Every year, as early as October, some landlords and agents start to ask their current tenants (who’ve just moved in) to decide whether or not they want to renew their contract for the following year. As students are not experienced renters, they often don’t challenge this request.
However, we're here to tell you that there is no need to panic. In fact, we'd encourage you to wait until after Christmas before you commit to a housing contract for 2021/22.
We know that housing plays a significant role in your university experience, which is why it's super important that you take your time and don't rush into any decisions that you may later regret.
You may feel like you've found your soulmates already and you can't imagine living with anyone else next year. While for some of you this will be true, we often find that friendship groups start changing in Term Two as students start to get to know one another better. We'd advise you to see if you make it past Christmas before committing to living together for a whole year!
Committing to a new property doesn't come cheap - this could make for an unnecessarily-broke Christmas. Give yourself more time to save up and shop around to find yourself the best deal. Depending on your circumstances, you may wish to wait until your Maintenance Loan drops in January before putting a deposit down for the next academic year.
If you don't sign within two weeks, you will lose the holding fee (maximum one week's rent) - this puts unfair pressure on you, especially considering most agents/landlords don't offer to show you the contract at this point. The contract could include clauses you wouldn't be willing to accept e.g. no overnight guests.
Usually, the only way to get out of a tenancy agreement is to find a replacement tenant. This means that you could end up paying rent for a room you're not using with no student loan to help you out. e.g. if you have to leave university due to unforeseen circumstances.
You can check out our Facebook group RHSU HouseMating where you will notice there are far more people advertising rooms than there are people looking for rooms. Most people looking for a replacement tenant do not find one.
Most contracts state that tenants don't have to decide whether or not to renew their contract until the final two months of their tenancy. For this reason, many properties won't be advertised until Term Two or Three.
There are more student properties than there are students in the area. As the academic year goes on, you'll find some landlords will lower their prices to attract students. If you'd like personalised advice on when it's the best time to look for you, just ask an advisor for a meeting. They can get to know your circumstances better through a short chat and give you customised guidance.
It can be a pain getting tied into a 12-month contract when you know you won't be living in the property all year round e.g. if you're heading back home for the summer. You have the right to request a 10-month contract or ask if the landlord/agent is willing to lower the rent price. In the past, we've saved students hundreds of pounds by helping them to secure amazing deals in Terms Two and Three.
Some agents/landlords use demand from students in Term One to justify their malpractice. Within a month of moving in, they start pressuring students to decide whether or not they want to renew the contract for next year. They are told that the property will be advertised to others if they don't renew straight away. This is unethical and an illegal high-pressure sales tactic. Contractually, tenants often don't have to decide or allow viewings until much later in the contract.
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