News

Lording It Over: Is Your Landlord Up To Scratch?

You may just have started uni, but undoubtedly there will already be whispers about finding a place to live next year – but don’t panic and definitely don’t rush into making a decision.

Yesterday we ran our Housing Fair to give you a chance to see all the best local properties in one place, while our advisors were on hand to answer any questions that were plaguing your mind.

Despite it being something that needs to be on your radar, we want to assure you that it is far too early to be committing to who you are going to be living with next year – especially if you’ve only just moved into halls together. Our official message is simple: don’t rush into signing. There’s a big surplus of student properties locally so you’ll be spoilt for choice and remember, when you do get around to signing a contract, our Advice Centre offer a free contract checking service to give you peace of mind.

In the run-up to Christmas, we’re putting out a series of articles to help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities before you commit to anything. When you do start looking, we want you to be as savvy as possible. Unfortunately, every year our Advice Centre have a number of cases where students have had issues with their landlord so it’s more important than ever to be 100% aware of your rights and services available to you.

 

Choose Your Landlord Wisely

Estate agents are responsible for ensuring the legitimacy and quality of a landlord. However, many students are now renting directly from landlords found on property portal websites such as HouseSearch or RightMove. When it comes to HouseSearch, we check all the paperwork from landlords to make sure everything is in order, something that other websites and social media groups don’t always offer.

If you decide not to use an agency and use an external website, then you need to take extra care because there are fraudulent predators running scams online - this is especially prevalent on social media.

Tips

  • Good landlords are usually registered to an accreditation scheme.
  • You can check that the landlord owns the property - it only costs £3 and we recommend you do this for any properties that sound too good to be true.
  • Renting part of another tenant’s home is subletting as they do not own the property - check that the property owner has given permission for this, and who will deal with any maintenance issues.
  • NEVER attend a viewing alone or pay in cash!
  • Contact the Advice Centre if an advert looks like a scam.

Choose Your Estate Agent Wisely

  • Ask other student tenants who they would recommend.
  • See what feedback the agencies have online.
  • Find out what fees/costs you will be charged before and after signing.
  • Check they’re registered with an agent redress scheme.
  • Are they accredited with ARLA, NALS, RICS or UKALA to protect you if they go bust?
  • Look for the Safe Agent logo.

Red Flags

  • Not giving you the government’s How to Rent guide before you sign – it’s a legal requirement that you are sent this before your contract starts.
  • Asking for cash payments.
  • Unable to provide proof of ID or address.
  • Doesn’t provide Gas Safety and Energy Performance Certificates on request – again, these are legal requirements and should be available to view.
  • Quoting a price far lower/higher than the local average.
  • Asking for a payment before a viewing or before showing you the tenancy agreement.
  • Asking for a large holding deposit to stop advertising the property.
  • Asking you to sign without giving you a chance to go away and have the contract checked – if you’re unsure book in for an appointment with the Advice Centre.
  • Taking too long to respond to your communication.
  • Listing the address you want to rent as the landlord’s address in the contract.

Scams

Growing numbers of students are falling victim to scams after responding to advertisements online. They pay cash or make a money transfer as a deposit and/or rent for a property by someone claiming to be the owner or agent. They are given a tenancy agreement, but when they turn up to move in as arranged, there’s no-one to meet them and they subsequently discover that the owner or agent is actually someone else. By then the perpetrator has disappeared with their money and the students are homeless and thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Remember, you can always contact our Advice Centre to request an appointment with the Housing Advisor by calling 01784 276700 or emailing advice@su.rhul.ac.uk.

We offer a free contract check and can get you free legal advice if you need it.