What types of contracts are there? What's the difference between a Landlord and an Agent? What do all these acronyms mean? Don't worry, we've got your back. Here's our jargon-busting guide to housing terms.


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

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

A document explaining the energy performance of the building.


A legal process that landlords have to go through to remove a tenant from their property. Without proper court approval it is illegal to evict a tenant. A tenant cannot be evicted if a landlord has not protected the tenant’s deposit (where applicable).

Excluded Occupier

Excluded occupiers are those who live in accommodation with their landlord, and share facilities e.g. kitchen. Excluded occupiers have very few rights and can be easily evicted.

Fixed-Term Contract

This contract states when your tenancy begins and ends. Most students who rent will have 12 month fixed-term contracts, but beware if you leave the tenancy before the end date, as it is likely you will have to pay the remaining rent until the end of the contract (or until you find a replacement tenant).

Gas Safety Certificate

This certificate is required by law to be held for all rental accommodation in the UK where there are gas appliances present.

House In Multiple Occupation (HMO)

This is perhaps the best way to find somewhere that you will be happy with. Ask friends about vacancies for next year and if they have had any problems with the property or landlord.

HMO License

This is a document that tests the property’s physical standards through Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and confirms that the landlord is ‘fit and proper’. 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.

Individual Contract

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

Joint Contract

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


A person who owns a property and charges other people to live in it, is called a landlord.

Letting Agent

An organisation or individual who carries out functions (e.g. letting properties, collecting rent, managing properties) on behalf of the landlord and tenant.

Purpose-Built Accommodation

This is usually large accommodation that is let specifically to students.


This type of tenancy relates to where a tenant does not have exclusive use of their accommodation; for example if a service such as cleaning is offered. A licensee will not have the same rights as someone on an AST. The notice period will depend on the agreement, but often at least four weeks’ notice is required.

Midland Landlord Accreditation Scheme (MLAS)

This is a scheme that has been set up to recognise and promote good landlords and agents. Check the MLAS website to see the current list of accredited landlords and agents.


A retainer is a non-returnable sum of money paid in lieu of rent, in order to reserve a property while you are not living there (usually over the summer period). You should always get a receipt for this. If you pay a retainer that is less than the full rent, your access to the property and right to occupy will probably be restricted.

Rolling Contract

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


Assured Short Hold Tenancy (AST)) 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).

Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes

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