Renting Accommodation At University : A Student’s Guide
Whether you’re a renting rookie or a tenacious tenant of a student, it’s no secret that university-goers are taken advantage of by landlords.
Last year it was reported that students lost £32 million in rental deposits when they moved out of their student digs. Moving houses in university can be stressful enough with packing all of your belongings, arranging moving transport, the potential awkward conversations of why you’re not living with someone and, of course, the dreaded deep clean. The last thing you need is to be sucker-punched by a held deposit or a giant increase in rent.
Fear not. Follow these simple steps and survive living in rented properties.
It all starts at the beginning of the lease. When you first part with your precious savings to secure the property, make sure the landlord puts the deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).
Since 2007 it has been a legal requirement for landlords in the United Kingdom to put their tenants’ deposit in a government-backed Tenancy Deposit Scheme. It is important to stay vigilant, check with your landlord that they have put your deposit in a TDS and requested proof. If your landlord fails to put your deposit in a TDS within 30 days of receiving it, they may have to pay between 1 and 3 times the amount of your deposit.
Landlords all over the country will want to ensure that they aren’t stung by a fine as hefty as this and will probably be more than happy to provide proof that this has been complied with.
The tenancy agreement is a contract that establishes a contractual relationship between the landlord and their tenants and outlines their respective obligations. In the throws of joy that you have finally found a place to live for the coming year it may be tempting to sign straight away to secure the property. Do not do this.
Read through your tenancy agreement and make sure you’re happy with it. Keep in mind that this is a commercial relationship and the landlord may try to ensure that they are getting a “good deal”. A fair tenancy agreement is the foundation of building an amenable relationship between you and your landlord. This makes it easier to recover a larger portion of your deposit when it’s time to move out.
If you have any hesitation in signing your tenancy agreement you can get free advice on the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website.
The inventory is first and foremost a checklist of the property. The purpose of the checklist is to record the state of the property between leases.
Your landlord may request that you sign the inventory before you move into the property. This is done so that, if the property is damaged in any way over the course of the lease, the landlord can prove that the damage was not their beforehand. Similarly with the Tenancy Agreement it is important to go through the inventory. Make sure any damage that is not recorded on the inventory is added before you sign.
It may seem pedantic, but going through the whole property and recording the smallest defect could save you unnecessary reductions to your deposit at the end of your lease.
Know your rights
As a tenant it is integral to know your basic rights during the course of a lease. It is inevitable that something will go wrong when living in any house for any period of time.
One of the great advantages of living in rented accommodation is that you are not responsible for the upkeep of the structure of the property. To take advantage of this you need to know that all landlords in the United Kingdom have the obligation to keep their property in good repair, so if you identify an issue with the property report it as soon as possible.
It may be quicker to report the issue by telephone, but it is vital that when you report an issue with a property it is done in writing. The reason for this is that you need to have evidence to show that you contacted the landlord and they were aware of the issue. This could mean the difference between having some or all of your deposit returned to you at the end of the lease.
If you fail to report the problem, it may put you at risk of losing out on your deposit at the end of your lease.
One of the biggest complaints from students is the state of their rented property and mainly due to a common fungus, mould.
If you are sharing a property with multiple people it is likely that a certain amount of moisture is present from daily tasks eg. bathing, cooking and washing. This does not necessarily always lead to mould but it is a common complaint from people living in shared accommodation.
It is not straight forward whose responsibility it is to deal with the problem of mould. Though landlords are obligated to repair any structural issues with the property, it should be noted that any interior repairs are left to the landlord’s discretion. Therefore depending on the cause of the mould it can be difficult to get your landlord to deal with your mould problem.
The best cause of action is to contain the mould and stop it from spreading by wiping it regularly. You may find it useful to outline that it is in the landlord’s best interest to treat the mould to reduce the risk of damage to the property.
Landlords cannot raise the rent
With the housing market becoming more hostile for first time buyers there has been a trend of landlords increasing the rent of their respective properties. This has hit students the hardest as between 2015 and 2016 student rents have risen by as much as 10 percent.
Unfortunately it is a landlord’s prerogative and there is nothing to stop them from raising the amount of income they receive from student tenants. However, during the course of the lease students can protect themselves from rent increases. This is because landlords cannot increase how much their tenant pays in the midst of a tenancy.
If your landlord intends to increase the rent at the end of the tenancy, you have the option of finding another property to move to.
Getting that deposit back
There is nothing more disheartening than having gone through the drawn out process of moving and receiving an email stating that you will only receive a small portion of your deposit.
Don’t be afraid. A common misconception is that the landlords say is final. It is not. The exercise of getting your deposit back is a negotiation and the first point of call is to ask for a full breakdown of the deductions made on your deposit. Once you have received this you have every right to challenge individual deductions, bear in mind that it is reasonable to expect some wear and tear over the course living in a property.
Make sure you are honest with yourself, be realistic, if you have put a hole in a wall then that will not come under wear and tear. If a final figure cannot be agreed upon the case can be taken to “mydeposit” , where an individual party will decided the final amount.
Luke Bennett is a Law Graduate from the University of the West of England. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.
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