Tenant's Toolkit

Glossary

Affordable housing

Affordable housing includes social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to households whose needs are not met by the market. (See explanations of these terms below). Once the Housing and Planning Act 2016 becomes law it will also include starter homes.

Affordable rented housing

Affordable rented housing is let by local authorities or private registered providers of social housing (housing associations) to those who are eligible and qualify for the Council’s housing register. Rents are above target rents (see below), but are not in excess of 80 per cent of local market rent.

Arrears

Rent that is outstanding. Arrears may be a full amount for a rental period or in part.

Assured shorthold tenancy (AST)

Usually found in the private rented sector, this type of tenancy, though very common, is less secure than other types of tenancy agreements.

Assured tenancy

This is the type of tenancy agreement usually offered by housing associations. Tenants can continue to live in the property for as long as they wish, as long as they do not break certain conditions set out in the Housing Act 1988.

Banker’s Draft

A banker’s draft is a more secure form of payment because it can’t bounce due to lack of funds in your bank account. Essentially, you give the bank the cash and they give you a cheque in that amount to give to the person you’re paying. Most banks need at least 24 hours to provide a banker’s draft and may charge you a fee. You may be asked to pay your deposit and full month’s rent using a banker’s draft.

Break Clause

A break clause is a clause sometimes included in a fixed term tenancy agreement. Typically, this clause may be included if the initial fixed term is for a year or more.

Buy to leave

Residential property bought and deliberately left empty.

Buy to let

Residential property bought with the intention of letting it to someone else.

Brownfield

The term generally used to describe land that has been previously developed, and may be available for re-use.

Choice-based lettings (CBL)

Choice-based lettings schemes are designed to allow an element of choice for people applying for council and housing association homes and existing tenants who want a transfer. As properties become available for letting, full details are advertised on the Home Connections website and applicants assessed as needing to be rehoused can bid for available properties.

Client Money Protection Insurance (CMP)

CMP is a type of insurance for letting agents. CMP protects the rental money that a tenant pays their letting agent to pass onto a landlord. The purpose of CMP is to protect the money if an agent attempts to use the funds fraudulently.

Compulsory purchase order (CPO)

A legal order that allows certain bodies to take over land or property against the wishes of the owner. There is a lengthy legal process involved and the majority of those directly affected receive compensation.

Common Housing Register (CHR) or Housing Register

The Council’s list of people applying for social housing including housing owned and/or managed by the Council and housing associations. People have to meet certain criteria to join the register and it only includes those in the greatest housing need.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

A charge that developers have to pay to local authorities when undertaking new building projects. The amount charged relates to the net increase in gross internal area floorspace arising from development. It is used to fund infrastructure that is needed to support development for example, creating additional school places or GP services.

Communal gardens

Gardens which are shared by residents of a designated block or blocks but are not open to the public.

Community gardens

Gardens which are managed or maintained by a local community or residents’ group.

Council Tax

A local authority tax that applies to England, Wales and Scotland. It is usually the responsibility of the tenant to pay.

Covenants

Covenants are terms that you agree to as part of your tenancy agreement. They may state the things you can’t do while occupying the property and they set out the promises that a landlord or tenant both make during the course of the tenancy.

Credit Search References

Before a tenancy agreement is signed you will be referenced by your agent or landlord. Many agents and individual landlords use specialist referencing companies who will contact your employer (or an accountant if you are self-employed), your current landlord and also check out your credit history to assess your ability to pay the rent. You can find more information on referencing here.

Decanting

The process of moving residents from their homes while improvements are carried out. It also describes the process where a block or estate is to be completely redeveloped, and residents are moved to allow redevelopment to take place.

Decent Homes Standard

Introduced by government to ensure all social housing meets a minimum standard. The standard requires the property to be free of health and safety hazards, in a reasonable state of repair, having a reasonably modern kitchen, bathroom, boiler and adequate insulation.

Deposit

Landlords will ask new tenants to pay a tenancy deposit to cover damage or unpaid rent. The deposit is usually the equivalent of six weeks rent but the landlord can choose to set the deposit at any amount. More information on deposits and how they work can be found here.

Dilapidation

Damage to a property or contents that is considered to be more than acceptable wear and tear.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

All properties offered for let require Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). An EPC provides a rating of a property’s energy efficiency, running costs and environmental impact rating (carbon emissions) based on the property’s condition on a given date. EPC’s are quite similar to the energy graphs you see when you buy a new appliance like a washing machine.

Equity loan

A loan given to help buy a home. The loan is only repaid when the home is sold, and its value relates to the value of the home. So if a home rises in value, the amount to be repaid increases proportionally.

Fair wear and tear

The law defines fair wear and tear as “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.” This refers to the twin forces of time and normal daily habits. Walking across a carpet from door to dining table, for example, will exert a wearing effect during the length of a year which is perfectly natural. See here for a guide.

Fixtures and fittings

The contents of a rented property that may include window coverings, light fittings, carpets, kitchen units and white goods are called “fixtures and fittings”. If you are renting a furnished property, it may also include furniture.

Flexible tenancies

These are fixed-term tenancies issued by councils and registered providers. The lengths of the tenancies vary. They are generally five years or more, but can be two years in exceptional circumstances.

Freehold

Where the property owner owns the land as well as the property situated on it. It gives the owner the right to occupy a property indefinitely.

Garden squares

Gardens which are shared by residents of designated housing but are not open to the public.

Gas Safety Regulations

It is the landlord’s legal responsibility to ensure that a gas safety check is carried out prior to letting a property and then every year after. The check must be carried out by an authorised CORGI registered engineer and a copy of the record must also be given to the tenant.

Green belt

A designated area of land around towns and cities where development is not permitted.

Ground rent

Regular payment leaseholders may make to the owner of the freehold.

Grounds For Possession

The reasons for applying to the courts for repossession of a property.

Guarantor

A guarantor is someone who agrees to sign a tenancy agreement and in effect guarantees that they will undertake the full obligations under the tenancy agreement on the tenant’s behalf. If for some reason the tenant cannot pay the rent, the guarantor will make the payments.

Holding Deposit

A holding deposit is an amount of money paid to a landlord or letting agent to reserve a rental property before the signing of a tenancy agreement. A holding deposit is normally non-refundable if you were to withdraw your application for the tenancy. If the tenancy proceeds, the amount of the holding deposit is deducted from the rent.

**HomeBuy

A range of government schemes designed to help people buy houses through devices such as shared equity, shared ownership, and other forms of low cost home ownership.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMO)

Your property is an HMO if: at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household and there is a shared toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities. All local councils must license “large HMO’s” – properties that are higher than three stories, housing five or more people from two or more households. This legislation applies to any building or part of a building that is occupied by people who do not live as a single household, that is as a single family and where they must share amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom. Bed-sits accommodation and house shares where there are no family relationships are examples of HMOs.

Housing association

A not-for-profit organisation set up to provide low cost housing. Housing associations range from small community-led groups to larger organisations involved in house building and development, often accessing funding through the Homes and Communities Agency, or private backers. Many help tenants through specialist housing, for example sheltered housing or housing with support services. Many housing associations also operate home ownership schemes such as shared ownership or HomeBuy. Housing associations are usually private registered providers of social housing (formerly known as registered social landlords) and regulated by the Tenants Services Authority.

Housing revenue account (HRA)

A record of income from housing and expenditure kept by local authority housing departments. This must be kept separately from the local authority’s other finances.

Independent Tenant and Leaseholder Advisor (ITLA)

A person or company that is appointed to provide a group of residents with independent advice about housing issues, usually where there is a possibility of housing being redeveloped. The service is usually paid for by the housing authority, but residents will oversee the work the ITLA does to be satisfied that the advice is truly independent.

Inflation/deflation

Inflation is the rate at which prices for goods and services are rising across the economy, decreasing the purchasing power of currency. Deflation is the opposite process - a general decline in prices. These processes have a specific significance to councils’ and housing associations’ finances, because the rents they charge are index-linked to the retail price index, the most commonly used measure of inflation. This means social rents rise or fall in line with inflation. Inflation/deflation is expressed as a percentage.

Initial Term

The first period of the tenancy.

Intermediate housing

This is aimed at people who do not qualify for social housing, but cannot afford full market rents. Intermediate housing includes shared ownership, shared equity schemes and discounted market sales schemes. There are also intermediate rent products available (see below). To be eligible for intermediate housing a household’s income must be less than £71,000 per annum (for a one or two bedroom property) or £85,000 pa for a three bedroom or larger property. These figures are reviewed each year.

Intermediate renting

The rent charged for intermediate housing is above social rent but up to a maximum of 80 per cent of the market rent.

Intermediate rent tenancies are not social housing tenancies. A person living in an intermediate rent property will have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (used in the private rented sector). The length of the tenancy is usually set between one and five years.

Introductory tenancy

A tenancy for a trial period of 12 months. Since 12 February 1997 introductory tenancies have been imposed on all new tenancies granted by local authorities and housing associations. They were introduced in law to give housing providers greater powers to deal with antisocial behaviour. They can be extended to a maximum of 18 months.

Inventory

The inventory is a listing of the contents of a property. This list can include the state and condition of a property (including the garden) and can cover whether the property is clean or dirty and the state and repair of fixtures and fittings such as power points, furniture, windows etc.

At the start of the tenancy, there should be an inventory to “check in” with the tenant and then at the end of the tenancy the tenant should be “checked out”. Agents and landlords may use a third party inventory clerk to carry out the inventory.

Joint venture (JV)

This is the term used to describe where the Council is working in partnership with a developer or housing association to deliver new projects.

Leasehold

Tenure where the homeowner does not own the freehold, but instead has a long term lease. Leases are most often for 99 or 125 years. The homeowner pays ground rent to the freeholder.

Liability

Where there is more than one adult living in the property, the tenancy agreement will state that they are ‘jointly and severally’ responsible. That means that tenants are liable for the payment of the rent by all the other tenants, as well as any breach of the tenancy agreement by any of the other tenants as well as their own portion of the rent and responsibility.

Local Plan

The Local Plan sets out the Council’s planning policies in one document. This is sometimes referred to as the development plan (along with the London Plan) and contains a chapter on housing policies (currently chapter 35). All planning applications need to be determined in accordance with the Local Plan.

London Housing Strategy

Sets out the Mayor of London’s housing policies including policies to increase the supply of housing.

London Plan

This is the overall strategic plan for London. It sets out a fully integrated economic, environmental, transport and social framework for the development of the capital to 2031. London boroughs’ Local Plans need to be in general conformity with the London Plan. It forms part of the Council’s development plan and its planning policies are used to determine planning applications alongside the Council’s Local Plan.

Low cost home ownership

This covers a range of schemes intended to help those who cannot afford to buy a home on the open market to get onto the housing ladder, normally by buying a part share in a property through initiatives such as HomeBuy.

Managing Agent

An agent or company responsible under an agency agreement for the maintenance and management of the property. Not all properties are professionally managed so your landlord may be responsible for the maintenance of the property.

Mansion blocks

Purpose built blocks of flats positioned next to a road or street.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied, alongside the Government’s requirements for the planning system.

National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG)

Sets out practical guidance on the implementation of planning policy.

Negative equity

Financial term used to describe a situation where a loan becomes worth more than the asset it is secured against. In housing it typically applies to mortgages where the value of the property falls below the amount borrowed to buy it.

Notice Period

The period of time that a tenant or landlord must give to end the tenancy agreement.

Pay to Stay

The proposed Government policy to charge social housing tenants with household incomes of £40,000 and above in London, and £30,000 and above in the rest of England, an increased level of rent for their accommodation if their rent is currently being subsidised below market rent levels.

PCM

PCM is a short-form referring to the rental amount being paid on a per calendar month basis.

Periodic Tenancy

A periodic tenancy is a tenancy that continues for successive periods until the tenant gives the landlord notice that they want to end the tenancy. When an Assured Shorthold Tenancy ends, it will become a periodic tenancy unless the tenant signs a renewal agreement.

Possession order

The court order that allows a landlord, or lender in the case of homeowners, to take possession of a property.

Prescribed Information

The landlord is legally required to make certain information regarding the tenancy deposit protection scheme protecting the deposit, the deposit and specified tenancy related information available to the tenant or tenants.

Private garden

A garden for the exclusive use of one household.

Private rented sector (PRS)

A classification of UK housing tenure consisting of consists of 2.7m dwellings in the United Kingdom or 10% of the total housing stock.

Public gardens

Green spaces which are open to everyone.

Registered social landlord or registered provider

An organisation registered with the social housing regulator, the Tenant Services Authority, under the Housing Act 1996. Most are housing associations, although housing cooperatives and local housing companies are also registered.

Renewal

At the end of the fixed term of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy some tenants and landlords choose to renew the tenancy for another fixed term. That gives the tenant a bit more security. Landlords may also ask a tenant to sign a renewal if they want to change the terms of your tenancy agreement and that could include raising the cost of the rent.

Right to Buy

The policy introduced under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government that gave council tenants the right to buy their homes from the local authority at a discounted rate.

Section 106 agreement

This is a planning agreement between a local authority and a developer. The local authority only grants planning permission if the developer offers some benefit to the local community, for example low cost housing, education facilities or improved public spaces. The agreement applies to the land, not the developer, so future owners will need to take it into account.

Service charge

Charge paid to landlords or, in the case of leaseholders to the owner of the freehold, in exchange for maintaining communal areas of a development.

Shared ownership

Scheme that allows people to buy a part share in a home, if they are unable to buy the whole property, with another party – often a housing association – retaining the remainder. Shared owners can often increase or decrease their stake in the home, thorough a process known as staircasing. Shared ownership schemes are offered through Registered Providers, and are typically between 25 per cent and 75 per cent share of the home’s value. A capped rent is paid on the remaining share. Shared ownership properties are always leasehold.

Social rented housing

Rented housing owned and managed by local authorities, housing associations or Registered Providers. Also see target rent.

Social Sector Size Criteria (under-occupancy charge/‘spare bedroom tax’)

Part of welfare reform that cuts the amount of benefit that people under pension credit age can get if they are considered to have a spare bedroom.

Staircasing

The process of buying some, or all, of the remaining shares in a shared ownership home.

Standing order

A standing order is an instruction to a bank to an account holder to make regular fixed payments to a particular person or company and is often used to pay rent, usually on a monthly basis. The standing order payments can be set up to finish by a particular date or will continue until cancelled by the tenant. It is worth noting that only the person whose bank account the funds are coming from can cancel the standing order. A standing order is not the same as a Direct Debit which is a payment method more often used when payments change from month to month. Direct Debits are not often used to pay rent.

Starter homes

These are homes which will be sold at a discount of at least 20 per cent. The only eligibility criteria are that purchasers must be under 40 and live in the UK.

Statutory Obligations

Requirements and obligations of the landlord or agents acting on their behalf as set out by Acts of Parliament.

Sublet

When an existing tenant letsall or part of their home to someone else, this is known as subletting. Your tenancy agreement may say that you are not allowed to sublet or may state that you need permission from your landlord before subletting. If you sublet your property without permission your landlord may take legal action against you.

Target rent

This is the rent charged for socially rented properties. Rent levels are worked out using a nationally set formula which is based on the value of the property, the number of bedrooms it has and average earnings for a manual job in the area.

Temporary accommodation (TA)

Housing such as Bed and Breakfast (B&B), hostel accommodation or privately leased accommodation that councils may use to accommodate households who are homeless.

Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP)

Your landlord must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007.