At the Students’ Union Advice Centre, we have a dedicated Housing Advisor who helps students resolve any issues they may have with landlords, estate agents or housemates.
We’ve looked into the biggest housing problems that bring students to the advice centre and want to let you know the things that you can do to prevent these issues from happening to you!
The biggest issue students face in the private sector is claiming their deposit back when their tenancy ends. Often, students tell us that their landlord is attempting to deduct unfair charges from their deposit and ask what they can do about it.
It is important that you check whether or not your deposit is protected by a Government Scheme. Your landlord is legally required to place your deposit in a scheme within 30 days of the start of the tenancy.
The three deposits are The Deposit Protection Service, The Tenancy Deposit Scheme and My Deposits.
Each scheme offers unbiased arbitration which both the landlord and tenant can submit evidence to be reviewed, in the instance that the landlord makes a deduction that the tenant does not agree with.
If you discover that the landlord has not used one of these schemes, you can potentially take them to the small claims court, and be awarded for up to three times the amount of the original deposit in compensation.
To avoid these issues to begin with, we advise that you find out what scheme your landlord or agent uses at the start of the tenancy, and call the scheme to check the money is safely deposited with it. If it is not, you can call the University of London Housing Service on 0207 862 8880 where you can seek free legal advice.
We also advise that you document any damages to the property when you move in to avoid being charged for these damages at the end of your tenancy. You do not want to pay for the damage caused by the previous tenant.
Another massive issue the Advice Centre deals with are complaints about landlords and agents who take too long to carry out repairs or ignore emails.
Your tenancy agreement should outline the issues that you as a tenant are responsible e.g. changing light bulbs or clearing a blocked drain, but all major repairs should be carried out by your landlord within a ‘reasonable amount of time’.
If this does not happen, you can call the University of London Housing Service on 0207 862 8880 and seek free legal advice on your situation.
If the estate agent is managing the property but are not reporting the issues quickly enough, we recommend that you try and get into contact with the landlord and report the issues directly to them. You can make a complaint about an unhelpful and unresponsive agency by reporting them to The Property Ombudsman.
Students often come to the Advice Centre to report issues regarding troublesome housemates. We notice that this is usually because students rush into signing contracts with people in their first year who they don’t really know.
We could look at a mediation service where housemates can go and air their issues, but if a student feels that they want to leave a property, the Advice Centre can help them break their contract.
In these circumstances, landlord and agents will often charge a fee to do so, and will expect you to find a tenant to replace you.
To avoid housemate issues, we advise that you choose your housemates wisely and make sure that you don’t rush in to signing a contract with the first person you meet.
Students often get confused as to whether they need to pay council tax. While you are a student, you are exempt from paying council tax to the local authority. This is however, up until the day the academic years ends (Usually the last day in June).
If you stay at a property after this date, you are no longer classed as a student and will therefore have to pay the council tax up until the day your tenancy agreement ends.
For example, if you were a student up until 30 June 2016, but your tenancy agreement doesn’t end until the 30 August 2016, you will have to pay council tax in between these dates.
If you want to avoid these charges, it is best to try and sign an agreement from June-June.
We have had a number of cases regarding energy bills, and housemates failing to pay their share of the bills. If you are on a joint tenancy agreement, no matter whose name the bill is in, you are all liable to pay the energy bills. Failure to pay bills can lead to court proceedings, and companies holding County Court Judgements against you.
We advise that you set up all bills in each tenant’s name, and make sure that you budget for bills when considering what rent you can afford. You can also use a company called Glide who do all the hard work for you and email each tenant separately each month, letting them know what they owe in bills.
If you need advice about anything related to your housing, you can book an appointment with our Housing Advisor by email or by popping in to the Helpdesk.
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The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
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