lodger isn't the same as renting from a traditional 'live out' landlord. Lodging is a form of license rather than a tenancy (this is basically to protect the landlord as it's their home you're living in). Most live in landlords will still expect you to sign an agreement of some sort - this is standard procedure and protects you as well as them
The main thing to be aware of if you're renting as a lodger is that there's no requirement for your landlord to protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme (although they can, and probably will, still expect a deposit from you).
These are less formal than tenancy agreements but can still be a useful bit of paperwork if you're sharing with a group. In essence what they are is an agreed upon set of terms between the people living in a property. They can cover basics (such as who's paying what share of the rent) or include more detail (e.g. whose responsibility it is to find a new flatmate if someone wants to move out). Not everyone has, or needs, an inter-sharer agreement but they can be useful if there are a few things you've agreed on and you want a copy in writing.
A note on joint and several
Some contracts include what's known as 'joint and several' liability. This means that, if one of your flatmates stops paying the rent or leaves before the end of the contract, the rest of you will be liable for their share of the rent. Not all contracts include this but it's worth checking the paperwork before you sign anything so you know what you're getting into.