Signing a housing contract is a big decision and a huge financial commitment. And it’s one you really want to get right. Here, you will find guidance to help you find people to live with and a suitable home. You can also learn about your rights and obligations as a prospective and new tenant, knowledge guaranteed to help your budget.
We advise that you not to rush into a contract as there is a surplus of accommodation locally. If you take your time and choose your housemates carefully, you’ll be more likely to have fewer problems in the long run, and get a better deal.
Every year we hear rumours that students are told that all the best houses will be gone by Christmas. This is not the case. If you start to look in late November/December this will help you to get a good idea of what’s around, but we urge you not to sign in Term 1. It's nearly impossible to get out of contracts once they are signed and we want you to make the best decision for the coming year.
We also host a Housing Fair each year in the SU main hall, where you’ll get the opportunity to chat to a number of different estate agents and landlords as well as the Advice Centre staff. Use this event to get a feel for the local market, look at the websites of agencies and landlords there and discuss it with your friends and family over Christmas. Remember that many properties will not be advertised until after February.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
RHUL Studentpad is your free portal to hundreds of local properties. You can use it to search for accommodation, post ads for rooms, and find housemates.
Online: You can find lots of accommodation advertised online. If you’re not part of a group yet, we’ve created a Facebook group called RHSUHouseMating. to help you find housemates or spare rooms.
Letting Agents: You can find local letting agencies’ websites and their ratings on Google. If you call each agency and tell them what area you’re looking in and your budget, they’ll tell you what they have available.
Private Halls: These are student-only accommodation options which tend to be more expensive, but can offer some more flexibility and options to live by yourself. There are a number of options in Englefield Green and Egham, which you can find on Google.
Whether you're looking for a group to join, on the hunt for a housemate to complete your group, or seeking a replacement housemate, it can be hard to find the right person. We've compiled some key pointers, which should make things a little easier for you.
Here are some platforms connected to the university and SU that you could post on:
As a student you may have access to different sources of income, but it's always best to monitor how you are using it. You can come and see us to help budget for the year ahead, especially when you consider signing for a new house. Often students use their last loan payment to help fund deposits and fees when signing; this is useful, but remember that you may have other costs at this time.
FUNDING YOUR DEPOSIT
Some of the sources you can use are:
To sign a private housing contract you will need:
Most landlords and estate agents will require students to have a UK-based guarantor that can pass their credit checks. A guarantor is someone who signs to say they will pay the rent and bills if you can’t. They can be a family friend or relative, as long as they live in the UK. Students who don’t have a suitable guarantor are usually expected to pay 3-6 months’ rent in advance.
International students should have enough funds to cover a bigger deposit as part of their visa requirements.
We strongly advise that you do not pay for or sign anything until you secure a guarantor.
There is financial help available from the university if you are unable to secure a guarantor.
You will need to apply to one of the following guarantor services: Housing Hand, Rent Guarantor, or Your Guarantor. After providing proof that you do not have a suitable guarantor, and have paid the arrangement fee to the guarantor service, you can then claim the cost of the service back through a Study Support Grant application.
If you need help, please contact either the Financial Wellbeing team at firstname.lastname@example.org or us at the Advice Centre at email@example.com.
It can be hard work getting your landlord to fix things after you’ve signed. Landlords and agents often make promises they never fulfil during viewings, so if they promise to fix things, ask them to put it in writing.
If the current tenants are present during the viewing, don’t be afraid to ask for their contact details so you can ask them about what the bills are like, etc. They will also be much more honest about the landlord without agents around.
Ask the landlord or agent if you can see the inventory which will state exactly what pieces of furniture will be staying at the property. If they do not have one, request that they create one.
YOUR LANDLORD/AGENT SHOULD GIVE YOU:
Make sure you are happy with the tenancy agreement. Don’t be afraid to question the meaning of certain clauses. You should not sign anything you are not 100% clear on!
Finally, make use of our FREE CONTRACT CHECKING SERVICE, which will save you lots of money, even if you’ve already signed!
Renting in the private sector is full of potential pitfalls from the moment you become a prospective tenant. Our contract checking service not only helps you to make sure there’s nothing dodgy in your tenancy agreement, but will also provide you with information about your rights, how to set up your utilities and what to do when things go wrong.
If you email us with a copy of your contract using the subject ‘contract check request’ or come along to one of our drop-ins, we can do all the hard work for you. We can explain the key areas of the contract in plain English so that you can make an informed decision and stay safe.
Remember: NEVER sign a contract in a rush. You are supposed to have sufficient time to look over the terms and consult someone. Pressure sales is illegal.
Finally, we want you to know that you should get your contract checked, even if you’ve already signed it. In contract law, legally unfair clauses are unenforceable, and we can point them out to you.
WHAT IS DEPOSIT PROTECTION?
Before you move into a privately rented property, you will usually need to pay a security deposit of no more than five weeks’ rent to the landlord or estate agent. This is for the protection of the landlord to cover instances of rent arrears (if you fail to pay rent) or damage to the property.
You should get the full amount returned to you at the end of your tenancy, unless the landlord has reason to request deductions. Unfortunately, in most cases, some deductions are proposed, and they are often unfair.
If you are renting in an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (the most common type of tenancy), your landlord must put your deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDP) within 30 days of receiving it.
There are three schemes which are recognised and approved by the government: Deposit Protection Service (DPS) , mydeposits, and Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).
These schemes will make sure that you get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy, provided you have left the property in a good condition, and paid your rent and bills on time. They can also act as independent adjudicators if you cannot come to an agreement about deposit deductions at the end of the tenancy.
If you have issues with your landlord requesting unfair deductions from your deposit, or not returning it on time, then we will guide you through the process to get your deposit back.
CHECKING IF YOUR DEPOSIT PROTECTED
After your landlord has put your deposit into a TDP scheme, they should then provide you with written confirmation of the details of the scheme, including the amount that has been protected, and arrangements for the return of the deposit.
Most landlords and agents place this information in the deposit section of the tenancy agreement (contract). It is important to check all the details are correct when you receive this.
If you are renting as a group in a joint tenancy, you will usually pay a single deposit for the property, split equally between the tenants. This means your deposit will usually be protected as one whole single deposit, with one tenant named as the “lead/head tenant,” responsible for contacting the TDP scheme in the event of a dispute.
If you are unsure whether your deposit has been protected, you can search on each of the scheme websites to check.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY DEPOSIT IS NOT PROTECTED?
If you think that your deposit has not been put into a TDP, you should contact your landlord or agent as soon as possible to ask them why this is the case, and request that they protect it as soon as possible. We find that most landlords DO protect the deposits they receive, because if they don’t, tenants can take them to court for one to three times the value of the deposit.
If you are not provided with the correct deposit protection information, or find that your deposit was not properly protected, you can pursue legal action to get compensation. In this case, please contact us for support in taking these steps.
If you've already looked through our web pages and can't find the information you're after, and would like to discuss something face-to-face, it's easy to see an Advisor.
We hold weekly drop-in sessions on Zoom during term time. Check out our Events Calendar to find out when the next drop-in is - just use the "Advice" filter on the left-hand side of the page.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
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