International Student: Should my contract be a Licence to Occupy or an AST?

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    International Student: Should my contract be a Licence to Occupy or an AST?

    Hello everyone and thanks for taking the time to read this.

    TLDR: Landlord/Agency gave me a License to Occupy but landlord does not live in flatshare, nor offers services, so I suspect it should be an AST. Whole contract is constructed around a L to O (no possession, having to move rooms etc.) but in reality I don't see why my situation would be a L to O other than to skip me off tenant's rights. Also deposit is not protected and flat is an HMO but does not have a license.

    I moved into a flat share which I found through an agency. I share a kitchen and bathroom with 3 other students and all of us have our own rooms. The contract I signed was called a License to Occupy and not being familiar with UK law (I'm from the Netherlands myself) I didn't think anything of it. However, some things are off and I've been doing my research and now I'd like to get your opinions on a few points before I decide on my next move.

    1) I believe my contract should be an AST. The landlord does NOT live in the property (so no lodging) and does NOT provide any services (such as cooking or cleaning). In the contract it says they have the right to move me to another room and I do not have possession of the room. Moreover, there are no locks on my door - so this would suggest a license to occupy. My problem with that is that it seems they have constructed these rules around the idea of constructing a licence to occupy, because in reality in the day to day life, nothing would point at a license to occupy. What do you think it is?

    2) I have been in touch with the Council and they checked for me whether the landlord has an HMO license. He does not. The council HMO service has confirmed the house is indeed an HMO (3+ people that share common rooms without being related - I know it's 5+ people for some councils but in Camden (London) it's 3+). I've heard this means I could claim back rent up to 12 months back, but I imagine that's a long process. Besides, I've only moved in a week ago and thus payed only the first month. Knowing that the landlord/agency did not have a proper license, should I do anything with this information? I believe my asking has tipped off the council so they will probably enquire with the agency/landlord so I can imagine they will get an HMO license soon.

    3) I do not feel well in the flat due to having no lock on the door (and not being able to insure anything because of that) and some other reasons such as a) having to deal with the agency is an absolute pain, b) furniture is of very bad quality (from Primark. Who knew Primark sells furniture??) and c) certain appliances are not and have not been working for a long time (according to my flatmates) such as the oven. Ideally, I would like to move out as soon as possible, but I guess that would be breach of contract. According to the contract I would have to give 2(!) months notice (I thought a License to Occupy gave both sides easy ways out?) but the contract has a lot of claims that seem random (such as having to pay 650 pounds if I do not reconfirm my moving out date 2 months in advance).

    4) My deposit (950 pounds) is not protected because they claim it is a License to Occupy. If it turns out it should be an AST, would I be able to sue for my deposit x3? I read that somewhere. Does anyone know how long that would take?

    All in all, what would you advise me to do next? I am in contact with Camden Council's Housing Service but they are quite busy themselves so I wasn't able to make an appointment until next week.

    Thank you very much for any help, as a poor student in a foreign country this situation is hugely overwhelming so believe me, I am grateful for any advice!

    #2
    Other more experienced contributors will probably give you a more definitive answer, but from what you have said it sounds like a judge would regard it as a joint AST. If your intention is to leave without excessive notice or loss of deposit you should probably take a copy of your contract to the CAB, or ring Shelter. They may also be able to tell you whether any of the contract terms are potentially unfair and unenforceable. In your position, i would then use this and the implied threat of sueing for a deposit penalty and refunded rent to negotiate my way out of it

    Comment


      #3
      The rental market in London is not like the rental market in the rest of the UK and is a bit of a law unto itself.
      There's what is legally the case and what happens in real life.

      What does the original poster of the information hope to achieve?
      It is unlikely that anywhere else in the same area and price range will be too different (it's mostly a matter of luck).

      Can your university not help with accomodation issues.
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

      Comment


        #4
        That's what I was thinking as well - it seems quite obvious that it's just a "sham" licence to occupy without any real justification, right? I've talked to Shelter last week and they weren't sure whether it was an AST because of the fact that I do not have a lock on my door and the clause in the contract that states the Agency/Landlord has the right to move me to another room. I have another appointment next week, this time with the council's housing services, so let's see how that goes.

        Comment


          #5
          I will be in touch with my university next week so I will inquire about possible accomodation. I am paying quite a lot at the moment so it should be relatively easy to find something cheaper at least. But yes, it'll be tricky nonetheless. I'm only staying for another 5 months so perhaps it makes more sense to stay and sue for my deposit back (+3 x compensation)? Also, since they do not have a valid HMO licence, I supposed I could sue to get my rent back for at least the first month? Does that sound like a viable option?

          Comment


            #6
            The rules for HMOs are pretty much the same whether or not it's licensed - so you should make sure there are proper fire and heat alarms etc.

            The agreement is designed to circumvent the deposit rules and stop it being an AST.
            It's almost impossible to do that successfully, but, on the other hand, if you do get your deposit back when you leave, it's probably all good.

            I'd not be planning suing anyone at this point.
            Either find somewhere else and leave - daring them to sue you - or put up with it and find somewhere else better after six months (which might be easy as a lot of student accommodation becomes available in June).
            When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
            Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

            Comment


              #7
              I agree with jpk. I think you have your priorities wrong. If you need to rent for the foreseeable future then the priority would be to exit without a bad reference or stay put and concentrate on your studies.

              Comment

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