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Contracts

Q: What if I’m not sure about what’s in a contract that’s been offered to me?

A: Do not sign a contract if you are not happy with the terms or there are any aspects of the agreement you do not understand. Once signed the contract is legally binding on all parties - you do not get a chance to change your mind.

If you need further help, speak to Guild Advice who are based in the Guild of Students building. You can call them on 0121 251 2400 or email them on guildadvice@guild.bham.ac.uks.


Q: What sort of contract will I be offered and what should I look out for?

If you’re planning on moving into a shared property, you need to be aware that your contract will make you responsible and accountable to your landlord in one of two ways:    •   Joint liability
   •   Individual liability

Renting from a landlord/agent

Most Landlords/agents use Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements for a fixed term of 12 months. If you sign a fixed term contract you are liable to pay rent for the full period. This type of agreement means that you are a tenant and have exclusive possession of the property. The landlord/agent can have access to the property (e.g. for repairs/inspections), but you should be given notice and they should only call during reasonable working hours.

Joint liability

If you have signed the same contract as your housemates and you all agree to take the property at the same time; you will be jointly and severally liable with each of your housemates for any rent arrears and/or damage to the property. So, if one tenant moves out, the landlord/agent can pursue the remaining tenants (as well as the tenant who has left) for any monies due.

Individual liability

If you have a separate agreement between you and the landlord/agent, and another tenant leaves, the landlord/agent cannot ask that you cover their rent. You would be liable for any damage to your room. The landlord/agent can make a charge for any damage to communal areas but they have to first try and find out who was responsible. 

All contracts should include the full contact details of the landlord/agent. If you are renting via an agency make sure that you also have the landlords full contact details. The contract should also make clear what rent payments are due and when. In addition to this it should be clear who is responsible for the bills e.g. water rates. Errors do occur and if you sign the contract it may be difficult to argue later, especially if you do not have the original advert. 

Once a contract has been signed the terms and conditions cannot be altered unless both parties agree. 

Never sign a contract on behalf of your housemates. Even if their name is on the contract, if they do not sign the agreement and decide not to move in, you could be held liable for the rent of the whole house.


Q: What if my landlord asks me to get my parents to sign a guarantor form?

A: As part of the agreement, a majority of landlord/agents will present you with a guarantor form (Agreement of Guarantee) and ask that you get your parents to guarantee your rent. If you enter into a contract with joint liability and your parents sign a guarantor form, your guarantor will be liable for not only your rent, but the rest of your housemates rent too. This obviously could cause a significant financial risk to your parents. If a tenant moves out or fails to pay the rent, your parent could be asked to pay the outstanding rent or taken to court under the terms of the guarantor form, even if you have paid your rent. 

You need to ensure that your guarantor is aware of this above before you sign a Tenancy Agreement.