In this section you will find out all you need to know about looking for accommodation this year, including house hunting frequently asked questions, and common terms you might find in a tenancy agreement. We also recommend keeping an eye on the Unipol Leeds House Hunting Checklist.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I start looking?
There is no set date for you to start looking for your next tenancy. We would advise you to only start
looking when you feel ready to, but do bear in mind that the earlier you sign up for somewhere the more likely
you are to encounter problems later down the line – you are also potentially missing out on some of the best
quality and value properties if you sign up to somewhere before the Unipol housing list release date in November.
Where do I start looking?
The Unipol website! Unipol are a housing charity that was set
up by the higher education institutions in Leeds, and as well as acting as a landlord, they also run a
Landlord Accreditation Scheme and advertise properties for Unipol Code member landlords and letting agents. This
year Unipol’s housing list goes live on 19th November 2022.
Taking on a new tenancy is an important decision so it’s crucial that you are happy with the people you are
goingto be living with (particularly if you sign a joint tenancy) and that you have considered all of the
practicalities of where you want to live – i.e. price, length of tenancy, cost of bills, distance from
Uni and work, local amenities, parking etc.
Who can check my tenancy agreement before I sign it?
As boring as it might sound, there is no substitute for thoroughly reading the tenancy agreement yourself.
If there are any clauses or terms within the agreement that you are unsure about, don’t understand or want
advice about then please get in touch with the Leeds Beckett Students’ Union Advice Service. An adviser will be
happy to check your agreement and make sure you are happy with what you are signing up to.
Can I change my mind once I’ve signed?
No, 99.9% of the time. Once you have signed the tenancy agreement it becomes legally binding. If you find
yourself in a position where you (or anyone else in a joint agreement) become unable to take on the
tenancy then we would advise you to seek advice from the Student Union Advice Service as soon as possible.
Do I have to sign on the day?
No. You should not be expected to sign on the day. Any decent landlord or letting agent should give you at
least 24 hours to take the tenancy agreement away so that you have enough time to thoroughly read through the
agreement and get advice about it if you require it. As tempting as it may be to sign up there and then –
beware – particularly if you are waiting on other people to also sign the contract. It’s also important that any
guarantors also have time to read through it and get any advice prior to signing.
Which landlords can I trust?
We can’t provide you with a list of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ landlords. It’s down to you to do your research.
Check out which landlords and letting agents are Unipol Code members as these landlords and letting agents
have signed up to a voluntary code meaning that their properties comply with certain standards and you have a
mechanism to complain about them should you encounter any problems.
You should also check out Rate Your Landlord to see what others have said about the property/landlord you
are thinking of renting with: www.rateyourlandlord.org.uk
A ‘joint’ tenancy is where more than one tenant signs the same tenancy agreement (usually for a shared
house or apartment). Under a ‘joint’ tenancy agreement all tenants are jointly liable to fulfil the obligations
set out in the tenancy agreement (i.e. pay their proportion of the rent on the agreed dates, not cause a nuisance
etc). This is why it is very important that you have carefully considered whether you can trust the other
people you will be living with before you sign as you could end up becoming liable to pay their rent if they don’t!
If you ever have any issues with a joint tenancy agreement then please get in touch with the Advice Service
for specific advice.
Do I have to pay an Admin Fee?
The Tenant Fees Act 2019 does not allow Admin fees to be charged. A landlord cannot charge a fee unless it
is expressly permitted.
The permitted payments are:
- tenancy deposit (up to maximum of five or six weeks’ rent)
- holding deposit (up to maximum of one week’s rent)
- a fee in the event of a ‘relevant default’
- damages for breach of agreement
- in connection with tenant’s request for a variation, assignment, or surrender of a tenancy
- in respect of council tax, utilities, communication services and TV licence
Sometimes landlords or letting agents charge a ‘holding fee’. This fee is usually for keeping the property
free for you while you decide whether or not you want to sign up for it (normally for a stated period), and is
usually non-refundable. It is up to you to decide whether you are willing to pay this in order to secure
‘A guarantor’ is a person who signs an agreement to pay the rent owed to the landlord or agent just in case
the tenant defaults on paying their rent. Guarantors are normally your parent or guardian, and are sometimes
expected to have a credit check as part of the tenancy agreement. If you sign a tenancy agreement where
you are expected to provide a guarantor, it is important that the guarantor also has time to read through the
terms of the tenancy agreement and the wording of their guarantee and are able to seek their own advice before
On signing for a tenancy a deposit is normally taken as security for the landlord against any damage or
loss incurred due to the tenant’s actions during the tenancy. A landlord can make deductions from your deposit
at the end of the tenancy for things like rent arrears, damage to their property and cleaning if you do not
return the property to them in the same state as it was let to you disregarding reasonable wear and tear. If your
landlord or letting agent takes a deposit from you then they are legally required to protect the money in one of
three government approved deposit protection schemes, and let you know which scheme it is being held in within
30 days of taking the deposit from you. This is to safeguard the money until the end of the tenancy. If your
landlord then wants to make any deductions and if you disagree with those, you then have an option to use the
alternative dispute resolution service of the scheme to come to a final decision on how much should be deducted.
Do I get a copy of the tenancy agreement when I sign?
If you sign a written tenancy agreement then it is advisable to get a copy of this at the time of signing.
If you are not issued with a copy straight away then we would advise you to request this as soon as possible,
becauseit is helpful to have a copy if you need advice during your tenancy.
The tenancy agreement should be signed by both you and your landlord. Each tenant, if there are joint
tenants, should receive a copy of the agreement.
Your landlord is obliged by law to give you their name and address, regardless of whether or not you have a
written tenancy agreement.
It is good practice for a written tenancy agreement to include the following details:
- your name and your landlord’s name and the address of the property which is being let
- the date the tenancy began
- details of whether other people are allowed the use of the property, and if so, which rooms
- the duration of the tenancy, that is, whether it runs out on a certain date
- the amount of rent payable, how often and when it should be paid and how often and when it can be
increased. The agreement could also state what the payment includes, for example, council tax or fuel
- whether your landlord will provide any services, for example, laundry, maintenance of common parts or
meals and whether there are service charges for these
- the length of notice which you and your landlord need to give if the tenancy is to be ended. Note
that there are statutory rules about how much notice should be given and these will depend on the type of
tenancy and why it is due to end.
What should I look for when viewing a property?
Don’t just look at how nicely the place has been decorated (or not!) when you go on viewings. Have a good
look at the bedroom sizes (are they big enough? – is someone going to have to go in the tiny box room?), the size
of the living spaces (is there enough workspace in the kitchen etc), whether there are any patches of damp on
the walls or ceilings. Are there enough bathrooms/toilets for all of the tenants?
Also ask the person showing you around what furniture and furnishings are included (as you won’t be
inheriting the previous tenant’s personal stuff or furniture). Does the property look like it’s in a good state of
repair (Internally and externally – look at the guttering and drains, the garden and the roof etc as well as the
internal rooms). And remember you can always ask to go back for a second viewing if you need this,
particularly if you are trying to decide between more than one property.
Use this handy guide.
What questions should I ask when viewing a property?
Make sure you know what comes with the property and what doesn’t. You should be issued with an inventory
when you move in, but there is no harm in asking to see this before you sign.
Do you know who will be responsible for paying the bills? Also make sure you know who you will need to
contact if there are any problems. Sometimes a letting agent will manage a property for a landlord – sometimes they
are only responsible for advertising the property and signing up tenants. If you are expected to contact the
landlord direct if you have any problems then make sure you get their full details.
Remember to make a note and ask them about anything that is particularly important to you. I.e. if it’s
important that you are able to park your car outside or near the property ask about this (some areas have
What are my legal responsibilities?
Your legal responsibilities as a tenant are set out in your tenancy agreement. Your tenancy agreement will
usually include clauses that expect you to pay your rent on the agreed dates, let the landlord know about
any disrepair issues in a timely manner so that they can resolve them before they become too problematic, and
not cause a nuisance to your neighbours etc.
Please also remember that your tenancy agreement is a legally binding document. If you find yourself in a
position where you can no longer fulfil your obligations under the agreement, we would advise you to seek
advice as soon as possible.
Who can I ask for advice before I start house-hunting?
If you have any concerns or questions about house-hunting or finding somewhere to live please feel free to
contact the Leeds Beckett SU Advice Service. Unipol can also provide you with practical information about
what you need to think about and what you need to look for in a property.
Common terms in a Tenancy Agreement
It’s important that you fully understand what you are signing up for, as your tenancy agreement is a legally binding document.
We have included some of the most common terms you will find in tenancy agreements to help you understand what those terms mean. However, if you are in any doubt, a good landlord or agent should give you time to seek independent advice prior to signing the agreement.
Leeds Beckett Students’ Union offers a free Tenancy Agreement checking service, so if you have any questions or concerns about the tenancy agreement that you have been asked to sign, please get in touch with us for advice.
Joint and Several Liability
When you sign a tenancy agreement for a shared house with other tenants then this is likely to be a ‘joint’
contract. ‘Joint and Several Liability’ means that all the rights, obligations, and costs that arise from
the tenancy apply to everyone named on the tenancy agreement until the tenancy ends. So, if something is
damaged, you are all responsible for paying for it. If one person falls behind in paying their rent, then all of
the tenants will be liable for covering that short fall.
Some Landlords will ask you to provide a guarantor before they will agree to let a property to you. The
guarantor in effect guarantees that they will undertake the full obligations under the tenancy agreement on the
tenant’s behalf. If for some reason the tenant cannot pay the rent, the guarantor agrees to make the payments.
Please be aware that if you sign a joint tenancy then your guarantor could also be signing up to be jointly
liable to cover the outstanding costs of the other tenants. This is why we would recommend that your
guarantor seeks their own legal advice on the agreement before signing.
Landlords will ask new tenants to pay a tenancy deposit to cover damage or unpaid rent.
Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme
Any landlord or agent who takes a deposit is obliged to protect your deposit with a government registered
Tenancy Deposit Scheme and provide you with ‘prescribed’ information within 30 days of taking your deposit. There
are three Government-backed schemes. Registration with these schemes will ensure that your deposit is
returned at the end of the tenancy as long as you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement; i.e. you do not damage
the property and pay your rent and bills.
Your landlord or letting agent must register your deposit in the scheme within 30 days of receiving it.
Failure to do so can make them liable to pay you compensation. You will be able to check that your deposit has
been protected using the following link to the website for Shelter-National Housing Charity.
HMO stands for 'Houses in Multiple Occupation' and are properties that require a license issued by the
council. They are defined as properties that have 5 or more tenants (forming two or more households) who share an
amenity such as a kitchen, toilet, bathroom or lounge and are comprised of 3 or more stories (this includes
cellars, basements and loft conversions).
The reason that HMO Licensing exists is that there are more risks and hazards associated with larger
numbers of people residing in a property and additional measures need to be put into place to keep residents safe.
If you are going to rent this kind of property, ask your landlord or agent for a copy of the HMO licence.
If your landlord or agent refuses then contact the Students' Union Advice Service for further advice.
Ensure that you go through the inventory provided when you move into the property or produce your own if
you have not been given one. This must be detailed and signed by all parties showing that you agree to the
contents and condition of the property at the point at which you move in.
Note any damage or disrepair on the inventory as necessary before returning it to the landlord. Ensure that
you keep a signed copy of the inventory for your own records. This will help to protect you against any
claims the letting agent/landlord may make on the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
At the end of the tenancy, the property and its’ contents should be returned in the same condition that it
was let, allowing for fair wear and tear. Fair wear and tear is the normal loss in value that occurs when
something is used over a period of time, as opposed to either intentional or accidental damage or neglect.
A landlord cannot ask the tenant to pay for repairs or replacement caused by fair wear and tear.
Tenants have the right to enjoy their home undisturbed. This is called ‘quiet enjoyment.’ You have this
right even if your tenancy agreement doesn’t expressly state it as it is implied by law.
Quiet enjoyment means that your landlord must let you live in your home without unnecessary interference.
Your landlord or their agent, has the right to access your home to see what repair work is needed and to carry
out repairs. However, unless it is an emergency, they must give you at least 24 hours' notice in writing.
If your landlord wants to enter your home for any other reason, for example, to show round a new tenant, or
to inspect the property, they can only do this with your agreement or in accordance with any reasonable term
set out in your tenancy agreement.
Your rent may be inclusive of some or all of the utility bills. Make sure that you understand which bills
are included in your rent and which are not. Also be aware that some tenancy agreements will require you to
sign up with a Bill Management Company. If this is the case, make sure you understand what you are being required
to sign up to and how you are expected to manage your account.
If your rent is inclusive of utility bills check the tenancy agreement to see if there are any upper limits
on usage, which allow the landlord to charge to you a supplementary fee for excess usage. Also, check your
liability for any bills that are not included within the contract.
Rent that is outstanding.
It is the landlord’s legal responsibility to ensure that a gas safety check is carried out prior to letting
a property and then every year after that. The check must be carried out by an authorised Gas Safe
registered engineer and a copy of the record must also be given to the tenant.
An agent or company responsible under a tenancy agreement for the maintenance and management of the
property. Not all properties are professionally managed so your landlord may be responsible for the maintenance of the
property. If you are unsure of who is responsible for managing the property and who you will need to
report repair issues to, clarify this prior to signing your tenancy agreement.
There is often a clause within tenancy agreements for the tenant to use the property in a ‘tenant-like
manner’. This means that tenants are expected to do the little jobs about the place to keep the property in order.
Examples of the kinds of things a landlord might reasonably expect a tenant to do are: emptying the bins
on a regular basis, keeping toilets clear, replacing lightbulbs and unblocking sinks and drains etc. If you
are in any doubt about what the landlord expects you to do, then check with them.
The ‘Right to Rent’ scheme came into force on 1 February 2016. This scheme requires landlords of
residential premises to check the immigration status of prospective tenants and other occupiers and to ascertain
whether those parties have the right to be in the UK.