Housing Help | Housing Contracts

Although there are many different types of housing contract - Assured Shorthold tenancies, Assured tenancies, Licenses, joint ones, individual ones, and many more - some things are the same whatever type you have; even if there's nothing in writing. These are:


When you agree to rent a property you are creating a contract between yourself and the Landlord even if there’s nothing in writing. You have rights as a tenant (for example, under the Housing Acts 1988 and 1996) which nothing in your agreement can alter (despite what your landlord thinks or says).

Make sure you can prove what you agreed with your landlord: insist on getting a written copy of your housing contract, and any other deals you make with your landlord, and keep copies of all correspondence with your landlord. Letters are easier to prove than conversations, emails, or texts; provided you keep a copy and send them by recorded delivery. So, do send anything important to your landlord the old-fashioned way.

Tip: if your landlord hasn’t given you an address in England or Wales to write to in order to contact him/her, your rent is not yet “due” (so you don’t have to hand it over in this circumstance only). However, don’t spend the rent: you’ll still have to pay all the rent owed as soon as the landlord does provide you with this “address for service”. Do not act on this tip without getting advice first – sometimes things are trickier than they look.

Probably the most important piece of advice in this whole guide is: read your contract thoroughly before signing it; and, if you don’t understand anything in it, bring a copy to the Student Advice Centre: we can go though it with you.


You will often be asked to pay a "Summer Retainer" when signing a housing contract. These are contracts by which the Landlord undertakes to hold the accommodation ready for you to move in at the start of the tenancy.

Tip: if you and the landlord have already signed the tenancy agreement, and you have a copy of it, when the landlord mentions a retainer: we say don't pay or agree to it - the retainer will give you no extra rights whatsoever and the contract will be enforceable. However: if your landlord insists on a retainer before s/he will sign the contract, you may well have to pay one if you want the house.

Retainers do not give you the right to live or store your belongings in the house during the period covered by the retainer (unless the retainer document specifies that it does give you this right). This means that the Landlord would usually be within his/her rights to let the house to someone else over this time provided they are out of the house by the date on which your tenancy begins.

However, don’t feel a retainer’s an awful deal that automatically means you have a bad landlord: if they didn’t charge these, they might well just charge higher rents instead.

Now we've made you look at the general stuff, choose what type of contract you want to find out about (if you're renting from a private landlord, the most common type is the Assured Shorthold).