Find out who is in charge of responding to problems at the property (landlord or agent) and get their phone number. Ask if they have a number for outside of office hours in case of emergencies. You should still have someone to contact for help if the landlord is on holiday or unwell. They should be contactable and/or assign someone to help you in such times.
Landlords are required by law to ensure:
Your landlord should provide:
It’s your responsibility as a tenant to test smoke alarms regularly and replace the batteries as needed. Any safety concerns should be reported to the landlord. If your landlord is not dealing with your safety concerns, ask your local council’s Environmental Health Team for help.
You can also ask the Fire and Rescue Service to visit your home and carry out a Home Fire Risk Assessment.
You should consider getting “gadget insurance” or general contents insurance. Compare prices as there are some good deals about and they can be life-savers if your stuff gets damaged, lost or stolen. Unfortunately, students’ houses are prone to burglaries, and being a student makes you prone to losing stuff on a night out!
Do I need insurance?
How much would it cost to replace all your belongings? If you have insurance, then you could be protected from this expense in the event of accidental damage, a burglary, fire, flood or other serious incident.
You don’t have to buy insurance- this is your choice. You should also check to see if you are already covered by a policy in your family home or if the one your family home has can be extended to you. Sometimes insurance is packaged with bank accounts or credit cards, so check to see if this is the case for you.
Most students’ contracts are joint Assured Shorthold Tenancies. This means that all tenants’ names appear on one contract, instead of on individual contracts, naming individual tenants. Unless you make a separate housemate agreement, the contract requires you to split the rent equally. You can also add other details, such as how utilities are handled, into the agreement.
The inventory is a report that documents the state of the property when you moved in. It should list each room or area of the property, including the garden, as well as all the fixtures, furniture and appliances within each space.
The inventory should record the condition and cleanliness of everything, detailing any visible damage, disrepair and uncleanliness, ideally accompanied by photographs.
No. The Tenant Fees Ban 2019 means that tenants can no longer be charged for the inventory service, which is often done by an independent professional inventory clerk. This law change means many landlords are now opting to carry out the inventory themselves, which has led to many bad inventories, lacking in detail and with incorrect information. It has also led to many landlords not carrying out an inventory at all.
Once a check-out inventory is done after you move out, the two inventories will be compared. They can then be used as evidence to show that you damaged the property or did not leave it as clean as you received it etc. This can then lead to deposit deductions.
Normally, you can be present for the inventory inspection but we advise against it during social distancing measures.
There will probably already be energy and water connected when you arrive, but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything! You should set up the accounts for utilities as soon as you move in.
If your agent/landlord offers to set up utilities for you, we recommend you tell them that you’d like to handle them yourself to get the best deal. This is what most tenants do as agents and landlords often get commission for referring you to certain providers, meaning you end up paying more.
If you watch or record TV as it is being broadcast live, then you will need a TV licence. You can be fined up to £1000 if you get caught without one!
Do I have to pay council tax?
If you’re a part-time student, then yes. You can check the criteria HERE. Full time students don’t have to pay council tax, but you have to prove your exemption by following these steps:
As soon as you stop being a student- see our Council Tax FAQs for more information. This could be after the last day of Term 3 in your final year, or earlier if you interrupt your studies or if you are terminated as a student. If a housemate stops being a student during the academic year, they will become liable for the property’s entire council tax bill. If this happens, you should get in touch with the Advice Centre to guidance specific to your situation.
Get to know how bin collection is done in your new place to avoid neighbour wars. If you don’t sort your rubbish correctly, it will not be collected by the council and will pile up, attracting horrid creatures like rats!
Most fees you could be charged (e.g. inventory, cleaning etc.) were banned on 1 June 2019, except for tenancy swaps, now capped at £50. If your landlord or agent asks you for money at any point during your tenancy, tell them that you’d like to check with the Advice Centre before accepting any charges and consult us.
If we advise you that you are liable for any costs during your tenancy (e.g. spilt wine on carpet), then you will always have the option of asking the landlord to take the fee out of the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
What if the landlord is trying to make unfair charges?
Ask for advice before accepting any charges and let them know that you’re waiting for an appointment.
If your landlord is not dealing with problems in the house, it can get a little complicated, so you should seek professional advice. Luckily, the SU Advice Centre has a specialist housing advisor who can even refer you to solicitors if necessary- all for free!
It’s still good to have an idea of who is responsible for what.
Landlords often delay dealing with issues too long. If your landlord is not being prompt in their responses, ask for an advice appointment straight away.
You can read about tenants’ rights under common types of student tenancies below, but the best way to find out what your tenancy rights are is to send us your contract, requesting a contract check [hyperlink to contract check request template]. This is a free service we offer to all of our students.
Please note that if you have a less common type of tenancy, (e.g. license, lodger, living with family) then you will have significantly less rights as a tenant, and so it’s extra-important to get a contract check.
Below is a general list of tenants’ rights and obligations based on a typical joint Assured Shorthold Tenancy contract:
Most students are in a joint liability (all tenants names appear on a single contract). This means that if someone owes for rent or bills, and their guarantor can’t pay, then the other tenants and their guarantors can be asked to pay. This is why we encourage you to consider getting renters’ insurance
Most contracts are for a ‘fixed term,’ meaning you cannot leave the contract early and you are expected to leave at end of contract unless otherwise agreed by landlord.
You must inform your landlord at least 2 months before the end of the contract about whether you are staying or leaving at end of tenancy. (We recommend no earlier than Term 2- let us know if they pressure you to renew/decide earlier- this is illegal).
You have a legal obligation to look after your rented home and report any problems to the landlord or agent. The landlord has to deal with disrepair in the house and pay for it unless you were neglectful or vandalised the property. Not reporting problems straight away is considered neglect.
Below is a list of dos and don’ts known to save tenants from deposit deductions, so read up and clean up!
The landlord has 2 main obligations to the tenant
Your landlord has a legal obligation to place your deposit in a deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving the full amount and send you a deposit protection certificate. This ensures you can get your deposit back without unfair deductions.
The landlord has to give the property and all the items listed in the inventory in good order and deal with disrepair promptly. They have to cover the cost of all this unless the tenant was negligent in their use of the property.
To avoid damp and mould forming:
We strongly recommend you try to resolve issues with your housemates because it is almost impossible to get out of a tenancy agreement. In fact, 99.99% of the time, the only way out is to find a tenant to replace you, which can be difficult, and even then, the other housemates could refuse to accept them.
If you need guidance for how to approach a housemate issue, you can ask the Wellbeing Team for some help in planning it.
This will have financial consequences as they will stop being a student and so no longer receive a student loan, but still have to continue paying rent. There is help available for them if they cannot afford to pay the rent. All housemates will be affected and so should ask for an advice appointment. You can have a group appointment or see the Housing Advisor individually.
If all tenants agree to advertise a spare room in order to find a replacement tenant, then you can advertise the room online. Students are looking for rooms throughout the year, but do be aware that they are spoilt for choice, so there is a chance that you will not find anyone.
We don’t recommend using sites like spareroom.com as there are a lot of fraudsters on there. We created the RHSU HouseMating Facebook Group to help you find people from the RHUL community. However, please remember that fraudsters are everywhere, so you should be careful about what information you share.
Registered charity no: 1141998
The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
Egham, TW20 0EX