It’s been a good year for renters, as new laws mean they can now sue for cold or damp homes, will no longer be charged letting fees, and the government has pledged to ban no-fault evictions.

These changes can have real impact. According to a survey from the Department for Work and Pensions last year, the proportion of 35 to 54-year-olds who rent from private landlords has nearly doubled in 10 years since 2006-07.

With house prices on the rise and wages not increasing proportionately, it’s become harder than ever to buy a property, and for many young people the idea of buying a home is less realistic than it was for previous generations. 

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Given these circumstances, being able to rent more affordably and securely is hugely important, but despite improvements it’s still a challenging process to navigate.

One of the most important areas to master is the jargon that tenants will likely encounter at each stage of the renting process. Here are some of the key terms to know.

Arrears: Outstanding rent.

AST: Assured Shorthold Tenancy the most common type of tenancy agreement, and essentially means that a landlord has the right to terminate the agreement at any point after an initional period (usually the first four months).

Break clause: An agreed time at some point throughout the duration of a tenancy (often at the six-month mark for a one-year tenancy, for example) at which time either party is free to end the contract.

Covenants: The individual terms of the agreement, such as ensuring upkeep of certain parts of the property or not undertaking specific activities (such as smoking, for example) within it.

Credit check: A system used to ensure a potential tenant is able to afford the cost of rent. The process involves contacting an employer where applicable and looking into any existing debt.

Guarantor: A person who agrees to sign the tenancy agreement and be liable for the rent if the tenant is unable or unwilling to pay. They will usually need to pass a credit check to ensure they can afford this before they are accepted by the landlord.

Holding deposit: An amount of money given to a landlord or agent in order to ensure they take the property off the market. It is non-refundable if the tenant pulls out of the agreement or is unable to continue. If all goes well it is usually deducted from the security deposit or initial rent.

HMO: House in Multiple Occupation refers to a property with three or more tenants who form more than one household, in which there are shared toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities. This usually applies to shared houses.

Initial term: First period of the tenancy.

Inventory: List of the contents of a property, as well as the general condition. Can include things like appliances, furniture, carpets, wallpaper and so on.

Managing agent: Person acting for the landlord. They will usually be the point of contact for the tenant.

PCM: Per Calendar Month means the rent is paid in 12 instalments of that amount per year. If the rent is advertised as “per week” it will likely still be paid monthly, and the total can be calculated by multiplying the advertised amount by 52 and dividing the total by 12.

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Periodic tenancy: Also known as a rolling contract, this is usually the default option when an AST ends and means that the terms of the contract remain in force on a continuing basis – usually month-to-month – until either party wants to end the agreement.

Section 8 notice: Legal notice that a landlord is ending the tenancy because a stipulation of the agreement has been broken by the tenant.

Security deposit: Amount paid upfront by the tenant (usually around four to eight weeks’ rent) to be returned at the end of the tenancy as long as the property is in the condition stipulated in the agreement. Landlords in the UK are required to keep it in a protection scheme.

Sublet: When a tenant rents the property or a portion of the property to a third party without the involvement of the landlord.

Tenancy agreement: Legally binding contract which lays out the terms of the agreement

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