Student Accommodation or Private? Advantages & disadvantages
Private Accommodation Things you need to know
Tenancy Types & Leasing Rights
Viewing a Property
At the End of a Lease
Gone a Bit Awry? Problems in private accommodation Paying the Rent Keeping records of rent & bills
Accommodation Searches There is an abundance of places to look for accommodation in Aberdeen. It’s simply a case of taking the time to search through the websites and call up any landlords or leasing agencies to organise a viewing of any property that you like the sound of. The following two pages offer a variety of places to find both private and student accommodation, and both rooms and flats.
Info & Advice Centre – Aberdeen University, The Hub
This is the place on campus to go to when looking for accommodation. They have their own accommodation website which lists both rooms and flats owned by private landlords. All adverts have contact details, so students can phone up landlords directly. You can check out the property lists at: www.ausa.org.uk and follow the links for accommodation. If you have any further questions call them on +44 (0)1224 274200 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leasing agents are a good place to look for one, two and three bedroom properties. They tend to advertise 4-6 weeks in advance – good if you’re looking for a property in the near future. Anything that you like, simply phone up and arrange a viewing. If you like the property, you will be asked to pay for a Credit History Check (the amount differs from one agent to another). You may also be asked for references, so have them at the ready to save time. If you plan on viewing a few properties, try and stick with the same agency, as each agency you go to will charge for a credit history check. If you stick with the one agency you will only be charged once and you can put as many offers in for different properties as you like without incurring further charges. Don’t waste your time trawling through their shops – you can search their property lists online and register for email updates: www.aspc.co.uk www.peterkins.com www.jgcollie.co.uk www.belvoirlettings.com www.raeburns.co.uk
www.burnett-reid.co.uk www.primelet.com www.kwad.co.uk www.simpsonbrebner.com www.bainprop.co.uk
The University offers a number of catered and self-catered rooms near to or on campus. They have contracts to suit the lengths of both undergraduate and postgraduate academic years, with prices varying depending on type of room Full details can be found at: www.abdn.ac.uk/accommodation
Student Accommodation Providers
These privately owned student flats offer self-catering accommodation near to and on campus, with some providers offering en suite facilities: Liberty Living Hunter Construction Unite
www.libertyliving.co.uk www.hunter-construction.co.uk www.unite-students.com
Other Useful Websites
These websites have a variety of rooms and flats to let from both private landlords and leasing agencies: http://aberdeen.gumtree.com www.lettingweb.com www.ukhomelets.com
www.pastures-new.co.uk www.citylets.co.uk www.findaproperty.com
These are especially good for looking for both rooms and flats from private landlords. These newspapers can be purchased on the following days from local newsagents and supermarkets and have property guide sections on the following days: Evening Express (Friday)
Press & Journal (Tuesday)
or check out the website daily at http://yourhome.ajl.co.uk
The websites below are specifically for those looking to rent a room. However to access the details you need to pay a sum of about ÂŁ5 - ÂŁ10. Try the free websites first and if you are still struggling then check these out! www.easyroommate.com www.spareroom.co.uk
Student Accommodation Or Private? It can be difficult deciding on the best place to live. If University Halls aren’t for you, you may be considering a student flat or private accommodation. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of staying in both:
Student Accommodation Advantages
You can book your accommodation months in advance if you wish. In some student providers you only pay a one off utility bill and you don’t have to worry about paying bills for the rest of the contract. You can often arrange for your friends to be in the same student flat with you if you ask for it and there is space available. The majority of student accommodation is situated on campus or within walking distance.
Many student accommodation contracts last until the summer months, often until August. If you plan on leaving in June after the exams, you will be paying for a room that you won’t be using. Most contracts are for the entire year, and students can only be released from the contracts in exceptional circumstances. Some student accommodation can often be party central – not ideal if you are planning on some serious studying! Check with your provider for specific halls for mature and Post-graduate students. Not all student accommodation has internet access in your rooms yet, or you may need to pay extra to get it installed. You will need to check with the company first if internet access is important to you. Student accommodation is often just as, if not more so, expensive as private accommodation these days. Some student accommodations charge a small fee to change the rent payments to monthly instalments rather than paying in lump sums. Not all providers do this – students should check with the company they are with.
Private Accommodation Advantages
You have your own personal private flat to yourself – a new sense of freedom. You can look for a property that suits your needs & requirements exactly. Private accommodation can sometimes work out cheaper than student accommodation. You may be able to negotiate the length of the contract with your landlord. Properties are usually of higher standard and quality than student accommodation.
It can often take up to a month to find suitable private property. It will be your responsibility to pay your monthly bills. If living with friends, make sure everyone is aware of their share – if someone doesn’t pay their way, the gas/ electric company will look to whoever else is in the property to pay the bills. Students looking to live with their friends in a 3/4/5/6 bedroom property will find it tough – few landlords have such large properties, therefore competition from other students is intense. You may have to consider splitting your group up. It is harder to secure private accommodation months in advance, especially if you are looking for September entry. The majority of landlords will not advertise earlier than March/April. It can be difficult searching for a flat/room if you are not in the city (ie. over the summer vacation), as the majority of landlords will not let you take out a property without you viewing it first. Regardless of what type of accommodation you go into, be aware that your lease will not cover insurance of your belongings, nor have a TV license if you have a TV in the property. You will have to get both of these yourself. Info about insuring your belongings can be found at: www.endsleigh.co.uk Info about TV licenses can be found at: www.tvlicensing.co.uk/information
Private Accommodation: Things you need to know Landlord Licenses
As of March 2006, all landlords letting properties need to have registered with their local council authorities (this does not apply to landlords letting a room in their own home). This is a legal requirement called â€˜Landlord Registrationâ€™ and is to ensure that landlords are fit and proper to let. If you are not sure whether your landlord, or potential landlord, has this license you can ask them or check with the city council. It is advisable that you only let properties from a licensed landlord.
Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO)
You may have heard about this additional license called an HMO that landlords need if they are letting out properties to three or more unrelated people, for example, a three bedroom property. This is an important license that such landlords should have, as it ensures that the property reaches the standard level to ensure it is safe and suitable for the proposed number of tenants. Again, it is highly advisable that potential tenants ensure that any property they view that requires an HMO already has this license in place. If they are uncertain, they can contact their local authority to check if the landlord is registered. NOTE: Any landlords found to be letting properties without having the required licenses can face a fine of up to ÂŁ5000. The Info & Advice Centre will only advertise properties whose landlords have the required Landlord Registration and HMO licenses.
The Contract Regardless of the type of tenancy you have, you are legally entitled to a contract. The contract can be written or verbal, though it is always best to have it in writing as proof of the terms agreed upon. Contracts must have the following details in them: Your name and any other tenants. The landlords name and contact details. The address of the property. The length of the contract. What type of tenancy it is, i.e. common law tenancy, short-assured? How much the rent is. How the rent is to be paid, i.e. monthly, weekly? What way the rent should be paid? i.e. by cheque, direct debit?
It is also best practice for contracts to include the following: What bills the tenant will be responsible for. What amount of deposit was paid and in what form, ie. cheque, cash? In what instances part of, or all of, the deposit will be withheld. Whether the tenant is allowed to sublet. Whether the tenancy can be brought to an end before the fixed date. Notice the tenant has to give if they wish to leave at the end of the tenancy. Responsibilities, if any, regarding communal areas. Responsibilities regarding internal decoration and maintenance. Landlords responsibilities for repairs. Whether the tenant can have lodgers. Any rules about keeping pets, smoking, etc. Agreement over inventory.
Never sign a contract without reading it through first, and make sure that you understand its terms. Because a contract is legally binding it can be very difficult to change the terms after a tenant has signed and agreed to it. If you have a contract and you are not sure of any terms in it, staff from the Info & Advice Centre can read over it for you and help explain the terms.
Tenancy Types & Leasing Rights Depending on where you live, you will have a certain type of tenancy which affects your rights. The information below will explain the different types of tenancies and the rights they entail:
1. Common Law Tenancies
If you are living in student accommodation or living with your landlord, you will have what is called a Common Law Tenancy. As a common law tenant, the following clauses will apply: Landlords are not allowed to enter your part of the property without your permission. If they need to enter for repairs, they must give reasonable notice before doing so. Common Law Tenants living with their landlord in private accommodation are more likely to be able to end their tenancy agreement early should they wish to. In student accommodation, however, they are unlikely to let you leave before your contract is up without you finding someone to take your place, , unless there are special circumstances. When the contract comes to the end of the agreed tenancy period, the tenancy will automatically repeat itself unless the landlord or tenant gives notice to quit or to leave (see section on At the End of a Lease). Common law tenants do not have the automatic right to move in their spouse or other family member. They must ask their landlord for permission. Under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, common law tenants are entitled to live in properties that are wind and water tight, that are not affected by rising damp and condensation, and that all furnishings and fixtures are safe to use for the purpose of which they were designed. BUT! Common Law Tenants should note that if they have problems with their landlords not fixing repairs, they have limited rights on dealing with the matter (see Repairs section in Gone a Bit Awry?).
2. Short-Assured Tenancies
If you are living in a property owned by a landlord and the tenancy is for six or more months, then you will have a Short-Assured Tenancy. Most students letting a property from a landlord will have a Short-Assured Tenancy, and such students should be aware of the following:
Tenants should be given an AT5 form along with their contract. This distinguishes the tenancy as a Short-Assured tenancy. Tenancies must therefore be no less than six months in length. The contract should state if there will be rent increases during the tenancy. If there is no clause stating so, landlords can only increase rent amounts at the end of the tenancy. If at this point you feel the rent has increased beyond current market prices, you may be able to appeal the increase to the Private Rented Housing Panel (see Contacts page for details) Tenants have the right to live in wind and water tight properties that are not affected by rising damp and condensation, and where all furnishings and fixtures are safe to use for the purpose of which they are designed. If a landlord refused to make necessary repairs, tenants may have the right to appeal. (See Repairs section in Gone a bit awry?) When the contract comes to the end of the agreed tenancy period, the tenancy will automatically repeat itself for the same length of period, i.e. if the original tenancy was for six months, if no one gives notice, the tenancy will repeat itself for another six months. At the end of the second six month tenancy, the tenancy will roll on a month to month basis thereafter, until either the tenant or landlord gives notice. Landlords do not have the right to enter property they are letting without the prior permission of the tenant. If they need to get into the property for repairs, they must give the tenant 24 hours notice.
Tenants who move into a property together are often give a joint tenancy. This is a contract which will include all names and signatures of all tenants in the property. Joint tenancies mean that tenants have the same rights and responsibilities as their flatmates, and it is up to the entire household to sort out any arising problems amongst themselves, including payments of bills.
Because all the tenantsâ€™ names are on a joint tenancy, if one tenant of the household doesnâ€™t pay their rent, the landlord can look to the other remaining flatmates to pay the due amount. Tenants should ensure they know and trust the people they are moving in with before signing a joint tenancy. Otherwise, tenants should ask for separate tenancies.
If a tenant moves into a property at the same time as other tenants, your landlord may give you a separate tenancy. This is a contract that is solely for the one tenant and that only the one tenant signs. It means that they have their own terms and responsibilities that may or may not be different from the other tenants in the property. Separate tenancies are good in that if your flatmate doesn’t pay their share of the rent, landlords can not ask the other tenants to pay the due rent. However regardless of what type of tenancy tenants have, if one person doesn’t pay their gas/electric/TV licence etc bills, it will be up to the other tenants to cough up, even if their names aren’t on the bill.
Deposits Most, if not all, landlords in private accommodation will ask for a deposit. The amount of the deposit is usually equivalent to one months rent, and will be paid at the beginning of the tenancy. Landlords can not ask for a deposit that exceeds the amount of two months rent. The deposit is the landlord’s way of safeguarding themselves against unpaid rent, bills, and damage to the property. As long as the tenant does not break any terms of their contract, they should get their deposit back in full at the end of their tenancy. It is best practice to ask your landlord for a receipt for your deposit. This will prove that a deposit has been paid and how much it was, just in case you should encounter any difficulties getting your deposit back.
The first month of your tenancy is always going to be the most expensive, because you will be paying one month’s rent in advance, as well as your deposit. If you’re struggling to raise all that cash, it may be worthwhile asking your landlord if you can pay for your deposit by cheque, which the landlord will keep and destroy at the end of the tenancy. This means that money is not being taken out of your bank account, but is still providing the landlord with deposit security.
Deposits & Inventories
It is important before moving into a private property that you agree with your landlord about everything that is in the property that is the landlords (i.e. furnishings). The best way to do this is to go around the property together and make a written inventory of all items and both sign the list, thus both agreeing to
what is in the property. Therefore if the landlord tries to keep your deposit for something that they think is missing from the property after you move out, you can consult the inventory to double check that that item was there in the first place. Landlords must state in the contract exactly what the deposit will cover, ie. unpaid rent, bills etc. At the end of your tenancy, your landlord can not retain part or all of the deposit for something that is not specified in the contract. Note that landlords should not charge for an inventory.
Bills When figuring out how much rent you can afford, be mindful of figuring out a budget that includes the cost of your bills. The usual bills (and some added extras) may be:
Common Bills: Gas Electric Food allowances Laundry Cleaning products
Added Extras may be:
TV License Digital / Satellite / FreeviewTV Internet or broadband/wireless Landline Telephone Travel expenses (if you live far from campus)
Of course not all of these will apply to you, but itâ€™s worthwhile figuring out which ones do, so that you are not stung with unexpected bills when you are in your new home. If you have a high rent, will you be able to afford the bills too? If you are not sure how much your gas or electric bills will be, ask your family and friends what they pay on average, and make a rough estimate for yourself.
When you move into a new property you will have to take the readings from the gas or electric meter and call up your gas/electric company to forward the reading. This ensures that you are not charged for any usage before the date you moved into the property. Also note that gas and electric bills are automatically sent out quarterly. This is great if you are getting your student loan on a termly basis. However, if you are funded by SAAS you will be getting monthly payments, so it may be easier for you to change
the gas and electric bills to monthly, which might prove easier to budget for.
If living with other people in a property, it is important that all tenants know that it is everyone’s resonsibility to pay their share of the bills. Because regardless if a tenant has a separate or joint tenancy, if one tenant doesn’t pay the gas/electric bills, the company will look to the other flatmates to pay the due amount, even if if there is only one tenant’s name on the bill.
Council Tax All full-time students do not have to pay council tax in private accommodation, but you should be aware that you are not automatically exempt. When you move into a new property you must fill out a ‘Council Tax Exemption’ form with your details, including what year it was that you first started university, otherwise you will be sent a bill for council tax.
It isn’t the individual person that council tax is based on, but the property status. If you live in an all student household, the entire property is exempt. However, if you live in a household where one member is a non-student, then the property is no longer exempt. Whilst the non-student will be entitled to a 25% single person’s discount, it is most likely that that person will not want to be burdened with the whole amount, and may expect you to contribute to the council tax bill. Remember this when considering moving in with a non-student. Regardless of this, you will still need to fill in a student exemption form for that property.
Married couples – if one half of a married couple is in full-time education, the spouse will be eligible for a 25% single persons discount. Part-time students – are not eligible for council tax exemption. PHD students – Full-time PHD students are entitled to council tax exemption, including in their writing up period. International Students – if a full-time student from outwith the European Union takes their spouse to live with them, the spouse will not have to pay council tax either, as long as it says on their passport – No Recourse to Public Funds – and they do not work during their time in the UK. The spouse will have to take a copy of their passport and Visa to the Council Tax office to verify this.
Viewing a Property Things to look out for Furnishings
Make sure you check all the furnishings and their present condition. This includes the mattresses, carpets, doors, tables, chairs, all the white goods in the kitchen – basically everything! Is something a bit squeaky? Got dubious stains? Not working properly? If there is anything at all that isn’t in good order or looks past its sell by date, tell the landlord if you want it replaced before you move in, and not after.
Check what type of heating the accommodation has and what company the landlord is with. Certain types of heating and companies may be more expensive than others, so it’s important to ask. If the property is heated by gas, make sure that the gas system has been given it’s annual maintenance service.
Check to see if there is any rising damp, condensation, and any general repairs needing carried out in the property. If you spot anything, it is important to inform the landlord of the required repairs, and to ensure that they are carried out before you move in. It is a tenant’s right to live in safe and habitable accommodation, so don’t move in until the problems are sorted. Ask your landlord what the arrangments are if something breaks down when you are living in the property: will they arrange for a repair company to fix it, or do you?
Make sure that your property has smoke detectors. The law now states that all landlords must fit mains operated smoke detectors in properties that they let. If not, the local Fire Service can arrange a home visit to install a smoke detector free of charge.
Ensure that the property has a secure entrance and that the locks are in good condition. Remember also to look at the locks on any windows. Check with your parents about insuring your posessions in the property. You may or may not be covered by them.
Check that all taps and pipes are in good working order. Do they switch off
properly? Is there a good supply of readily available hot water? No one likes a cold shower in the morning.
Make sure that the communal door of your building is secure and has a proper lock. It’s also worth checking out the hallway of your building – is there a back entrance? Is it secure? Is there adequate hallway lighting? You don’t want to come home at night and have to find your way to your front door in the dark.
At the end of a Lease Moving Out
If a Short-Assured Tenant does not wish to remain in the property when the lease expires, they must give 40 days notice. For tenancies that have rolled on a month to month basis, it has to be 28 days notice. Common Law Tenants must give four weeks notice if they want to leave. If the lease is for a year or longer, tenants will have to give 40 days notice.
If a Short-assured Tenant does not break any terms of their contract, a landlord can only apply for repossession of a property at the end of the lease, and they must go through the correct procedures. The landlord must: Give a minimum two months notice to quit the property Serve a ‘Notice to Quit’ document. Common Law Tenants must be given at least four weeks written notice in which to leave the property.
Gone a bit awry??? So you’ve moved in, the flat is perfect and everything is hunky dory. Or is it? Despite everyone’s best intentions, sometimes things crops up that requires some useful info. Here’s a list of the most common problems and how to overcome them.
In private accommodation it is the landlord’s duty to ensure that their properties reach the standard level of repair set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. This means that properties should:
Be wind and watertight Not suffer from damp/condensation Installations must be in proper working order Fixtures, furnishings and appliances should be in proper working order and be used for the purpose of which they are designed. If you find yourself with any of these problems during your tenancy, you must first of all inform your landlord of the required repairs. If your landlord refuses or ‘doesn’t get round to it’, then write a dated letter to the landlord detailing the problem and giving a deadline for it to be fixed, making sure to keep a copy for yourself. If you need help with the letter, an advisor at the Info & Advice Centre will be able to assist. If the repairs still go unresolved, short-assured tenants have the right to appeal to the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP). This Panel, created in September 2007, will investigate the claim of repairs and, if the landlord is found to be evading their repairing responsibilities, the PRHP can enforce landlords to carry out the necessary repairs. See the Contacts page for their website details.
Common Law tenants have limited rights in regards to enforcing repairs and can not apply to the PRHP. Such tenants with repair problems should complain to their landlords, however, they can be evicted fairly easily and should be mindful of how they form the complaint.
Unfortunately there are no laws in Scotland just yet to protect a tenant’s deposit, but there are other options a tenant can take should their landlord withhold their deposit unfairly: When you move into the property ask for a receipt of the deposit Make an inventory of everything in the property with your landlord at the beginning of the lease, and go over it again just before your lease ends. That way the landlord can see for themselves that nothing has been taken or broken. If something is broken during your lease, inform the landlord. They may agree that you replace it yourself, or take it off your deposit.
Before the lease ends, give the property a thorough clean and ask the landlord to inspect it so that they can’t claim for cleaning costs after you’ve moved out. If all of this fails and the landlord still withholds the deposit, tenants should first write a dated letter to their landlord detailing that their deposit has been unfairly kept. Tenants can seek further advice on this from the Info & Advice Centre.
Landlord’s usually only keep deposits for unpaid rent or bills, and damages to the property, but sometimes they try to keep it for another reason, but landlords can not keep the deposit for something that is not covered in the contract.
Were you best of friends before you moved in together? Not so much now? Before you take the option of moving out, here are some options to consider: Tenants should try to discuss any grievances with the whole household first of all. Some tenants may not have realised there was a problem. If you are experiencing bullying or harassment from your flatmate or neighbour, speak to them – they may not have realised they were causing upset. Alternatively speak to the landlord who may be able to have a chat with them instead. If you are in student accommodation, speak to the accommodation office or person in charge – there may be an option of switching rooms or flats.
Tenants who wish to leave a property before the end of their lease will need to first check their contract to see if the lease says anything about leaving early and if so, how much notice is required? If there is nothing in the contract, you should check with the landlord whether they will allow you to be released from your contract early. If not, they may agree that you can leave as long as you find a replacement tenant. Students should remember that problems like the ones listed above are rare, and the majority of landlords are professional in their dealings with letting property. If however you are unfortunate to experience any problems, then it is important that you speak to a housing advisor for further guidance on the matter.
Paying the Rent The following tables can be used for recording payment of rent and bills. It is advisable to keep a note of what has been paid in case there is ever any confusion over what has or hasnâ€™t been paid.
Payment Made (Rent/ Bill)
Useful Contacts AUSA
Info & Advice Centre Floor 1, The Hub Tel: 01224 24200 Email: email@example.com
Landlord Registration Team Aberdeen City Council Broad Street Tel: 01224 522299
Environmental Office Aberdeen City Council Broad Street Tel: 01224 522000
Free housing advice Freephone 24hrs Tel: 0808 800 4444
Electrical Emergencies Scottish Hydroelectric Tel: 0800 300 999
Aberdeen University Accommodation Office
High Street Tel: 01224 273502 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aberdeen City Council Broad Street Tel: 01224 523282
Council Tax Office
Aberdeen City Council 27-28 Crown Street Tel: 01224 346789
Citizens Advice Bureau
41 Union Street Mon – Fri: 09.30 – 1600 Wed: 1300 - 1600 Tel: 01224 586255
National Gas Emergency Service Tel: 0800 111 999