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Housing Week: Important Things to Know Before Signing

You’ve just started your second term and you’re now starting to think about where you’re going to live for the next academic year. Often students look to the local area and rent in the private sector so to make sure you don’t get caught out, below are a few important things you should know before you sign on the dotted line:

  • Landlords have a legal obligation to protect your deposit and inform you of the Government Scheme that is protecting it within 30 days. If they don’t, you can take your landlord to the small claims court, where they could be held liable to pay up to three times the amount of the original deposit. 
  • Letting agencies charge admin fees and these can be very high! They vary in price from agent to agent and remember, this is a separate charge to your deposit or holding fee.
  • Full time students DO NOT have to pay council tax. However, when your final year at University ends (normally the end of June) you will no longer be classed as a student and will then be liable to pay council tax. More information regarding exemptions and council tax can be found on the local council website.
  • Read your Tenancy Agreement carefully and make sure you understand everything. Landlords may try and add unfair clauses. The Students’ Union offers a free Contract Checking Service.
  • Burglars target student properties. Make sure you find a property that is secure with sufficient locks on the doors.
  • Do not feel pressured to sign your contract too early. Circumstances change quickly and you may find yourself paying a lot of money (possibly thousands) to get yourself released from a contract that you’ve signed!
  • However don’t choose your housing too late. In an ideal world, you should have found your house by April, before the stress of your exams begins. Try not to leave it as a mad rush over the summer.
  • Make sure you get a TV licence. If you are on a joint Tenancy agreement, you will need one TV Licence between one household. If you are have individual Tenancy Agreement, you will need one for each room that occupies a TV, or uses On Demand or Watch Live services.
  • The Students’ Union has a free, confidential advice centre with a dedicated Housing Advisor to help you with any bumps in the road. You can book an appointment by email or by popping up to the SU Helpdesk.

You can consult our Looking Guide before you start to make sure you’re up to speed with all things renting and use our helpful checklist (below) when you go on a viewing to make sure you get the pad of your dreams!

Checklist

  • Furniture: make sure there is enough for everyone and that it is in a good condition.
  • Flooring: Check that the carpets are in a good condition and are properly fitted, especially on the staircase. Check for any crack/tears in the bathroom and kitchen floor.
  • Heating: Is there a sufficient heating system and is it suitable for your needs?
  • Bedrooms: Make sure that there are enough bedrooms, and that they have everything you expect (bed, storage space, desk and sturdy chair) as well as adequate heating and a window for ventilation and natural light.
  • Outside: Do you have access to a shed? Is it clear of rubbish? Does it contain gardening equipment that is in good working order? Does the landlord provide a gardener?
  • Security: is there a secure lockable door at the back of the property? Does the front door lock properly? If there was a fire, could you get out of the property safely?
  • Roof: Check that roof has no missing slates, no broken gutters and no moss or weeds growing out of the gutters.
  • Kitchen: Make sure that it is big enough, with adequate units and worktops. Check that all kitchen appliances including the fridge, freezer and cooker are in good working condition.
  • Bathroom: Is the sealant around the bath and shower damaged? Turn the shower on to get an idea of the water pressure in the building. Also, check the toilet flush works.