Never feel pressured to sign any tenancy agreement! It is a legally binding contract from the moment you sign it!
In a joint tenancy there is one contract between the landlord (on one side) and the tenants (all of you) on the other. If you have all signed the same tenancy agreement paperwork you have a Joint Tenancy.
You all have equal rights under the contract but also equal responsibilities. This is called Joint and Several Liability.
You must pay your share of the rent but if another tenant doesn’t pay, the landlord can ask any of you to make up the shortfall.
You are jointly responsible for taking care of the property including communal areas and the landlord can hold all of you responsible for any damage to the property caused by any of you or any of your visitors.
As a joint tenant it’s up to you all how you live together and get along; if you fall out, this is not the landlord’s problem.
Separate Tenancy (Also known as a Sole Tenancy)
In a separate tenancy, there may be other people living in the house but each person will have their own individually signed tenancy agreement with the landlord.
This means you’re not responsible for anyone else’s rent in the property, but it also means people can come and go. if one person moves out, your landlord is likely to get a new tenant to replace them. It’s unlikely that you will have any control over who that person is unless your landlord asks for your input.
The landlord can evict you for example, for rent arrears and this does not affect the tenancies of the other people in the property.
You can find out more information on agreements here.
Take your time before you sign!
You should always be completely happy when you sign an agreement (because it’s too late afterwards).
Talk to your future housemates. Do they like loud music? Have lots of friends round late at night? Like to party? Have a pet rat? Will they take their turn washing up and cleaning the loo?
Take time to talk about the money: can everyone afford the rent? Will they have the money for the deposit in the summer when you need to move in? Can you all afford to get takeaway every night, or is someone living on beans?
Where should you live?
Don’t just look at the pictures in your landlord’s brochure. Go and see the house.
How far is it from Uni? Can you get a bus if it’s raining? What are the neighbours like? From the outside, does the house look dirty, or damp, or is it well cared for?
Have a look at the area. Is it on a busy road? Will it be noisy at night? Is it next door to a pub or takeaway (this might be good or bad depending on you)!
Ask questions: are there plenty of bins, and what day is the rubbish collected? Is there somewhere you can park (useful when moving in and out)? Is there a garden, and if so who has to look after it?
How helpful is the landlord/agent? (Clue: if they are not helpful BEFORE you sign, this does not bode well for the tenancy).