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Finding a Home: References and Guarantors, Deposits and Contracts

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Landlords or Agents will not just give you the keys once you have paid the holding deposit. Now it’s time for them to do their checks. Most will require solid references and a reliable guarantor. They do this to ensure that you’re someone they can trust in their property and that you will pay your rent on time. Let’s go into them in a bit more detail.




Effectively your potential new landlord wants to know that you are a reliable tenant and that you didn't cause any major issues at your last place. If you are coming straight from halls you should be able to get this from the university housing office. But if you were renting privately before, your old landlord should be able to provide this for you.


As long as you have a good track record, there should be nothing to worry about here. It's worth thinking about future references when you do move into a new place though. A good relationship with your landlord could do wonders when getting a reference for your next place.




These are required for almost all student properties. A guarantor is someone who is willing to take the responsibility of paying your rent or covering any damage to the property if you don't pay. For lots of people their guarantor would be a family member or a friend of the family.


A potential guarantor is usually required to be a UK resident and must also complete a reference check. To limit the liability of your guarantor, ensure their agreement only covers your portion of the rent. Be sure the other housemates get their own guarantors.


Also, make sure that you understand what is covered by the guarantor, and don’t end up costing them any money!


Deposits and Contracts


If you are accepted for your property and all is in order, you will now have to pay a deposit and sign a contract. Let’s have a look at both.




A deposit is money that the landlord or letting agency holds during the tenancy agreement. It is usually the equivalent to 5 or 6 weeks rent. This deposit will then be returned to you at the end of the tenancy provided you have met the terms of the agreement. Landlord or agents can make deductions from this deposit for unpaid rent or bills, damage or disrepair to the property and cleaning.


If you are signing an AST Tenancy, then the landlord is legally obliged to protect your deposit in a Deposit Protection Scheme. Always ensure to check your tenancy agreement that this is included.




Accommodation contracts almost always differ. It is likely that you will be signing an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST for short) as a student renter but it may be different. The best piece of advice we can give you is to get someone with housing experience to check over your contract before you sign it. Both the LSESU Advice Service and University of London Housing Service offer this service for free and it is 100% worth having a ten minute meeting with either as it can save you a year's worth of stress and annoyance.


You should always insist on a written contract between you and your landlord. This contract should always include the following:


  • Your name and your landlord's name and address.

  • The address of the rented property.

  • Start date of the contract and its length.

  • How much rent you pay and when it's due.

  • The amount of your deposit and Deposit Protection Scheme information.

  • Whether any bills are included in the rent and which bills you are responsible for.

  • Notice required to bring the contract to an end.


Your contract should also set out your rights and obligations as a tenant. Always check these to ensure they are reasonable.


One more thing to note is that a private landlord may let out a shared house/flat on either a joint tenancy or individual tenancies. Joint tenancies are more common in shared flats, individual tenancies in Halls of Residence. See the table below from the University of London Housing Guide for key differences.

Again, and sorry to bang on about this, but please do get your contract checked by a professional before you sign it. It can save you so much hassle for just a little time and is always worth it.


Thank you for reading our blog series on Finding a Home. If you have any issues or questions around housing please contact the LSESU Advice Service! Happy house hunting!

Blog written by Laurence Mackavoy.


Laurence works as an Advice Caseworker in the LSESU Advice Team.


The LSESU Advice Team

The LSESU Advice Team is based on the 3rd floor of the Saw Swee Hock Building and we provide free, independent and confidential advice to all LSE students on academic and housing matters. We also administer the Hardship Fund, the Childcare Fund and the Graduation Gown Support Fund (GGSF).

Our service is currently operating using a hybrid working pattern. We are still open and can be accessed by emailing You can also book a telephone or Zoom appointment with an adviser through Student Hub.