Moving On 2014 Ââ€” 2015 A guide for students moving into private rented sector accommodation
Please note: This booklet has been produced by the University of Sussex Studentsâ€™ Union Advice & Representation Centre. All information in this booklet was correct at the time of printing (November 2013). You may wish to contact us for the most current information.
Before looking for a place
Finding a place
Viewings and checking your contract
During the Tenancy
Introduction Welcome to this brief guide on what to do when moving into the private rented sector. Read on to find out about the essentials of choosing somewhere to live, what to look out for, how to avoid trouble before it starts and what to do if you do run into problems. This guide isn’t meant to be completely comprehensive, so if you are experiencing problems or want more information on surviving in the private rented sector then check out our website. This year we've also included some tips from our Advice Volunteers who've been there and done it! Good luck! Advice & Representation Centre, Ist Floor Falmer House University of Sussex Students’ Union. November 2013
Thanks to the Housing Office for their financial contribution towards the cost of this booklet. Please note: this booklet uses the term ‘landlord’ because it has a precise legal meaning. This should not be regarded as inadvertent sexism.
Before looking for a place
What are your options?
· Stay in campus accommodation – this is unlikely unless you can apply for a family flat or have medical needs that require you to be housed on campus- contact the University Housing Office for details (see the back page for contact details) · Become a residential advisor – you get to stay on campus and have a reduced rent- see www.sussex.ac.uk/residentialservices/studentsupport for details of the job description, time required and responsibilities. · Most students end up in a shared house or living with their landlord as a lodger – what are the pros and cons? Housing Type
A shared house This is likely to be known as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
Secure- you can’t be evicted without legal notice and a court order
Usually a joint tenancy – see section 3
Lodgings Living with a landlord in their home
Deposits have to be protected by a tenancy deposit scheme
Inflexible-usually have to sign up for a fixed period e.g. 6/9/12 months Can be difficult to end it early if your circumstances change
Flexible- usually either party can give notice and end the agreement easily
Less security – may have to leave at a week’s/ month’s notice
May require less deposit and less rent upfront
Less privacy – living with landlord
Can suit quieter students/ postgraduates etc as not in big shared house
May be more house rules
There’s always someone to talk to!
More difficult to get agreement between large groups on communal issues / cleaning etc
No protection for deposits apart from through court action
“Know exactly who you're living with. Think about extra costs, for example internet / gas / water / agency fees”
Who do you want to live with?
Problems between tenants in shared houses are one of the top reasons students come to us wanting to leave their house early. Living with people you no longer like, or with conflicting lifestyles, can be stressful, affecting your studies and your health.
Ask yourself a few questions:
·D o you like your own space? Would you prefer living on your own (more expensive), or as a lodger? ·C ould you move in with your boyfriend/girlfriend? What if you broke up? ·D o you share similar lifestyles with your friends (study attitudes/going out/music/ tidiness etc) ·A re your friends reliable/good with money? · Is a large group (5 or over) such a good idea? Why not spilt into smaller groups but try and live in the same area/ street? NB- Council Tax- remember most full time students are exempt from paying it but if you are planning to live with someone who is not a full-time student then seek advice. The local authority will need to see proof you’re a full-time student unless you live in University accommodation – visit www.sussex.ac.uk/sas/1-6-8.html for details.
Finding a place
How do we find accommodation ?
Good places to start are the University of Sussex Housing Office database of registered landlords – Yourstudentpad and the new Students’ Union lettings agency (see below).
This online database of landlords is run jointly with Brighton University. At the time of writing, the date that properties for the 2014/15 academic year will be advertised is 5th February 2014. As well as advertising available properties, it has a student messageboard if you need to find a housemate. Contact the Housing Office for the password to access the website at www.yourstudentpad.co.uk. The Housing Office also have a Facebook page where you can find other students who are househunting - Sussex University House Hunt.
Why use Yourstudentpad? It's free - no fees!
To register with the University landlords have to show that they have met certain legal obligations and signed up to a Code Of Standards setting out landlord good practice . You can complain to the University if you find that your landlord is ignoring the code. For more details see the University Housing Office website at www.sussex.ac.uk/residentialservices
Sussex Student Lettings
To help you find a new home, the Students’ Union now runs its very own lettings agency, Sussex Student Lettings. Renting a property (especially for the first time) can be very intimidating, and they are there to help make it as straightforward as possible. Unlike private sector lettings agents, Sussex Student Lettings do not charge any fees to students…not for any initial administration, sign-up or other associated fees! Sussex Student Lettings has an office next to the Common Room on the first floor of Falmer House, (the Students’ Union building) where you can pop in to see what’s available. If you’re not on campus you can call them on 01273 678787, or visit the website www.sussexstudentlettings.com
Other letting agents
The University Housing Office also produce a list of letting agents, but the best way is to ask other students who their letting agent is and if they’re any good. You can also check the latest "Rate your Landlord" survey results to see what experiences students have had with individual local letting agents. www.sussexstudent.com/privatesectorhousing
There is no major regulation of letting agents so shop around and note: -- they can charge a fee for finding accommodation -- it’s illegal for them to charge a fee if they don’t find you anything -- they charge for references, setting up the tenancy agreement or check ins -- they often insist on UK guarantors, who usually also have to be homeowners -- they may ask for significant amounts of rent in advance if you can’t provide a guarantor You may pay no or less fees by finding a house through private adverts but take care – they are probably not vetted and could be suspicious. Use common sense and follow the site’s guidance and safety tips. If you think an advert is dodgy you can report it to the site.
Helpful websites: • www.fish4lettings.co.uk • www.findaproperty.com • www.rightmove.co.uk
There is a notice board outside the Housing Office where people can advertise if they need people for their house. There are also various other boards around campus and people might advertise on the small ads section on the University website.
How much will it cost?
How much can you afford? Rents vary but average rent locally is approximately £95-105 per week for a room in a shared house. Agent fees vary so shop around for the best deal and negotiate!
Agents fee £150 Holding fee £200 (to secure the property – this may be held as part of the damage deposit if you take the property) Rent £400 (usually paid 1 month in advance) Deposit £400 Total
£1150 or £950 (if holding fee is held as part of the damage deposit)
Deposits - Get Protected!
There is no limit legally on the amount of deposit a landlord can request – the average is 4-6 weeks rent. It covers the landlord if you don’t pay your rent or damage the house. However, if you are an assured shorthold tenant and you pay a deposit it MUST be registered with a national Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme within 30 days of you paying the deposit. There are 3 schemes and you must be notified of which one holds your deposit. For more information and contact details of the schemes see: www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection
What if I don’t get this information? -
Ask your landlord/ letting agent to provide it. C heck if any of the other tenants are a “lead tenant” for the scheme and they’ve been given the information, but haven’t told you. Use the Shelter online tenancy deposit checker to see if your deposit is protected : see england.shelter.org.uk
How will deposit protection help?
In the past some landlords often withheld deposits for no good reason- now if there is a dispute about deductions from the deposit the scheme deals with the matter and makes an independent decision – it’s not up to the landlord and you should get your deposit back quicker at the end of the tenancy. If your landlord refuses to register your deposit- get advice – you could take them to court and possibly get up to 3 times the deposit as compensation.
Over 75% of students have to provide a guarantor - this usually needs to be a UK based homeowner, often your parents or a relative. They are signing to say they will pay the rent or cover the costs of any damage (over the deposit amount) if you don’t pay. Make sure they are only signing to guarantee your personal rent liability (not the full property rent)! If you cannot provide one it is likely the landlord will ask for more rent in advance – possibly the full 6 or 12 months of the agreement’s length. This is not illegal but the amount may be negotiable.
â€œLook at more than one house even just to be sure the 1st one is perfect!â€?
Viewings and checking your contract
Once you are doing viewings don’t panic and try not to be pressurised into signing up on the spot for a house if it’s not right for you. Over half of respondents to the 12/13 Rate your Landlord survey viewed 2 or more properties before choosing one, and over half found somewhere between January and March.
Top tips: • • • • • •
Think about the location of the property: check our area guide at sussexstudent.com/ advice Is it near shops, banks, cash points etc? Is it convenient for transport links for getting to town/ campus? Do you like the area? Would you feel safe walking home at night? If you drive, what about parking?
Talk to the current tenants:
If you can speak to them privately without the letting agent or landlord there get an honest opinion of what it’s like living there : • • •
Are there hidden problems at the property? What are the neighbours like? What is the landlord or agent like- e.g. are they easy to get hold of, do they deal with repairs quickly etc?
Read your tenancy agreement Things to think about: • • •
How much is the rent? When is it paid? How much rent is there to pay in advance? Are any bills included in the rent? How long is the contract?
(Usually this will be 6 or 12 months. If you sign a fixed term contract you are legally liable to pay the rent for the fixed term, regardless of whether you still want to live there or not. ) If there’s no termination clause in the contract and you change your mind, you will need to negotiate with the letting agents/ landlord and see if they will release you from the contract (and paying the rent) if you find a replacement tenant. •
Is the contract sole or joint?
If you sign a sole tenancy you are only liable to pay the individual rent for your room. If you sign a joint tenancy all the tenants are "jointly and severally liable" for the contractual
rules and paying rent, so if you don’t pay your rent your housemates can be asked to pay (and vice versa). Also, if you damage the property you can be asked to pay for the damage OR your housemates may be asked. So – be very careful who you live with!
Viewings Tips • • •
Check out the viewings checklist on Shelter’s website Take photos of the houses so that you remember them when you’re viewing a few. Don’t pay any money unless you have viewed the property, and don’t pay any cash without getting a receipt and full contact details of the landlord (don’t just rely on a mobile phone number or email address) Don’t sign a contract without viewing the property first Ask the landlord/letting agent lots of questions
Key things to check for on a viewing: • • • • • • • •
Damp and mould Security- do windows and doors lock properly? Conditions of decoration, carpets and curtains Boiler- check condition of the boiler and ask to see the gas safety certificate Heating- is there central heating? Is there double glazing? Fire Safety- are there smoke alarms? Furniture and appliances- what’s included? If the agent says things will be fixed before you move in, get this agreed in writing
“Get your tenancy contract checked at the ARC or housing office to make sure there are no hidden fees, rules or nasty suprises”
Moving in checklist: Make sure you do an inventory (a list of fixtures and fittings and the condition they are in) – this is your proof of the condition of the property when you move in and will help protect your deposit. Get it signed and dated by the landlord and you. Keep a copy. Has your landlord registered your deposit with a deposit scheme and given you all the relevant information? (see Section 2) New rules from November 2012 mean that smaller shared houses (known as HMO’s or house in multiple occupation) in certain areas of Brighton & Hove also need to be licenced and meet certain safety standards. These areas are :Hanover and Elm Grove, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, St Peters and North Laine, Hollingdean & Stanmer and Queen’s Park For more information about licencing please see the council’s webpages at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1147964 Check all the meters for gas, electricity and water. Register and give these readings to the supplier to make sure you don’t get charged for the previous tenants. Check the gas safety certificate – This is a legal requirement to ensure gas appliances have been safety checked every year. Check the energy performance certificate – This is a legal requirement and shows how energy efficient the building is. An A rating is the most efficient, G is the least - the average is D. The more energy efficient the more money you will save. If you have a TV, get a license! If you get caught without one (and you probably will!) you can end up with a hefty fine and a criminal record. Visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk for details. A colour TV license currently costs £145.50. Take out contents insurance or find out if you are covered by your parents’ policy. Start keeping a record of any contact you have with your landlord or agent, this will save you a lot of time if you get into any disputes. Find out when your rubbish and recycling days are from your neighbours or your local authority website e.g. www.brighton-hove.gov.uk
During the Tenancy
Now you’ve moved in, things are different living off campus- you have to pay bills, you have no cleaner and are living in the community amongst local Brighton residents. •
Please respect your neighbours and be a good neighbour – http://www.sussexstudent.com/files/minisites/55643/living-in-the-community-(3rd-draft).pdf Most complaints from residents are around refuse. Noise complaints can be investigated and in serious cases the council can take legal action.
Agree some basic rules for living together, including for cleaning, friends visiting / staying, noise, playing music, etc. to stop rows with your housemates
Maybe get together and discuss this and how you are going to pay the bills then have ongoing meetings when there’s stuff to sort out
Think about someone acting as the main contact with the letting agent/ landlord to deal with tenancy matters e.g. reporting repairs. Always confirm everything agreed with the landlord /agent in writing and keep house records.
1. You could save around £65 a year on your heating bill for every degree you turn your radiator thermostat down. 2. By doing simple things like washing clothes at 30°C, turning off lights and chargers when not needed, and only boiling the water you need in the kettle, your house could save up around £90 a year. 3. Join Sussex Shoots, the new veg box scheme for Sussex Students which will be selling local seasonal fruit and veg, keeping food miles and prices down. Buying local and in season is often cheaper and much better for the environment. 4. Get your lentils, rice, pasta, etc from Scoop (Sussex Co-op society). They buy organic whole foods wholesale and sell them every week at the Tuesday market. This keeps prices cheap and as you buy by weight you can buy what you need. Having meat-free days is also good for your health, pocket and the environment. 5. The average household throws away £480 of food every year that could have been eaten Love Food Hate Waste have lots of recipe suggestions for using up food plus tips on storing food and portion sizes. 6. Walking and cycling are good for you, your purse and the environment. RE-CYCLE (Sussex Uni Bike Hire Co-op) are setting up a society to rent second hand bikes at notfor-profit prices or you can purchase a second hand bike. It is worth investing in a good quality lock.
“Agree some ground rules with who you're living with such as keeping tidy and noise”
7. Travelling by public transport for long journeys is a lot greener than driving, and if you book in advance then it can often be cheaper too. As a student you can get a Young Person’s Railcard, even if you’re over 25, giving you up to 30% off rail travel. If you really need to use a car then you could join a car club. 8. Getting things second hand means they have no carbon footprint and are usually a lot cheaper. Freshers Free Shop at the beginning of term is a great place to pick up free second hand stuff for your flat and the Free Shop runs all year round in Falmer House where you can pick up things like ring binders and text books. Join local Freegal and Freecycle groups for free second hand furniture and much more. Charity shops are great for clothes and books. 9. Fix what you have rather than buying new. Go to Union Computers for any computer problems and Cranks will fix your bike for free.
1. You should get 24 hours notice of any visits from landlords/contractors. Keep a record of unscheduled visits and you can make a complaint. Advice is avaliable from the ARC. Always check a contractor’s ID before letting them in 2. Problems with repairs - your rights don’t kick in until you have reported the repair IN WRITING. If the landlord or agent doesn’t respond chase it up and contact the ARC for further advice 3. Your housemate wants to leave and you have a joint tenancy- get advice from the ARC. What they/you can do depends on what’s in your tenancy contract
Not able to afford the rent?
Pay as much as you can and keep the landlord or agent informed about the situation. Sometimes they can be sympathetic, especially if it’s a problem with your student funding. Get advice from the ARC to see if you can get any additional financial help, and always get in touch with us immediately if your landlord/agent is threatening eviction.
Make sure you give written notice according to your contract to avoid paying an unnecessary extra month’s rent ( even if you’re in a fixed term contract you may have to give notice to move out).
Request your deposit back
The landlord may be able to legitimately deduct money from the deposit for rent owed, damage to the property etc. They should not charge you for ‘fair wear and tear’ e.g. carpets become worn with time but cigarette burns or stains on the carpet could be charged for. If there is no dispute over the amount of the deposit to be returned you should get it back within 10 days of your request to the scheme- please see individual schemes websites for more details. If there is a dispute you can request the scheme make a decision on a fair deduction.
Clean, clean, clean
A common reason for charges at the end of a tenancy is the landlord charging for a professional cleaning company. Make sure you clean to the standards expected under your contract or request guidance from the letting agents/landlord.
Do your gardening
If you have a garden and it’s in a bad state you could be charged expensive professional fees for sorting it out - so get the help of family, friends or other green fingered people. It might even be cheaper to pay a gardener as the landlord may charge you more.
Leaving rubbish inside or outside the property in the garden is also expensive- get rid of it! Check your local authority’s website for details of your local tip and recycling facilities or advertise in advance on Freecycle – www.uk.freecycle.org
Take them on the day you move out and inform the utility companies to get your final bill.
Arrange an inventory check out/ inspection with your landlord/ letting agents. If not possible, make your own notes on the inventory and take dated photos of the condition of the property.
Give back your keys
“Clean up well, put furniture back in it’s original position and take photos!”
University of Sussex
Advice & Representation Centre
1st Floor, Falmer House, Brighton BN1 9QF T: +44 (0)1273 877038 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.sussexstudent.com/advice
Bramber House University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QU T: +44 (0)1273 678220 E: email@example.com W:www.sussex.ac.uk/residentialservices Opening hours: 10.00-4.00 weekdays. Closed for lunch 1.00-2.00pm every day except Wednesdays
Useful contacts in Brighton & Hove
Brighton & Hove Council Housing Advice and Tenancy Relations
Free advice on housing and problems between landlords and tenants for people living in private sector housing T: 01273 294400 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brighton & Hove Council Environmental Health and Technical Officers T: 01273 293156 E: email@example.com
Brighton & Hove Council Local Taxation Services (Council Tax) T: 01273 291291 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other useful contacts National Grid’s Gas Emergency Freephone (ring immediately if you suspect a gas leak) T: 0800 111 999
National housing advice and campaigning organisation T: 0808 800 4444 england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/
#DontRentYet Worried about finding somewhere to live for next year? Don't panic! Lots of students feel pressured into finding and signing up for accommodation in the private rented sector far before you actually need to. Despite what you may hear there are usually a steady stream of houses available throughout the year so don't feel pressured into signing for a house now that you won't be moving into for months! Read our top house hunting tips at: www.sussexstudent.com/househuntingtips
Rate Your Landlord www.sussexstudent.com/privatesectorhousing The Students’ Union campaign to improve housing standards for Sussex students living in the private rented sector. Find out what we're doing as part of this campaign, take part in this year’s Rate Your Landlord survey (open Feb-Apr 2014) and download last year’s Rate Your Landlord Report, our Living in the Community booklet and information sheets giving detailed feedback about individual letting agents based on what students who rented with those agents said in last year’s Rate Your Landlord survey.
Advice & Representation The Studentsâ€™ Union Advice & Representation Centre offers free, independent and confidential information, advice, and advocacy on a range of academic and non-academic issues, from housing and welfare benefits, to complaints and appeals.
Studentsâ€™ Union Advice & Representation Centre First Floor, Falmer House Falmer East Sussex BN1 9QF email@example.com 01273 877038 www.sussexstudent.com/advice
Published on Dec 4, 2013