Skip to the main content
See what we're working on » COVID-19 Priorities Tracker

Before we can give any advice or recommend a course of action it is important that we understand the true nature of your agreement with your Landlord. This is a complex area of law. Although the full range of possibilities is wide, this guidance is aimed at students at UCL, and therefore assumes the student does not have a long term agreement and has not been in their present home for more than five years.

Tenancies and licences

Your permission to occupy your home will either be a tenancy or a licence; unless you are a trespasser. Identifying who your landlord is the first step. The landlord is the person who gives you permission to live in your home.

For instance, if you live with your parents, then your parents will be the landlord and you will have a bare licence. A bare licence gives negligible protection from eviction and from a legal perspective you can be required to leave with minimal notice.

A tenancy gives more protection than a licence. Although some landlords try to describe a tenancy as a licence, it is the legal nature of the agreement (whether in writing or not), that determines if it is a tenancy or licence.

Although a tenancy or licence does not need to be in writing, we strongly recommend that you do not move into or pay any deposit without a written agreement. An Adviser from the Union can read through a Tenancy or Licence agreement for you before you sign it.

A key point of a tenancy is that it gives the tenant exclusive use of at least one room. A licence does not give exclusive use, or the landlord may be able to move you from one room to another.

If a group of students share a home (house or flat), a number of possibilities exist. The students may be joint tenants, or they may have separate tenancies, or some of the students may be a tenant of one or more of the other students.

If you live in a university hall of residence, then you will have a licence, even though you have your own room, this is because you will only have been given a room on the basis that you are a student of the university.

If you rent your home from a Council, Local Authority, Housing Trust, Housing Association or Registered Social Landlord, you will be a tenant and will have good protection. Some Councils offer an Introductory Tenancy to new tenants, these offer only limited protection during the first year, but full protection after the first year.

If you rent a house or flat from a private landlord, it is likely that you are a tenant and will have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. This type of tenancy is usually for a fixed term, say six or twelve months. Although the tenancy can be extended, the landlord can bring it to an end by serving the correct notice. If the landlord does not serve the correct notice then the tenancy will not come to an end at the end of the fixed term but will continue on a weekly or monthly basis until the landlord serves the correct notice. You must continue to pay the rent during the extra time. The technical name for the tenancy is now a Statutory Periodic Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

If you share living space with your landlord, then you will have a licence and limited protection.


A landlord may ask for a deposit before granting a tenancy or licence, but if a deposit is requested the landlord must protect the deposit by placing it in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. Also, within 30 days of receiving the deposit the landlord must give you written information about which scheme is being used.

A typical deposit may be one month’s rent, with the first month’s rent being paid in advance.

At the end of the tenancy the landlord must return the deposit to you within 10 days. However, the Landlord may keep some or all of the deposit to cover unpaid rent, damage to the property or its contents, or for missing contents.

If the deposit is not returned to you within 10 days, and the landlord does not give you a good reason, you should inform the tenancy deposit protection scheme that a dispute exists.

For further information on Tenancy Deposits visit the Shelter website. 

Check in and check out reports

It is normal for a private landlord to conduct an inspection of the property and its contents at the start and end of your occupation. You should ask the landlord for a copy of the Check In report and you should write to the landlord if you disagree with any part of the report.

You should be present when the Check Out inspection and report is made. This will enable you to ensure the report is an accurate report on the condition of the property at the time you move out. If you feel that any part of the report is not correct, write immediately to the Landlord explaining what is wrong, and keep a copy of the report and your letter for yourself.

Cleaning at the end of occupation

It is normal for the landlord to clean the property after you move out. You should check the agreement to see if you will have to pay for this cleaning. If you have to pay a large fee, you may prefer not to have a professional cleaner and clean the property before you move out.

Useful links