By Pierce Robertson-Voth – last updated on 20th April 2024

Welcome to Study Inn’s comprehensive guide on the legal requirements for student accommodation in the UK. This guide will provide you with detailed information – as per recent UK government regulations – for your rights and responsibilities when it comes to student accommodation during your studies at university. Find out the key things you need to know about paying council tax as a student, different types of tenancy agreements, living in a house in multiple occupation (HMO), and more.


  1. Types of Student Tenancy Agreement
  2. What is a HMO?
  3. Rights, Obligations, and Responsibilities of Student Tenants
  4. Do Students Have to Pay Council Tax?
  5. What Repairs Are Landlords Responsible For?
  6. Are Landlords Responsible for Pest Control?
  7. Who is Responsible for Painting and Decorating?
  8. Are Tenants Allowed to Have Guests?
  9. Can Your Landlord Enter the Property?
  10. Know Your Student Accommodation Legal Requirements

Types of Student Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord which outlines your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and outlines the rights and responsibilities of your landlord.

Two types of Student Tenancy Agreements:

  • A joint tenancy agreement will hold all tenants jointly accountable per the specific contract agreement.
  • A sole tenancy agreement will hold tenants accountable as individual,’sole tenants’ rather than as a collective, per their specific contract agreements—regardless of whether multiple tenants are occupying the property.

For example: you are part of a joint tenancy agreement, and one of the tenants you are occupying a property with, under the joint tenancy agreement, does not pay his rent on time in accordance with the joint tenancy contract – the whole, ‘joint’ tenancy, as a collective is responsible rather than the individual who did not pay his rent on time. This specific example of rent payments can be substituted in terms of damages done to the property as well.

In more cases than not, finding a sole tenancy agreement is more favourable than a joint tenancy agreement. If you were to be in a sole tenancy agreement and someone in your HMO does not pay, you would not be liable in any way, whereas in a joint tenancy agreement, you would be collectively held responsible.

This is why this should be one of the first things you look out for when planning to move into your new accommodation. If you don’t check every last word on your contract, you can be left with a bad deal, by signing yourself into an unfair and potentially dangerous legal contract.

Legal details to watch out for

Student accommodation not managed and controlled by educational establishments is regulated by ANUK/Unipol Code of Standards for Larger Developments. But you may still fall prey to signing a bad contract that can cause you a number of issues, you may end up having to pay out large sums of money that weren’t spoken about, or there may be hidden terms that can put you in a bad position should something go wrong.

For this reason, it is very important to ensure that you check your contracts thoroughly before you sign, even more so if you are living in private accommodation not regulated by the Universities UK/Guild HE Code of Practice for the Management of Student Housing, often known as the Student Accommodation Code Accreditation Network UK (ANUK)/Unipol Code of Standards for Larger Residential Developments for student accommodation that are managed and controlled by educational establishments.

What is a HMO?

HMO contract next to pen about to be signed by a student

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is defined as a property housing three or more people from different households. Many student accommodations that are not offered by the university or a public body will be HMOs.

According to the UK government’s definition, a HMO is qualified when:

  • At least 3 tenants live there, forming more than one household
  • Toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities are shared

Being in a HMO as a student tenant means thatyour landlord must keep shared areas clean and repair faulty gas and electrical appliances so your home is kept safe. It also means that an adequate function of shared facilities is maintained by your landlord. For example:

  • There should be regular maintenance.
  • Your landlord has a legal duty to give you a written statement of your tenancy terms if you share your home with at least 4 other people. Some councils require landlords of all HMOs to do it. Make sure you contact the council if you’re unsure.
  • There must be an adequate amount of rubbish bins.
  • There is plentiful space at the property and it is not overcrowded.
  • Your electrics will be checked every 5 years.
  • Yearly gas safety checks are carried out.
  • Adequate fire safety measures are in place, these will include working smoke alarms.
  • There are sufficient and functioning facilities for cooking and washing.

The rights, obligations and responsibilities of student tenants:

What are some basic rights of tenants?

As a tenant, you have the right to:

  • Live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair.
  • Have your deposit returned when the tenancy ends – and in some circumstances have your deposit protected.
  • Challenge excessively high charges.
  • Know who your landlord is.
  • Live in the property undisturbed.
  • See an Energy Performance Certificate for the property.
  • Be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent.
  • Have a written agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy of more than 3 years.

Do students have to pay Council Tax?

UK council tax bill example for the 2020/2021 year

Students will not have to pay council tax if their accommodation is occupied solely by those who are enrolled in university or college full-time.  If you are a full-time student staying in your university halls, then you are automatically exempt from paying council tax. However, if someone in your household is not a full-time student you will be taxed – but your household may be given a discount. You will have to correspond with your local council with evidence – such as proof of enrollment at your university and course – to prove your exemption.

How to exempt yourself from council tax as a full-time student

Step 1: Upon receiving your university documents – which will almost certainly be before the start of your first term – you will be able to prove your university enrolment and council tax exemption.

These documents will provide proof of you attending your specific course at your university for its specific duration, which is what the council needs to exempt you. Keep them safe.

Step 2: Apply for a council tax exemption via your local council, using the proof of enrollment documents.

Your local council will need you to prove that you are the only adult living in your property, that you are a full-time student, and that you have a valid student exemption certificate.

The certificate must state your full name, the name of the course you are studying for, the date you start the course, the date you finish the course, and your full time student status – this will all be enclosed within the documents your university sends out to you.

It is a good idea to get ahead and exempt yourself from council tax in order to prevent any further costs incurred within your preparation for your first year at university.

What repairs are landlords responsible for?

Your landlord is always responsible for repairs to:

  • The property’s structure and exterior
  • Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
  • Heating and hot water
  • Gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
  • Electrical wiring
  • Any damage they cause by attempting repairs

Your landlord must, as per UK Government regulations:

  • Have a gas safety check carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Provide you with energy performance certificate
  • Ensure any furniture provided meets the required safety standards
  • Ensure any electrical equipment provided meet the required safety standards
  • Ensure a smoke alarm is installed on each floor of the property and that carbon monoxide detectors are present in any room with a coal fire or wood-burning stove
  • Upkeep common areas, for example staircases in blocks of flats.

Your responsibilities:

  • You should only carry out repairs if the tenancy agreement says you can.
  • You cannot be forced to do repairs that are your landlord’s responsibility.
  • If you damage another tenant’s flat, for example, if water leaks into another flat from an overflowing bath, you’re responsible for paying for the repairs. You’re also responsible for paying to put right any damage caused by your family and friends.
  • report any repairs needed to the landlord
  • Where possible, make sure the home is well-ventilated (to help avoid condensation and damp)
  • Carry out minor maintenance (such as checking smoke alarms are working and changing light bulbs)
  • Dispose of all rubbish, and keep the house reasonably clean.

If you believe that your property needs repairs or has mould you should firstly contact your landlord. Do this straight away for any faults that could potentially damage health, for example faulty electrical wiring. Your landlord should then tell you when you can expect the repairs to be done – but of course, you should carry on paying rent while you’re waiting.

Get more information about what to do if your property needs repairs or has mould.

If repairs are not done then you should contact the environmental health department at your local council for help. Your local council  must take action if they think the problems could harm you or cause a nuisance to others. If your house is not fit to live in and you think that your home is unsafe, contact the housing department at your local council – they will do a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment and they must take action if they deem your home to have any serious health and safety hazards.

Are landlords responsible for pest control?

Magnifying glass searching for pests with a house model in the background.

Your home may become unsafe due to a ‘hazard’ – which is defined as a problem in a home as detailed in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. Hazards are rated according to how serious they are and how likely they are to affect someone’s health and safety. There are 2 types of hazards – category 1, which are the most serious, and category 2. Examples of category 1 hazards include: exposed wiring,  dangerous or broken boiler, rats, pests or other infestations, damp and mould on the walls or ceiling.

Health and safety risks in the home are assessed by local councils using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). There are also additional health and safety requirements for housing in multiple occupation (HMO). HMOs are shared homes containing multiple households such as bedsits, shared student housing and hostels.

Reporting a hazard

If you’re worried about a potential hazard in your home, you should report it to your landlord or letting agent immediately.

Once you’ve informed them about a problem in the property, your landlord is responsible for most repairs. However, you should give them a reasonable amount of time to carry out the work.

If you’ve reported a potential health and safety hazard and your landlord or letting agent hasn’t resolved it in a reasonable time, you should contact your local council. An environmental health officer may then arrange to visit your home to assess any hazards within it. You can also ask the council to inspect a neighbouring property if issues with it could affect your own health and safety.

Who is responsible for painting and decorating?

Two female students painting and decorating their colourful and busy student room.

Ask permission from the landlord before decorating or painting. The landlord is responsible for upkeep in terms of painting unless damage is incurred by the tenant, then the tenant must pay. Any new painting would nearly always be done on the landlord’s terms, it would be extremely rare for a tenant to paint without the landlord’s initial proposal or say so.

Decoration by the tenant is normally okay, so long as there is no long-term effect on the property as it stood in its condition prior to the tenant’s arrival. Decoration such as framed photos, cushions, and rugs all should be okay – however, it is always best to check your contract before deciding to decorate.

Are tenants allowed to have guests?

Yes, but it depends on the duration of the guest’s stay and whether the guest follows the same procedure – i.e. behaviour and treatment of the property – as the tenant, per the contract you signed with your landlord. There is no law maintaining that tenants cannot have guests, but the specific rules for your situation will largely be held in accordance with your given tenancy agreement and contract.

Study Inn permits a guest of a student resident to stay over fourteen nights within a thirty day period, however this does not account for all student accommodation as some will only permit stays of only two or three nights.

Can your landlord enter the property?

Not without prior notice. Your landlord must give you prior warning of at least twenty four hours before entering the property – as per the Housing Act 1988.

If you as the tenant feel as though there is an unwarranted presence of your landlord, and this presence is persistent or without reasonable cause – your landlord may be in violation of your rights and tenancy agreement and be liable to a harassment claim. Harassment is defined as any act likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property, or persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the home. This means that harassment can be anything a landlord does, or fails to do, that makes you feel unsafe in your property or forces you to leave.

For example, harassment can include:

  • Repeatedly entering the property without your permission or without giving you adequate notice
  • Cutting off services such as electricity
  • Withholding keys: perhaps there are 2 tenants in the property, but the landlord will only give one key
  • Refusing to carry out repairs
  • Anti-social behaviour by a landlord’s agent
  • Threats and physical violence

Know your student accommodation legal requirements

Knowing the ins and outs of student accommodation law is important but sometimes you can’t know it all, which is why the team at Student Inn are always on hand to help. Need advice and support on moving to your first student home? Contact our expert team today and let us help!

Planning to go to university and looking for great student accommodation? Discover the locations of all of our Study Inn buildings to find conveniently situated, luxury student apartments.