Signing for a Property

Congratulations you’ve found a property you’re all happy with – hurrah! The next steps are to secure the property and go through all of the paperwork.

Step 1

I want that one!

So you’ve found a property you’re all happy with – hurrah! The next step is to secure the property and take it off the market. To do this, you’ll usually need to pay an agency fee to the letting agent, then sort out all the relevant documents and payments needed to make it yours. An agency fee is charged as payment for the services the letting agent has provided, such as property recommendations and negotiations, accompanied viewings and preparing legal documents.

Typically, students are asked to find a financial guarantor – usually a family who owns a home in the UK – who’ll guarantee to pay the rent if you fail to. People who work full-time are able to give the landlord a reference that shows they earn enough to pay the rent each month, but obviously that’s not possible with students, so a guarantor gives a landlord that extra peace of mind. You can pick up the guarantor form when you pay your agency fee, and it’ll need to be filled in before you sign for the property.

As you might expect, international students can struggle to find a UK guarantor, so in that case, they’re often asked to pay a number of months’ rent in advance.


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Step 2

Sign on the dotted line

When you sign for a property, the actual document you’re signing is an “assured shorthold tenancy agreement”. It’s a legal document between you and the landlord laying out what the landlord is expected to do for you during the course of the tenancy and vice-versa. For example, the landlord must keep the building in a good condition, and you must pay the rent on time. The tenancy agreement is typically one joint document for you and your housemates, meaning you’re all jointly responsible for the house (the legal term is “jointly and severally liable”). In other words, you’re not paying rent just for your room – you’re all paying a portion of the rent for the whole property, so the condition of the communal areas and even your housemates’ rooms is your responsibility too. Similarly, you all pay a portion of the deposit on the house – so it’s kept as one whole amount, rather than individually. This is why everyone has to sign the tenancy agreement at the same time. It can be hard to organise with large groups of housemates, so try to figure out a time in advance when you’ll all be free to do the paperwork.

During the signing of the tenancy agreement, you’ll nominate a “lead tenant” for your tenancy. The lead tenant will be the first point of contact for your house, and they’ll also be responsible for the bond money at the end of your tenancy. In fact, deposit schemes (see later) will only deal with the lead tenant when it comes to returning your money, so make sure you pick someone responsible. And once you’ve signed the agreement, take a copy and keep it safe!

If you’re a full-time student, you won’t have to pay council tax for your house, but both your landlord and the council may need to see your council tax exemption certificate, so be sure get one from your university registry, make a copy and don’t lose it!


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Step 3

The Name’s Bond…

Another expense to bear in mind is the bond money, also known as a ‘deposit’. This is taken from you at the signing of the tenancy agreement, and it’s then protected by a deposit protection scheme for the duration of your tenancy. It’s usually the cost of a month and a bit’s worth of your rent, and it’s a guarantee that you’ll treat the property well throughout the time you live there. If there’s no damage to the property at the end of your tenancy - “fair wear and tear” allowed - and you leave it clean and tidy, you’ll get the whole deposit back. Simple!

Deposit protection was introduced in 2007 and was specifically set up to protect your rights when putting down a deposit for a property. It means it has to be registered with an approved deposit scheme as soon as you pay it, which ensures the landlord or letting agent cannot spend your money without you having a say in it. If anybody wants to claim for money from your bond to cover any work at your property - and you dispute it – the deposit scheme will need to see invoices showing the work has been done and will want proof from the landlord/letting agent that it’s your responsibility to pay for it before they allow the release any funds. They’ll make the decision that they think is the most fair based on invoices and photographic evidence provided by both parties.


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