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Housing glossary

Thursday 13 September 2012 Trends

To help you get your head round some of the confusing terminology around housing, we've compiled a glossary to make everything a bit clearer.


 This is a contract that states when the tenancy begins, and when it will end. Often students will rent on a 12-month fixed-term contract. This also means that if you leave the tenancy before the end date, you are likely to be liable to pay the rent until the end of the contract, or find a replacement tenant.


Rolling contract

Should you continue renting the property past the end date on a fixed-term contract, or have a contract with no end, your contract will end when either the landlord or tenant give notice to quit (at least four weeks).

Individual contract

If you have a separate agreement between you and the landlord/agent, and another tenant leaves, he landlord/agent can not ask that you cover their rent.

Joint contract

If you and your housemates all same the same contract you are ‘jointly and severally liable’ for money owed – for example if someone leaves the contract early - or damage caused.


A deposit is a returnable sum payable to the owner/agent. It is normally held against any end-of-tenancy rent arrears, willful damage and any essential cleaning.


Your main place of residence.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

A document detailing to prospective tenants the energy performance of the building potentially being rented.


The legal process of a landlord removing a tenant from their property, and can only happen through proper court procedures. Without court approval it is illegal to evict a tenant. A landlord also cannot evict a tenant if they have not protected the tenant’s deposit (where applicable).

House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A house which is occupied by three of more unrelated persons, who do not form a single household. If the house is occupied by more than 5 people, living on 3 or more floors, forming two or more households, then this property is legally required to have an HMO license.

In some local authorities, other types of HMO may also need license or planning permission, if the local authority have additional licensing requirements.

HMO license

This is documentation which tests the property’s physical standards through the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and confirms that the landlord is a ‘fit and proper’ person. Licenses may cost a landlord a few hundred pounds, and if a landlord is found to be letting a licensable HMO without one, they can be fined up to £20,000.

Gas Safety Certificate

A Gas safety certificate is a certificate that is required by law to be held for all rental accommodation in the UK where there are gas appliances present.


People who live in property for which they pay a rent or charge to another person will be either tenants or licensees, depending on the terms of the agreement which lets them live in their home. The person who is the
other party to the agreement will be the landlord or licensor.

Letting agent

Is an organisation or an individual who carries out functions on behalf of the landlord and tenant. This may include letting properties, collecting rent or managing the property on behalf of the landlord.


Assured short hold tenancy (AST)

This is the most common type of tenancy in the private rented sector. Key points about the AST include that the tenant has six months guaranteed possession, and agreed rent, and legal entitlement to tenancy deposit protection (TDP).

Excluded Tenancies

Excluded tenants are those which live in accommodation with their landlord, and share facilities such as kitchen or living space.


This type of tenancy related to where a tenant does not have exclusive use of their accommodation; for example if a service such as cleaning is offered.

Educational establishments may issue licenses. A licensee will not have the same rights as someone on an assured shorthold tenancy. The notice period will depend on the agreement, but often at least four weeks' notice is required.

Private Rented Sector (PRS)

The Private Rented Sector (PRS) is defined as accommodation that is privately owned, that is, not by a social landlord, and rented out, usually at a profit. The PRS covers all forms of accommodation and varies in quantity and quality from place to place. It currently makes up approximately 13 per cent of the UK housing market and continues to grow.

Purpose-built accommodation

This is accommodation – usually large – which is let specially to students. It may be ‘halls of residence’ type accommodation, and may be catered or ‘cluster flats’ where smaller groups cook their own food. Individual rooms may have en-suite bathrooms, or share facilities. The may be run by a university or college, or by a private supplier.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Landlords entering into new tenancy agreements are required to place any deposit with a Government authorised scheme, which will safeguard the money and offer independent adjudication in the event of any dispute.


Fixed-term contract