The Subtle Art Of House-Hunting

While there is no rush to be signing a contract just yet, we want to ensure that you are ready for the sometimes complex and risky business that is finding a place to rent for next year.

Below are four checklists to make sure you don’t forget important things that could end up costing you a lot in the long run. However, our main tip is that you don’t need to sign a contract before Christmas; we want you to make a properly-considered decision and get a fair deal before entering into this legal commitment.

Before Looking

  • Choose your housemates wisely - it won’t work if you don’t have similar budgets!
  • Decide how long you want the contract to be - base this on what your income will be and whether you will be liable for Council Tax after the last day of term (final year undergraduates).
  • Decide which area you want to live in - the more flexible you are, the more likely you are to find something to suit your budget. Keep your travel time/costs in mind though!
  • Most landlords/agencies require students to have a UK guarantor. Those without a guarantor, including international/EU students, are usually asked to pay three to six months’ rent in advance instead. Contact the Advice Centre if this is a problem for you.
  • Locate all the documents you’ll need - landlords have to confirm your identity, immigration status (even if you’re British), your guarantor’s credit history and your student status.

Stuff to look out for

  • Online ads are not properly regulated and can have fraudulent users/scams. 
  • Never go to a viewing alone.
  • When your group attends a viewing, let someone know where you’ll be.
  • Never pay in cash.
  • Don’t sign or pay anything before using the SU Housing Advisor’s contract checking service.

Viewing Checklist

It’s typical for empty promises of repairs and new furniture to be made during viewings.  We recommend that you look for a property that’s already how you want it to be, unless promises are put into writing.  If the current tenants are present during viewings, don’t be afraid to ask them about what their bills are like or if they’ve had any problems with the agency or landlord.

  • Furniture - Make sure there is enough for everyone and that it is in good condition.
  • Flooring - Check that the carpets are in good condition and are properly fitted, especially on the staircase. Check for any cracks/tears in bathroom and kitchen floor.
  • Heating - Is there a sufficient heating system? 
  • Make sure that there are enough bedrooms, and that they have everything you expect (bed, storage space, desk and study chair) as well as adequate heating and a window for ventilation and natural light.
  • 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?
  • Check the roof has no missing slates, no broken gutters, and no moss or weeds growing out of the gutters.
  • 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 order.
  • Is the sealant around the bath and shower damaged? Turn on the shower to get an idea of the water pressure in the building. Also, check that the toilet flush works. It’s unlikely fixtures/fittings (or the water pressure of the shower) will be changed after you move in, so make sure you’re happy with them.
  • Damp and mould - Problems with damp and mould will usually only get worse, so avoid properties with any signs of it. It’s bad for your health and you could be charged if damp/mould gets worse while you’re living there.
  • Street Lighting - Is there street lighting late at night? Many residential streets in the area switch street lighting off, leaving you in the dark when returning from a night out.

Before signing checklists

The landlord/agent should give you:

  • A copy of the government’s How to Rent guide.
  • A Gas Safety Certificate issued within the last year.
  • Evidence of an electrical inspection within the last five years.
  • Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme information.
  • Energy Performance Certificate.
  • Information about who manages the property i.e. if the landlord or agent is responsible for maintenance/repairs.
  • Confirmation in writing if your bills are included- this can be in an email/letter or in your tenancy agreement.

You should:

  • Check the rules about overnight guests, smoking and pets.
  • Check under which circumstances you could leave the tenancy early without still being liable for rent.
  • Check who owns the property at www.landregistry.gov.uk if you’re not using HouseSearch or a letting agent.
  • Request a free contract check from the Advice Centre before you sign or pay.

If you encounter any problems, contact our Advice Centre who will be more than happy to help you, whilst looking for housing or after you move in. Happy house-hunting and remember, there is a surplus of student accommodation locally, so you’re spoilt for choice!