Students warned about ‘barely legal’ tenancy contracts

The warning comes after a team at the Univeristy of Edinburgh checked out student tenancy agreements as part of their law course.

Many of the agreements conflicted with the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, the main legislation that gives tenants rights over the property they live in. The Housing Act 2004 does the same job in England and Wales.

“The study found many of these agreements were unfairly biased towards landlords and would not stand up in court,” said Paul Allison of web site Student Housing, that publishes a blog specialising in student property.

"Checking with our contacts showed that the problem is widespread across the UK and we advise students and landlords to check out their documentation before signing any contract."

The University of Edinburgh said the worst lease was from a private landlord and the rest were from city letting agencies.

“The worst lease was “barely legal” and had “absolutely no responsibilities on the landlord in it,” said Elaine Tyre, assistant director of the university’s legal practice unit.

The agreement stated the tenant cannot give up the property before the date of termination, and would be liable to damages cover any costs the landlord incurred as a result of them leaving. This generally covers advertising and fees for reletting the property.

Two months notice is the legal notice a tenant should give before vacating the property.

In this case, the landlord was required to give four weeks notice to quit to the tenant.

Ms Tyre suggested that the best way to avoid getting caught in difficult legal situations is to read the leases thoroughly before signing.

A number of places will check out a tenancy agreement – including the Students Union, Citizen’s Advice Bureaux and law centres. If none can help, a solictor can examine the document for a small fee.

Agreements from private landlords and letting agents should be checked – but so should those from universities and colleges.

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