Home News News-Brighton The Law and practice of Rented Property in the UK- A guide...

The Law and practice of Rented Property in the UK- A guide for overseas students


By William Mills


There are two types of rented accommodation, the more longer term shorthold lessee which applies when a flat is rented, and the residential licensee which covers shorter stays.

Shorthold tenancy

A property owner usually grants a shorthold tenancy for six months. Most use credit reference agencies to vet the applicants and insure against non payment of the rent. If a new arrival to the UK doesn’t have an internationally recognised credit card, some owners will accept the full rent in advance as well as a large deposit.


The smallest is a bedsit. This usually is a simple room with a shower cubicle and toilet and cooking facilities and a refrigerator. It’s a bit like a hotel bedroom with an on suite bathroom.

A one bed flat is the next size up.

The cheaper ones come ‘furnished,’ which might consist of a basic bed and light bulb. Maybe more.

When the flat is advertised as ‘unfurnished’ it means you will have to provide everything from beds, settees, washing machine, kettle, plates, cutlery and saucepans through to lampshades and toilet paper.


Landlords usually provide an inventory of items included in the flat’s contents. At the end of the let the deposit will not be returned unless all the items on the list are accounted for.


The tenant has ensure all the services are connected. He’s liable for Council tax and Water rates. Unless prepaid meters are provided, the gas and electricity companies have to be contacted and an account with them opened. Likewise with television, landline telephone and internet. Also required is a television licence even if only to watch programmes via a laptop.

It is a lot, but every long term home has to do it.

Although the tenancy is for six months the owners can apply to the Courts for a possession order to remove the occupants after giving only two weeks notice. This is usually only done in serious situations like complaints from the authorities, Police and Council, over excessive noise, sounds of the property being smashed up, drug dealing, prostitution, etc.

If students are staying for longer periods and they can afford it, having your own place does give the individual the most freedom and ability to entertain friends.

Sharing a flat can be great fun, but a few points need to be realised.


The landlords usually expect one person to sign the lease and he will be responsible for everything including his flatmates’ behaviour. Many a young person has cried ‘But I didn’t do it, so why should I pay?’ If the inventory says the flat had a vacuum cleaner or electric kettle, and they aren’t there but your signature is, then you have to pay.

If you move into a shared flat it is important to see the documents detailing the agreement with the owners. How long is left on the lease? Is there an inventory list which is subject to any deposit you are being asked to pay?


Sometimes you can only get your deposit back if you find someone else to move in instead of you. If there is something wrong or you have to go home at short notice this can cause a problem.

It is usually best to seek the advice of the professional letting agents who have offices in the town. Committing oneself to payment obligations on the say so of a college friend one has just met, and who is desperate to move himself, can be problematic.

Residential licensees

This is the type of accommodation favoured by most students.

A homeowner has a spare room in his own house. He charges rent for its use in the same way as a hotel does by a nightly or weekly sum of money.

The room is fully furnished with heating and electricity included in the price, which also includes use of the kitchen and bathroom.

Self catering

Self catering means you purchase and prepare your own food using the owners’ kitchen. This is not the same as having your own separate kitchen. You must work around the owners’ timetable. If they specify a meal time, stick to it, otherwise you may find the kitchen locked.

Bed and breakfast

Bed and breakfast means the owner will provide somewhere to sleep and a morning meal. For the rest of the day you are expected to eat out. Students have complained that they are not allowed to use the kitchen to prepare an evening meal. But that is what the owner agreed to, or rather didn’t.


Also cultures can be very different. So if you are allowed to use the kitchen think about ventilation and whether the owner wants the smell of deep fried egg all around his house. If you always ask first you will soon settle in.

Friends and visitors. Although hosts wants their guests to enjoy themselves many say ‘residents only.’

Students must realise you are paying for yourself  to stay as a guest in someone else’s house. You do not have any ownership rights over ‘your room’. So ask first and find out what is acceptable to the owner, his decision is final.

Kitchen and bathroom

Owner occupiers who share either a kitchen or bathroom with a lodger are exempt from the requirement to get an eviction order to turn someone out. They do not have to give any notice. You are on their premises with their permission, and if it’s withdrawn you have to go.

Both types of accommodation have their advantages and disadvantages. Using a language school with an accommodation office is a real bonus both for the owner and student alike. If personalities clash or either feels like a change a move can be quickly arranged.


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