Housing glossary

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A is for Assured Shorthold Tenancy

This is the most common type of tenancy in the private rented sector. If your landlord doesn’t live on the premises and you pay rent, chances are you have an AST.

C is for Contracts

A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract. It doesn’t have to be in writing, although most are. If you move in and start paying rent, that can be enough to create a contract.

D is for Deposits

There are two types of deposit that a landlord or letting agent may ask you to pay:

Security deposit: money that you pay to a landlord or agent as security against e.g.rent arrears, damage to property or removal of furniture. This will be a maximum of 5 week’s rent. If you are an assured shorthold tenant, there are rules about how your deposit is protected. (See T)

Holding deposit: money that you are asked to pay to a landlord/agent when you have agreed to rent a property but not yet signed a contract. This will be a maximum of 1 week’s rent. If you change your mind, you don’t get the holding deposit back.

E is for Eviction

The legal process by which a landlord can remove a tenant from their home. Usually a court order is needed for this.

F is for Fixed-term

A fixed term tenancy agreement has a start date and a definite end date. This means that you are bound by the terms of the contract until the end of the fixed term whether you live in the property or not.

G is for Guarantor

A guarantor is a third party, often a parent or close relative, who agrees to pay your rent (and sometimes other charges) if you don’t pay. A landlord can take legal action to recover unpaid rent from a guarantor, so make sure your guarantor understands what they are signing.

H is for House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A house in multiple occupation is a property rented out by at least 3 people who are not from 1 ‘household’ (eg a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It’s sometimes called a ‘house share’. You must have a licence if you’re renting out a large HMO in England or Wales. Your property is defined as a large HMO if all of the following apply:

  • It’s rented to 5 or more people who form more than 1 household
  • It’s at least 3 storeys high
  • Tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities

Even if your property is smaller and rented to fewer people, you may still need a licence depending on the area. Check with your council.

J is for Joint Tenancy

A Joint Tenancy is one agreement to rent a property which is signed by all of the people (tenants) wishing to live in the property. All of the people who sign the tenancy agreement are responsible for paying their own rent and making up the shortfall for any rent not paid by other tenants. They are also liable to pay for any damage to the property caused by other tenants and/or their visitors. This is called Joint and Several Liability.

L is for Letting agent

An organisation or an individual who carries out functions on behalf of the landlord. This may include letting properties, collecting rent or managing the property on behalf of the landlord.
From 1 October 2014, letting agents must join a government approved redress scheme for dealing with complaints.

From 1 June 2019 there are new rules governing the fees letting agents can charge tenants.

R is for Rent

Rent is payment made for the use of a property. A payment is only referred to as rent if it is paid by a tenant. Other payments made for accommodation are not usually known as rent. Rent can be paid in money or in kind, for example, regular work done for the landlord.

Rent can include other payments to the landlord, for example, water or other bills, or services. To work out what your rent includes, look at your tenancy agreement.

S is for Separate Tenancy

A separate tenancy is an individually signed agreement to rent a property. All of the people (tenants) wishing to live in the property sign their own individual agreements. Each tenant is only liable for their own rent and if a tenant moves out or is evicted this does not affect the other tenants’ tenancies.

T is for Tenancy Deposit Scheme

A landlord (or a letting agency acting on a landlord’s behalf) must use a tenancy deposit protection scheme if s/he wishes to take a security deposit for an assured shorthold tenancy agreement.

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