Finding the perfect student accommodation doesn’t have to be a chore. But it’s important to remember that there is more to consider than just the size of your bedroom and how close you’ll be to the nearest pub! Our Student Housing Guide will help you avoid all the common mistakes thousands of students make each year when moving into their new student house.
Visit our dedicated website for more valuable housing advice you can’t afford to be without when choosing your future accommodation - Student Housing Guide.
- Accommodation Checklist
- Home Safety Issues
- Household Costs
- Your Rights
- Safety Advice
- Tenancy Deposit Law
- Tenant’s 'Right to Rent' Privately Rented Accommodation
- Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
1) Accommodation Checklist
2) Home Safety Issues
- The roof looks sound, there aren't any tiles missing.
- The gutters and pipes aren't broken, leaking or full of grass.
- The window frames aren't rotten.
- The windows aren't broken, cracked or draughty.
- No signs of damp, e.g: dark patches, peeling wallpaper or flaking paint.
- Few signs of condensation such as mould on the walls.
- There aren't any signs of pests, like slug trails and mouse droppings.
Gas & Electricity
- The plugs don't get hot when switched on. Check there are plenty of sockets.
- The wiring doesn't look old, there aren't any frayed cables.
- The gas fire heats up properly and isn't heat stained (if it is it may be dangerous).
- When was the last service and is there a valid Gas Safety Certificate.
- The cooker works! Try it.
- There is hot water.
- The taps all work properly.
- The bath and basins aren't cracked and the toilet flushes properly.
- The external doors are solid with five-bar mortice locks. Your insurance may insist on this.
- The internal bedroom doors all have locks.
- The windows all have locks.
- Does it have a burglar alarm? Use your bargaining powers to get one. It is in the agent's/landlord's interest as well as your own.
- Does it have a smoke detector?
Print out Check List:
3) Household Costs
Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances. It has replaced CORGI registration. Only a Gas Safe registered engineer should fit, fix or service gas appliances.
Landlords have responsibilities for gas safety. By law your landlord must keep all gas appliances supplied for you to use in good condition. They must arrange for a Gas Safe registered engineer to carry out a gas safety check on them every 12 months and provide you with a copy of the landlord’s gas safety record.
- Ask for a copy of the landlord’s current gas safety record before you move in.
- Cooperate with your landlord and let a registered engineer in when a gas safety check or servicing has to be done.
- Check the ID card of any gas engineer that comes to do work in your home. The engineer must be Gas Safe registered.
Badly fitted and poorly serviced appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas which can kill quickly with no warning. Know the six main signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness. Don’t mistake the symptoms for a hangover.
If you think a gas appliance is faulty turn it off and let your landlord know immediately. In an emergency call the gas emergency helpline on 0800 111 999. If you feel unwell, seek medical help immediately.
Click on the Gas Safe logo link for more info!
The Health & Safety Executive has a Gas Safety Advice line on
0800 408 5500
In the event of an emergency call
0800 111 999
Many agents/landlords may hold a NICEIC certificate which proves that the property has had an electrical check within the last five years. Although this is recommended, it is not a legal requirement.
Fire Safety - Furniture and Furnishings
On 1 January 1997 the final phase of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 came into force. "The regulations provide for all furniture manufactured after 1 January 1950 to be fire retardant and carry the proper labels". This means that furniture and furnishings supplied in let accommodation must comply with the fire and safety requirements in the Regulations. All residential premises including flats, bedsits and houses where furniture is supplied as part of the let are covered by these regulations. The type of furniture covered by the regulations are: any upholstered furniture including chairs, sofas, children's furniture, beds, head boards (if upholstered), mattresses, scatter cushions, seat pads, pillows and even garden furniture if it is upholstered and can be used in the dwelling. Carpets, curtains and duvets are not covered by the regulations.
If you have gas appliances in your house, Carbon Monoxide is a possible danger. It's invisible and odourless, but it can kill.
Watch out for...
- Gas flames that burn orange or yellow rather than blue.
- Sooty stains on or around your appliances.
- Solid fuels that burn slowly or go out.
Know the symptoms...
- Unexplained drowsiness.
- Giddiness when standing up.
- Sickness and Diarrhoea.
- Chest pains.
- Unexplained stomach pains.
Carbon Monoxide? Be Alarmed! Campaign
In October 2008, the Carbon Monoxide Consumer Awareness Alliance launched a new national campaign aimed at cutting the number of deaths and injuries caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Click here for more information on the Carbon Monoxide? Be Alarmed! Campaign
- Clarify what is included in your rent. For instance, some agents/landlords include water rates, others don't.
- If possible, ask the previous tenants the rough cost of gas, electricity and water.
- Take readings of the relevant meters as soon as you can once the last tenants have left.
- Change the bills to your name with the relevant suppliers from the time you move in...decide whether joint names will be put on the bills or if the responsibility will be divided.
- Don't think of doing without it; the number of burglaries and thefts in student houses is rising! Your landlord’s insurance will not cover your personal possessions.
- Shop around to find the right insurance package for your requirements.
- Make sure that you're covered over the vacations.
- Properties where all the occupants are full-time students will be exempt. You may be asked to produce a certificate giving evidence of your student status; this certificate will be obtainable from your faculty office after you have registered on your course.
- If one or more of the occupants of your house is not a student the house becomes taxable so you must clarify whether you are expected to pay anything towards the cost.
- If you are unsure about your status with regard to Council Tax then seek advice from your Student Advice Centre.
Click here for more information.
Call: 0300 790 6113 for more information.
5) Your Rights
The protection you have largely depends on your status as an occupier. However, an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (England) or Short Assured Tenancy (Scotland) are the most common. These can be made for a specific period of time, for instance, one academic year, but they will not usually be made for a period of less than 6 months. Please note that if you are staying in Home Stay or with the owner of the property then you will not be a "Tenant" and should therefore not be required to sign a contract.
If you are sharing a house then you may be asked to sign a joint tenancy or a separate tenancy (i.e., just for your own room with shared use of the rent of the property). If you sign a joint tenancy then you will all be responsible for each other's debts and damages. If you have a separate agreement for your own room then if there are any discrepancies, the argument is between yourself and your landlord and will not normally involve your housemates (unless perhaps it relates to the common parts of the property).
Points to Note
- Rents must be agreed before the contract is signed since this is a binding agreement. Remember you can negotiate with the agent/landlord over rents and opt out clauses. If you are not happy with the agent's/landlord's suggestions.
- You cannot give notice during the period of the contract if there is no clause providing for this (generally known as a ‘break clause’) in your agreement. If you leave before the end of the fixed term then you (or your housemates) remain liable for the remaining rent.
However, your landlord may sometimes be willing to allow you to end your tenancy early if you can find new tenants to take your place and provided you pay any referencing and other costs he may incur.
- Always try to get your contract checked; the Students Union Advice Centre/Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice will be able to check your contract.
- Landlords must comply with relevant legislation on notice to Quit, possession notices and Termination of Tenancies. Notices to Quit (which cannot be used for assured shorthold tenancies) and section 8 notices must contain prescribed information and there are also strict rules about the content required for section 21 notices. A Landlord cannot simply evict a tenant without a Court Order and this will only be granted on certain grounds. See your rights.
6) Safety Advice
Your Agent/Landlord is responsible for...
- Keeping in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling house, including drains, gutters and external pipes.
- Keeping in repair and proper working order the installations for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences and for heating rooms and heating water.
- Providing a rent book if statute so requires e.g., where the rent is paid weekly.
- Providing you with the agents/landlords full name and address.
- Providing you with a copy of the valid current Gas Safety Certificate (see Standards).
- Allowing you to "peacefully enjoy" your accommodation (unless there is an emergency).
- Agents/Landlords have the right to enter the property at reasonable times to carry out the repairs for which they are responsible and to inspect the condition and the state of repair of the property. They must give at least 24 hours notice in writing of an inspection. It would be helpful to set out the arrangements for access and procedures for getting repairs done in the tenancy agreement.
- Providing you with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
You are responsible for...
- Acting in a "Tenant-like manner". This means you should perform the smaller tasks around the house such as mending the electric light when a fuse blows; unblocking the sink when clogged with waste and cleaning the windows when necessary.
- Not damaging the house, if you do then you and your guests are responsible for the repairs.
- Refuse collection! Remember to find out the collection day from your local council. Put the wheelie bin out - and bring it back in again, it's illegal to leave it on the street.
- Securing the property when you go away; lock all the doors and windows!
- Being reasonable about noise and parties; weekends are better and let your neighbours know in advance.
- Reporting all repairs needed to the agent/landlord (preferably in writing). The landlord's/agent's responsibility to repair begins only when they are aware of the problem. If the fault is not corrected within a reasonable period of time (dependant upon the nature of the disrepair) then seek advice from the Students Union Advice Centre/ Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice.
Harassment and Unlawful Eviction
If your agent/landlord wants you to leave your house then a legal process must be complied with before you can be evicted. This will include a written notice and applying to the Court for a possession order. If you are evicted without the agent/landlord following the correct procedure then the agent/landlord is committing a criminal offence. In addition, if the agent/landlord (or someone acting on their behalf) interferes with your peace or comfort either with unannounced visits, by not fulfilling his/her responsibilities for basic repairs (as listed above), disconnecting utility supplies and so on, then this may amount to harassment which is a criminal offence.
If you are in danger of eviction or suffering from harassment by your agent/landlord then contact the Student Union Advice Centre, your local Council's Housing Advice Team, or your Council's Anti-Social Behaviour Team. Citizen's Advice also produce a booklet entitled "Protection Against Harassment and Unlawful Eviction".
7) Tenancy Deposit Law
We would always recommend viewing a property in person, rather than relying on the information on the web. You will need to check that the landlord and the property are bona fide. We would never recommend transferring any monies to anyone before doing so in person. For your own personal safety, it is always advisable for you to view a property accompanied and try to arrange the appointment at a reasonable hour. However, there are advantages to viewing it after dark so that you can get an idea of how you will feel when walking home at night. It is important that you contact your University advice centre if you feel that you were in any way subjected to sexism or harassment during the appointment.
Here are a few pointers in checking the security of the property:
- Is the property in a 'good' area?
- Is the property set back from the road? Is the street lighting sufficient?
- Are the front and rear doors solid?
- Have the doors got five lever mortice locks?
- Is there a chain on the door? If not, can the agent/landlord fit one?
- Are the curtains of your room see-through? Insist on thicker ones if they are.
8) Tenant’s 'Right to Rent' Privately Rented Accommodation
You will normally be required to pay a deposit to the agent/landlord as security in case you damage the property or furnishings. It can also be used to cover unpaid bills, rent or missing items. Most agents/landlords will ask for a sum equivalent to four weeks' or a calendar month's rent but the maximum an agent/landlord can charge by law is a sixth of the annual rent payable in England and Wales and two months rent in Scotland. In order to ensure that you get your deposit back:
- Ensure that you have a written statement from the landlord explaining what is covered by the deposit (this will normally be covered by a clause in the tenancy agreement). If the landlord gives a verbal explanation, write to him/her to confirm the details.
- Ensure that you have a receipt for monies paid.
- Ensure that you have a full inventory of furniture. Get the agent/landlord to sign it. You may wish to take photographs.
- Take reasonable care of the house and furniture during the tenancy.
- Towards the end of your tenancy write to the agent/landlord inviting him/her to inspect the property.
- Settle all the bills.
- When you leave return all the keys to the agent/landlord and make a written request for the return of your deposit. Keep a copy of the letter.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
A tenancy deposit scheme is a scheme provided by an independent third party to protect deposits until they are due to be repaid.
It is important that if you pay a deposit you check with your landlord what scheme they are paying your deposit into.
Further information can be found from the three schemes operating in Scotland
Telephone: 03333 213 136
Letting Protection Service Scotland
Telephone: 0844 4726 666
Contact: Sean.Hooker@mydepositsscotland.co.uk or
Telephone: 07917 813 340
Safeguarding Tenancy Deposits
A tenancy deposit scheme is a scheme provided by an independent third party to protect deposits until they are due to be repaid.
Concerns that some private landlords unfairly withhold tenants’ deposits led to provisions in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, for Scottish Ministers to bring forward regulations for the approval of tenancy deposit schemes in Scotland.
The Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 came into force on 7 March 2011. The Regulations set out the conditions that all schemes must meet before they can be approved by the Scottish Ministers.
Scheme start date
Three schemes have been approved:
- Safedeposits Scotland
- The Letting Protection Service Scotland
- My|deposits Scotland
All three schemes started operating on Monday 2 July 2012
The legal duties on landlords who receive a deposit in connection with a relevant tenancy will also be triggered from 2 July. The legal duties on landlords are:
- to pay deposits to an approved tenancy deposit scheme
- to provide the tenant with key information about the tenancy and deposit
Key dates for landlords
The dates by which landlords must pay deposits to an approved scheme and provide information to the tenant vary, depending on when the deposit was received:
Deposit received prior to 7 March 2011:
Where the tenancy is renewed by express agreement or tacit relocation on or after 2 October 2012 and before 2 April 2013 (Regulation 47(a))
Within 30 working days of renewal
In any other case (Regulation 47(b))
By 15 May 2013
Deposit received on or after 7 March 2011 and before 2 July 2012 (Regulation 48)
By 13 November 2012
Deposit received on or after 2 July 2012 and before 2 October 2012 (Regulation 4)
By 13 November 2012
Deposit received on or after 2 October 2012 (Regulation 3)
Within 30 working days of the beginning of the tenancy
9) Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
The Immigration Act 2014 introduced a requirement for landlords of private rental accommodation to conduct checks to establish that new tenants have the right to rent in the UK. Landlords who rent to illegal migrants without conducting these checks will be liable for a civil penalty.
The Government wants to ensure tenants in private rented housing are not living in the UK illegally and is already working with councils to tackle rogue landlords who exploit migrants by housing them in "beds in sheds" and illegally overcrowded accommodation.
Private landlords are be required to make simple checks on new tenants to ensure that they are entitled to be in this country. The checks will be straightforward and quick for law-abiding landlords and tenants to comply with.
- The requirements will not apply to pre-existing tenancies. Landlords will only have to conduct checks on new tenancy agreements from the implementation date.
- The checks will apply to all adults over the age of 18 living at the property. That is even if:
- they're not named on the tenancy agreement
- there's no tenancy agreement
- the tenancy agreement is not in writing
- Checks are mandatory, there are resources provided such as draft Codes of Practice, guidance and online resources, including an aid to help landlords and tenants identify whether they are affected and, if so, how to conduct a check.
- To access these resources Visit: https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents .
- Checks apply to adults which use the property as their own home and you will need to provide original documentation which proves you can live in the UK, such as a passport or work visas.
- The government also provides a landlrd helpline – 0300 069 9799
- Failure for landlords to comply could result in a an unlimited fine or being sent to prison.
- It is important to check the latest timescales and requirements directly.
Guidance and an online tool is available on www.gov.uk which landlords can use to see if the ‘right to rent’ checks have launched in their area. A helpline (0300 069 9799) is also available.
For full information visit:
Factsheet Landlords Aug 14.pdf
What is an EPC?
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) gives home owners, tenants and buyers information on the energy efficiency of their property. It gives the building a standard energy and carbon emission efficiency grade from ‘A’ to ‘G’, where ‘A’ is the most efficient and with the average to date being D.
In addition to the rating for your buildings current energy performance, part of the EPC report will list the potential rating that the building could achieve (using the same ‘A’ to ‘G’ scale), if the recommendations that are provided within the report were to be made. It is not mandatory for anyone to act on the report’s recommendations. However, doing so may cut your energy bills and reduce your carbon emissions.
Who needs an EPC?
As a tenant moving into a property, or as a buyer looking to purchase, it is the legal requirement of the existing owner to provide you with a full Energy Performance Certificate, free of charge. This law came into effect after 1st October 2008.
Agents/Landlords and owners are only required to produce an EPC for a property that is self-contained and the certificate is then valid for 10 years. However, an EPC isn’t required when a tenant rents a room and shares facilities.
A group of friends rent a property and there is a single contract between the agent/landlord and the group as the contract is for the rental of a whole dwelling. An EPC is required for the whole dwelling.
For further information, please visit the Government EPC website here.
11) Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
What is an inventory?
It is not uncommon for tenants not to receive a copy of inventory from their
landlords when first moving into their new house.
An inventory can be extremely useful evidence of the condition of the property when you first move in. It provides a full inspection of the property’s contents and their condition.
If you aren’t supplied with an inventory by your landlord or letting agent, don't hesitate to ask for one. If you still don’t receive one, provide them with your own. You do this by making a list of the contents room by room and then take photos or use video evidence to record the property contents and condition as back up.
The Agent/Landlord and tenant(s) should both sign the inventory and initial every page to indicate that you agree to the condition of the property contents and condition.
If at all possible, the final inventory check should be done on move out day and checked against the original inventory. This should ensure that there aren't any disputes about the extent of any damage, should there be some, as the landlord may need to take monies out of the deposit to pay for these.
Note that landlords will often use specialist inventory companies to do this work.
When compiling an inventory it is essential that you...
- Describe the condition of every item within the property.
- Back it up with photographic/video evidence.
- Take a note of the gas and electric meter readings.
- Get the agent/landlord to agree to and sign the inventory.
- Keep a safe copy of the signed inventory to check against when moving out.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
The Housing Act 2004, which was introduced in April 2006 in England and Wales, was created with the intention of providing a fairer and better housing market for renting properties. As of 1 October 2018 mandatory licensing is changing and it becomes:
The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2018
The act provides special rules for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which are essentially properties where people who are not family members share accommodation or live in the same building, as these types of property are considered to be higher risk.
The type of properties likely to require HMOs include:
- Shared houses
- Blocks of flats
- Blocks of converted flats
- Accommodation for workers
The government’s new guidelines, which come into effect as of the 1st October 2018, state that a property must be licenced by their local housing authority if it is let to:
- 5 or more people
- Who come from 2 or more separate households
The key change is that HMO licensing is no longer only for properties 3 or more storeys high.
These new licences must be in effect by 1 October 2018.
There are also new rules alongside this that enforce:
- Minimum room size requirements for bedrooms
- Waste disposal provision requirements
It is important to note that the individual HMO requires the licence, and not just the building within which it is situated. So if a building has multiple flats and each flat contains five or more persons from two or more households they will each require a HMO.
To find out more click here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-publishes-key-licensing-changes-to-further-protect-tenants or contact your local authority.
HOUSING/STUDENT GUIDE DISCLAIMER
This Guide is intended to provide friendly and helpful advice. Studentpad has tried to ensure that the advice give in this Guide is useful and as reliable as possible.
Whilst every effort has been made to offer up to date and accurate information, errors can occur. This Guide may contain references to certain laws and regulations. Laws and regulations will change over time and should be interpreted only in light of particular circumstances.
This Guide is not designed to provide professional or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please consider whether the information is appropriate to your circumstances and where appropriate seek professional advice.