Those perplexing property phrases and tenancy terms explained.

When you're searching for a home to rent, and particularly when you're at the point of signing a new tenancy agreement, you're likely to come across some confusing rental terms, phrases and acronyms.

Our jargon buster for renters helps explain everything from ASTs to EPCs, break clauses to deposit protection schemes. 

ARLA Propertymark

The professional body for lettings agents. Has high standards and a strict code of practice. Works to protect renters and their money.  

Arrears

Late or unpaid rent owed to the landlord. 

Assured shorthold tenancy (AST)

The most common type of rental agreement in the UK. Lasts for a fixed period of at least six months. 

Break clause

A clause allowing either landlord or tenant to give written notice after a particular date to end the tenancy earlier than the original fixed term.

Check out 

An inspection process at the end of your tenancy to check for damage beyond general ‘wear and tear’. If damage is found, fees may be deducted from your deposit.

Council tax

A charge levied by local councils to cover the cost of local services and amenities. It is usually the tenant's responsibility to pay this. 

Credit checks

Checks carried out by landlords or lettings agents to ensure you can afford the rent and will be reliable in paying it. You can pre-empt these checks by getting in there first and checking your credit report with a credit-reference agency, such as Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

Deposit

A refundable sum of money paid to your landlord at the start of your tenancy. This is taken as security against damage to the property or a breach of the tenancy terms and conditions – such as defaulting on rent. The deposit asked for should not be more than five weeks’ worth of rent (where annual rent is less than £50,000) or six weeks’ rent (where annual rent is more than £50,000).

Deposit protection scheme (DPS)

If your deposit is for an AST (see above), your landlord is legally required to put your money into one of three government-backed deposit protection schemes: Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits or Tenancy Deposit Scheme. These deposit protection schemes ensure you'll get your money back if you do these three things: meet the terms of your tenancy agreement; don't damage the property; pay your rent and bills.

At the end of your tenancy, your landlord must return your deposit within 10 days of you both agreeing how much you’ll get back. If you’re in a dispute with your landlord, then your deposit will be protected in the scheme until the issue is sorted out.

Documentation

The paperwork you’ll need to hand over when renting a property, including passport, birth certificate or driving licence, recent utility bill, bank statement – and a letter from your employer confirming your job role and salary.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

A certificate setting out how energy-efficient a property is. Flats and houses are ranked between A and G (with A being the most efficient). Landlords are legally required to supply tenants with an EPC for a rental property.

Fixed term tenancy

A tenancy which has a specific start and end date.

Young men relaxing on sofa at home

Furnished

A house or flat rented out with all the furnishings you need to live comfortably. It’s always worth checking exactly what fixtures and fittings come with a property as many properties are let unfurnished (see below).

Gas safety check

A check that must be carried out every year on rented properties by a Gas Safe engineer. Landlords must provide a certificate to tenants stating that all appliances are safe – and that the provision of gas to the property is safe.

Guarantor

Someone who agrees to sign the tenancy agreement and guarantees paying your rent payments should you fall into arrears.

House in multiple occupation (HMO)

A property where three (or more) tenants live, forming more than one household, and where the toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities are shared. Examples include student accommodation and houses split into separate bedsits.

Inventory

A check that is carried out before a tenancy begins to document the contents of the rental property – and the condition they are in. If you're happy with the inventory, sign it and keep a copy. The inventory can be used again at the end of the tenancy to check things haven’t changed before your deposit is returned to you. 

Letting agent

The person who helps both the landlord and the tenant with the let. Will often be your main point of contact if your landlord does not live locally. You can find a Zoopla letting agent here.

Liability

If you share accommodation with other people, you will have a joint tenancy. This means you are liable for the rent both jointly and individually. It’s not possible to argue that each tenant is liable for their particular share. So, if someone you live with doesn’t pay their share of the rent, the rest of you are responsible for making up the shortfall.

If you don’t make up the shortfall, you are all jointly and individually liable for any rent arrears that build up. Your landlord could deduct money from the deposit, take action to evict you all or recover the debt from any one of you or a guarantor. 

Managing agent

Someone who works on behalf of the landlord, collecting the rent and managing the day-to-day running of the property. 

Notice period

A declaration from you – or your landlord – that the tenancy is coming to an end.

Per calendar month (PCM)

The amount you’ll pay to your landlord in rent each month.

References

In addition to vetting potential tenants with credit checks (see above), landlords or lettings agents may also want to see references from previous landlords and employers.

Sub-letting

An arrangement where a tenant lets all or part of a property to someone else. It's a complicated issue and most tenancy agreements forbid this. 

Tenancy agreement

The legal paperwork between you and the landlord outlining the rights of both parties – such as your right to occupy the property, and the landlord’s right to get rent from you. Do make sure you fully understand what you're signing. 

Unfurnished

A flat or house that is rented with no furnishings, so it’s up to you to furnish the property.


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