Combating Housing Contract Renewal Pressure

As we launch our Don't Sign in Term One campaign, we give you advice on what you can do if you're feeling pressured into renewing your housing contract for next year.

Every year, as early as October, some landlords and agents start to ask their current tenants (who’ve just moved in) to decide whether or not they want to renew their contract for the following year. As students are not experienced renters, they often don’t challenge this request; however, students are getting savvier and the Advice Centre is hearing more and more from students who are being pressured into making a decision.

What do you mean by pressure to renew?

Students are told that if they don’t reply soon (often just given a few days to decide) that the agent/landlord will start marketing the property to be rented out to a different group next year. This then creates a sense of urgency as students are scared that they could lose the home they’ve just moved into, with no guarantee they can find one of the same price, size, etc. This is a huge financial decision and should never be rushed. High-pressure sales are illegal; if you feel that you are being unfairly pressured, you should report it to the Advice Centre who can inform Trading Standards and support you.

What can I do?

  1. Know your rights (see below)
  2. Ask for support if you are contacted about renewal by your landlord/agent in Term One. 
  3. Don’t allow viewings to take place in your home until you are certain about not wanting to renew or until you legally have to.

Your rights (based on a standard student tenancy)

  • You do not have to allow viewings to prospective tenants before you have decided whether or not you want to renew your contract.
  • Most contracts state that you do not have to decide whether or not you want to renew until the final two months of the tenancy.
  • You can never be forcefully evicted by the agent/landlord without a court order (which could take over a year to obtain) even if your contract has ended and they’ve signed up a new group of tenants.

We advise you not to make a decision about renewing so early and to refuse any viewings to take place in Term One.

I’m a final year student, surely this doesn’t apply to me?

We would still recommend that you don’t make a decision just yet, because:

  • You might find a postgrad course or job nearby and want to stay.
  • Allowing viewings this early on could mean having to put up with a lot more viewings.
  • When current tenants allow viewings in Term One, it can motivate landlords/agents to pressure first-year students into signing contracts too early.

Take a stand

Our campaign follows legal advice, designed to give students the motivation to fight back against the unethical pressure-sales practices of some landlords and agents. First-year students are generally inexperienced and vulnerable to pressure sales; our Advice Centre sees that they routinely get taken advantage of, so action is needed. Together, we can empower students to challenge bad and outlawed practices and force some change in how agents and landlords approach students in future.

Why now?

Now, more than ever, the Advice Centre is seeing cases of students stuck in contracts they cannot pay for because they signed up far too early. Estate agents and landlords are telling students that there will be no housing left if they wait for Term Two, when in fact there is a big surplus of student rentals locally. With the risks Covid brings, now, more than ever, we recommend that students wait until Term Two or Three before considering housing for next year.

So, our simple message to you is…Keep Calm: Don’t Sign in Term One.