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Rental Jargon – What does it mean?

Posted on 2021-10-08

Renting a property for the first time can be very intimidating, with checks, contracts, rules and laws, and it doesn’t help when there are so many words and phrases used by letting agents and landlords which you may not be familiar with.

In this article we will highlight some of the most used rental jargon, and explain exactly what they mean, so you don’t have to worry. Bookmark this page for future use, or use Ctrl + F to search for specific words.


When a tenant goes into rent arrears, this means that rent which is due has not been paid. The arrears could be for a whole month or be an underpayment. A tenancy agreement sets how much and how regularly the rent needs to be paid. The consequences of not dealing with arrears can be severe – as there is a risk of eviction.

Assured shorthold tenancy (AST)

An AST is the most used tenancy by private landlords. These can be fixed term or periodic (rolling weekly or monthly) contracts, they provide security and set out the responsibilities of both the tenants and the landlord.

Break clause

This is a clause in a tenancy which allows both tenants and landlords the opportunity to end the tenancy early during a fixed term. This usually comes into play after six months in a 12-month tenancy.

Build to rent (BTR) 

Build to rent schemes are apartment blocks or neighbourhoods which are built for the purpose of being rented to tenants. They include multiple homes which are all owned and managed by the same landlord. Tenants in BTR properties will usually benefit from amenities such as high-speed broadband, pet-friendly properties and concierge services.

Buy to let (BTL)

When a property is bought specifically to rent out to tenants, this is called a buy to let property. 

Content/liability insurance

These are insurance policies which a lot of tenants like to take out to protect their home. Contents insurance insures the tenant’s own possessions, whereas liability insurance protects the tenant against having to pay large sums for damages they cause to the landlord’s property. Click here to read more about HomeLet’s specialised tenants insurance.

Credit score

Everyone in the UK has a credit score, this tracks their credit history and ranks how reliable they are at borrowing and paying back money. When applying to rent a property, a tenant’s credit score is checked as part of the detailed referencing checks carried out to assess their suitability for the property. Get your free TotallyMoney credit score here.


When a tenancy ends, the letting agent will assess the damages and repairs or replacements needed at the property. Dilapidations are the cost of restoring the property to its original state, and the costs may come out of the tenant’s deposit.

Eviction ban

The Eviction Ban was put in place by the Government at the beginning of the pandemic to protect tenants who were unable to pay their rent due to Covid from being evicted. This ended on May 31st and is no longer in place.

Exclusive possession

This means that tenants have the right to sole occupation – meaning the only people allowed to live in the property are those on the tenancy agreement. Exclusive possession also means that landlords can’t enter the property without first gaining permission from the tenant.


If a tenant doesn’t pass the referencing checks, they may be acceptable with a guarantor. This means that if the tenant was unable to pay the rent, the responsibility would fall to their guarantor.

House in multiple occupation (HMO)

A HMO is a property which is rented out to three or more people from more than one household. Tenants rent their own bedroom, and rooms such as kitchens and living rooms are shared.

Notice Period

This is how far in advance a landlord or tenant must notify the other party that they wish to end the tenancy.

Open Banking

Open banking is frequently used for referencing checks. This is where tenants safely and securely share their banking records with the referencing company, who can’t access the account, but can see a real-time snapshot of the tenant’s finances. This considerably speeds up the referencing process and saves the tenant from having to compile and send over all of the information manually.


This stands for portable appliance testing, which is a test to ensure that electrical items in a property are safe for use. Landlords should have electrical appliances PAT tested before a new tenancy or every year.


PCM stands for per calendar month. It is usually used to show a monthly rental cost.

Permitted Occupier

Someone who has permission to stay at a property, but is not a tenant is called a permitted occupier. This could be a partner, child or older relative. The tenant is responsible for any damage that they may cause to the property.


When a landlord owns four or more rented properties, they are a portfolio landlord. A landlord’s portfolio is the properties they own.


Before renting a property, a tenant will usually undergo a referencing check. This checks credentials such as their credit score, income, and past tenancies to ensure that they are trustworthy tenants.

Right to rent

When renting a property, tenants must prove that they have the right to rent in the UK. Tenants need to be a British or Irish citizen, or have permission to be in the UK to have the right to rent. Find out more about how to prove your right to rent.

Section 8/21 notice

These notices are paperwork that landlords must supply to tenants when evicting them. Section 8 notices are used when a tenant has broken the terms of their tenancy, whereas a Section 21 notice can be used without reason as long as there is no fixed term in place.

Tenant Fees Act

The Tenant Fees Act was originally published by the Government in February 2019. It bans most letting fees and caps deposits to protect tenants from having to pay out large amounts at the beginning of a new tenancy.

Tenant’s liability

This is the potential risk to a landlord’s items which are included as part of the tenancy agreement, this can include furniture, fixtures or fittings, carpets and other items. Tenants are responsible for any damages they cause to the landlord’s property.

Void period

A void is the time in between tenants when a property is empty. Having a void at a property for a long period of time is bad for landlords as there are still bills to pay for the property, but they are not earning any income from it.

Wear and tear

Over the course of a tenancy, some damage will naturally occur as things are regularly used. Normal wear and tear refers to gradual damage which would always take place in a property over time. Tenants shouldn’t be charged, or have any of their deposit deducted for general wear and tear in a property. Read more about what is acceptable wear and tear here.

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