Your housing contract will normally set out how much rent you have to pay, the date the rent is due and the payment method. It may also include details of any charges such as interest on late payments. If you have a joint tenancy, you are normally jointly liable for the whole rent on the property. This means that if one joint tenant doesn't pay his or her share, the other joint tenants could be asked to pay more to cover the shortfall.

My landlord wants to increase my rent. Can he do this?

This depends on your housing contract. Most student housing contracts are fixed term assured shortholds. This means they last for a fixed period of time such as 6 or 12 months. With this type of contract, the rent is normally fixed for the length of the contract so it cannot be increased while the contract is still running. Two exceptions to this are where the contract contains a rent review clause (rare in the student housing market in Sheffield), or you agree to the increase (your landlord cannot force you to agree). Be aware that if you have a fixed term contract which has come to an end and you want to stay in the property, your landlord can at this stage ask you to sign a new contract at a higher rent. If your landlord does not ask you to sign a new contract and you remain in the property on a month to month (or periodic) basis, you normally carry on paying the old rent. The downside to this is that with a periodic contract it is easier for the landlord to make you leave.

Top Tip

Get advice before you agree to a rent increase, you might be able to say no.

I think my rent is too high. Can I get a reduction?

If you have an assured shorthold contract which has been running for less than 6 months, you can refer your rent to the first-tier property chamber (the tribunal). If the tribunal finds that your rent is significantly higher than rents for similar properties in the same area, it can reduce it. The tribunal's decision will be binding on the landlord. Unfortunately, since it can be relatively easy for landlords to legally evict assured shorthold tenants, applying to the tribunal could result in you losing your home.

Top Tip

Rents in the student housing market in Sheffield tend to be broadly similar per property type for properties in the same area so think carefully and get advice before you try for a rent reduction, it might not be worth the risk.

My house is in poor condition. Can I get a rent refund?

It is sometimes possible to negotiate a rent refund (for example, at the beginning of the contract if the house is so bad that you can't move in) but in nearly every case there is no legal right to a refund unless this is set out in the contract. One exception to this is where a landlord is convicted of operating an unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). In this situation, tenants can apply for a Rent Repayment Order and, if successful, get a refund of up to 12 months rent.

Top Tip

You can report unlicensed HMOs in Sheffield via the city council website.

I can't afford to pay my rent. Can I claim housing benefit?

Most full time students cannot claim housing benefit. For information on those students who can claim click here.

If you are a student who can claim housing benefit and you are aged under 35, your entitlement is likely to be restricted to Local Housing Allowance rates. For those who are affected, this means the maximum housing benefit currently payable in Sheffield is £64.41 per week - this is regardless of income and how much rent you pay. For more information click here.

What could happen if I don't pay my rent?

Not paying your rent on time and in full is a breach of contract so your landlord could ask you to leave the property. To do this legally, he or she would need to serve notice and then, if you don't move out, go to court to get a possession order against you. If you have a joint tenancy, the legal action would involve everyone in the group, not just you, so your housemates could also lose their home due to your arrears. In practice, very few landlords in Sheffield take possession action against students but it can and does happen from time to time. Other possibilities include -

  • Your guarantor being asked to pay
  • You and your housemates losing your deposits
  • The case being referred to a debt collection agency.

Top Tip

You cannot be thrown off your course because you owe money to a private landlord but it is a serious matter and could have long term implications for your future so get advice.

Page updated 23 July 2015