By Anwen Williams
Once signed, a contract is legally binding – so its important you read it carefully before you sign it. It’s easy to feel pressured into signing the contract on the day by the letting agents if you’ve had the impression you’ll lose the house if you don’t sign right now. If you’re not happy about some parts of it, don’t sign it. There’s no right to cancel after you’ve signed, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Any promises made at the time of the viewing (repairs/redecoration) should be written into the contract with an agreed time limit completion. If it’s not in the contract, then ask yourself if you’d be happy to still live in the house if the ‘promised’ improvements or repairs are not carried out.
If you’re happy to take the house you’ve viewed, and you and your housemates sign the same contract – you become joint tenants who are all equally responsible for any rent, utility bills and damage to the whole property. If one or more tenant moves out, the landlord or letting agent can pursue the remaining tenants for any unpaid rent or bills, so it’s also important to consider this when you’re deciding who you’re signing that contract with.
When you get to signing your contract, most letting agents and landlords require a guarantor form signed. The guarantor form is usually signed by your parents or a family member and guarantees that any rent or bills get paid if you are unable to pay them yourself. If the tenancy is joint, it’s important that the guarantor form is worded correctly, otherwise your parents could find themselves liable for any money owed by other tenants. It’s important to get on the ball as soon as possible when it comes to the guarantor forms, as you’ll only get a certain amount of time to complete this form, and by this time you will probably have already paid your agency fees, so you wont want to find yourself with no guarantor. Last year we had a problem in our house due to a few of our housemates being international students, therefore they weren’t able to find guarantors as the guarantor form required a family member or guardian who owned a house in the UK, therefore it’s definitely worth looking into if you want to get your house soon.
The unfair terms in consumer contracts regulations 1999 state that you should not have any unfair terms in your contract. You can check with student advice if you have any queries or contact Cardiff council trading standards on 08454 040506.
Most tenancies are for a fixed period of time, so if you’re thinking of leaving early before the end of the tenancy, the landlord and the other tenants will have to agree. This is usually only possible if you have found a replacement. If you have a joint tenancy then you’ll have to make sure the renaming tenants and the landlord are happy with this replacement.
You can contact student advice for more about your rights and responsibilities, and can also help with advertising a room, and helping students to find a new one.