house hunting a guide to private sector accommodation
One : Getting started
Two : finding your way around
Three : different types of accommodation
Four : health and safety
Five : money and accommodation costs
Six : living in the community
Seven : where to get help
Appendix : house hunting checklist - health and safety
house hunting a guide to private sector accommodation
Introduction You will find that Cornwall, especially the area around Falmouth and Penryn, is a great place to be a student and you will already have had some information about the area in your prospectus.
The purpose of this booklet is to cover some of the most common concerns and questions that students ask and equip you with basic knowledge about the private sector in and around the Falmouth/Penryn area.
Finding accommodation in the private sector housing for the first time can seem daunting. However it is important to realise that the majority of students studying at the Tremough Campus in Penryn or at Woodlane in Falmouth live in private sector accommodation.
Of course, even with the best preparation, things can still go wrong sometimes. But even if they do, there is help available for you - the information contained in this booklet will assist.
One getting started
Where to start looking: The Accommodation Office’s online list We produce an accommodation list on our website (www.tremoughservices. com/accommodation).This gives detailed information about current available properties in the local area specifically for students of both University College Falmouth and University of Exeter. The list normally opens in January/February, although landlords register with us throughout the subsequent months so don’t worry if you don’t find anything suitable straight away. The list is updated regularly so keep logging on.
Local Newspapers The West Briton and Falmouth Packet have accommodation sections. Try accessing the classifieds on www.thisiscornwall.co.uk Lettings Agents and Estate Agents Some agents have links on our own accommodation website although for a full list of agencies try viewing: www.thisiscornwall.co.uk.
Word of mouth Talk to other students who may have had first hand experience of finding accommodation (both good and bad).
Notice Boards Around the Tremough Campus fxu notice boards, accommodation office and the porters’ lodge at Glasney Parc (the on-site student residences); on the Woodlane Campus outside the Library, fxu notice boards and in the Refectory.
Student chat forum Log on at http://helpme.falmouth.ac.uk/ available to both students of University College Falmouth and University of Exeter students.
Shops/newsagents windows Not very reliable but worth keeping an eye out for, especially in the immediate vicinity of the area(s) you may wish to live in.
How the Accommodation Office can help: Accommodation Fairs The Accommodation Office team organise a number of ‘Accommodation Fairs’ during the spring and summer months. They are held at University College Falmouth’s Woodlane Campus in Falmouth and at the Tremough Campus in Penryn. Saturday 7th May 2011 Saturday 4th June 2011 Saturday 2nd July 2011 Saturday 6th August 2011 Saturday 10th September 2011
Tremough Campus Woodlane Campus Woodlane Campus Tremough Campus Woodlane Campus
What happens? The Fairs are ideal opportunities to look for accommodation. Students are invited to come along, see what is available, arrange property viewings and meet private landlords and staff from the Accommodation Office. Some Lettings Agents may also attend depending on what properties they have available. We also try to have some current students who have had experience in the private sector on hand to talk to you. It’s a good opportunity for you to ask questions about the local area, get advice and to meet up with other students who are looking for accommodation, and possibly get a group together to share. We would recommend
10am - 3pm 10am - 3pm 10am - 3pm 10am - 3pm 10am - 3pm
that you arrange several viewings before making a decision, which you can do prior to coming down to the fairs.
What if I cannot attend a fair? If you cannot make the fair dates just keep an eye on the website. New properties are added to the list when we have notification from landlords. Contact landlords directly and arrange to view a number of properties at a mutually convenient time. Telephone and e mail support Remember you donâ€™t have to wait for one of our Accommodation Fairs if you would like to discuss anything with us about house hunting. You can always telephone or e mail us at our office throughout the week. Or if you are on campus, just pop in for a chat! Our Private Sector Liaison Officer, Richard Wilkins, is available on 01326 253741 or 07979 700627 or email@example.com House hunting sessions For current students looking for a place a live for their second or third years we also run House Hunting sessions at both campuses. These usually take place in January and the dates publicised widely.
Where to live? The vast majority of students studying at Tremough and Woodlane live in either Falmouth or Penryn although some choose to live in the more “rural” surrounding areas such as Stithians, Ponsanooth or Mawnan Smith. Falmouth Traditionally Falmouth has the most popular choice for students attending University College Falmouth and University of Exeter. The Woodlane Campus is situated right in the heart of the town. Though a relatively small town, Falmouth is a lively and friendly place to live with plenty of amenities shops, bars, clubs, restaurants and beaches - within easy walking distance. Indeed, many students who study at the Tremough Campus choose to live here and find the relatively short journey from Falmouth each day worthwhile. Tremough is only about 3.5 miles from the centre of Falmouth and there are excellent transport links between the two. (See “Transport”)
Penryn There is a growing private sector market in Penryn. The small town within walking distance from Tremough Campus and about 3 miles from Falmouth. Falmouth buses go through Penryn (there is a stop on Tremough Campus) and there is a train station, so students of either campus will find Penryn a good option. The properties tend to be slightly more affordable and they are preferred by students who want somewhere quieter as Penryn has slightly fewer amenities than Falmouth. Other areas There are student properties available in more rural locations - Mabe, Flushing, Mylor, Ponsanooth, Constantine and Stithians, but remember to check out the bus routes as parking at Tremough is limited to pay and display and is at a premium around Woodlane.
Transport It is important to remember if you are studying at Tremough and living in Falmouth that you will not be able to park on campus unless you have a blue badge or use the pay and display car park. Buses There are regular buses that run between Falmouth, Penryn and Tremough. Tremough Campus operates a Green Transport Policy, which means that students are able to take advantage of subsidised public transport. The journey time is about 20 minutes from the centre of Falmouth to the Tremough Campus. Further details of the service can be found at www.cornwall.gov.uk/
Rail Falmouth and Penryn are on the newly refurbished Truro branch line. There is a regular service which connects Falmouth, Penryn and Truro. Falmouth has three stations (Falmouth Docks, The Dell and Penmere) with one in Penryn. The Dell is close to the Woodlane Campus and the station at Penryn is about ten minutes walk from Tremough Campus.
Safety A useful website when considering safety issues is www.suzylamplugh.org Also remember the student chat forum so you can get feedback from students who may be familiar with or already live in the area
You will generally be viewing properties during the day. Always consider what it would be like at night and in the winter months, how safe would you feel in the area and whether there is public transport nearby. Falmouth and Penryn are considered safe environments. Take someone with you when viewing a property. If this is not possible, tell a friend or colleague beforehand the address you are going to and what time you expect to return.
If you feel uncomfortable whilst at the property you might want to make it clear to the person showing you around that friends know where you are and what time you are expected back. If you need further advice on location please contact the Accommodation Office or come along and see us at one of the Accommodation Fairs.
Three different types of accommodation
Self contained (flats, apartments, shared houses) Most self contained/shared accommodation where the landlord does not live on the premises will be let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. This is a legally binding contract. It gives you a LEGAL RIGHT to live in the property and it gives you as the occupier “exclusive possession” of the premises. Contract length: There is no minimum period of a contract (although they are rarely less than 6 months), but it can be 9, 10 or 12 months and you may hear this period referred to as a “fixed term”. A fixed term gives a clear start and end date and once signed, the landlord and the tenant are bound by this agreement. Some landlords who grant a 12 month contract will offer 2 months at half rent over the summer vacation, but they do not have to. Whatever the agreement, make sure you have it in writing and check it thoroughly before signing. (You can have your contract checked over by the Falmouth and Exeter Student Union Advisors - see appendix 1 - ‘Where to get help’).
Can I get out of the contract? Generally speaking the answer will be “no”. If you have signed a ‘fixed term’ contract, then you are usually tied into paying rent until the end of the tenancy. Some tenancies do have a ‘break clause’ but this is not common practice. If you wish to leave early you will usually need the landlord’s permission. This is only normally given if you find another tenant to replace you. If you do find a replacement, make sure the landlord draws up a new tenancy, because if a new tenancy is not drawn up and the replacement tenant does not pay the rent or defaults on the agreement you could still be liable! Seek advice if you find yourself in this situation. See Section Seven - where to get help!
Joint or single contracts?
What will I be responsible for?
Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements can either be ‘single/individual’ or ‘joint’. A single/ individual contract will typically be for a specified bedroom and use of the communal areas with the rent stated as the amount for one person - ie what YOU are responsible for (eg £300 per month)
A tenancy doesn’t only give you rights - it also brings responsibilities. It’s important you stick to the rules and don’t break your tenancy agreement, and for you to get advice as soon as possible if you have problems. Most tenants can be evicted (providing the correct legal procedures are followed) if they don’t follow certain basic rules. These include: • Not paying your rent • Not looking after the property • Causing a nuisance • Not giving the landlord access when necessary • Damaging the property.
A joint contract will typically have all the tenants’ names on it and will state the rent for the whole property (eg £1,000 per month). In this case the group will be renting the house as a single entity. Beware: joint contracts make all the tenants ‘jointly and severally’ liable for the whole rent. In other words, if one tenant cannot, or will not, pay their share, the landlord can pursue the other tenants for it. This may seem unfair but it is legal.
What is the landlord responsible for? If you are a tenant your landlord has certain obligations. The rules and procedures vary depending on the type of tenancy you have, but certain basic rules are always the same: • Carrying out certain repairs • Meeting legal safety standards • Not disturbing their tenants • Following the correct procedure if they want the tenant to leave
Important If you have a licence rather than a tenancy, you may not have all of these rights. Get advice if you’re not sure whether you’re a tenant or a licensee. See www.shelter.orq.uk/advice for further details about your rights and responsibilities. “I don’t think it’s fair!” Just because a clause exists in your tenancy does not mean it is automatically legal and binding. Any tenancy agreement should be written in clear and understandable language and should not reduce your statutory rights. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) issues useful guidance on unfair terms in tenancy.
Negotiating with your landlord Some landlords may be willing to negotiate with you regarding the contract length, rent and other terms. As with any arrangements of this nature ALWAYS get promises in writing. If your landlord or agent genuinely intends to provide you with something that is not in the property at the time of viewing, they will not mind guaranteeing to do so in writing. You can even draw up an “addendum to a contract” document which can secure any such promises made. The Accommodation Office has an example of one of these so please contact us. Get advice! Important - this booklet gives a very simplified guide to a very complex area of law. You should always ensure you understand everything BEFORE you sign a contract. Once you have signed there is normally no easy way out. Wherever possible get your contract checked before you sign and if in doubt, seek advice.
Lodgings This normally means sharing with a live-in landlord. In these circumstances you are being given personal permission to live in a property, and as a result have substantially less rights than a tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. Although most studentsâ€™ first preference would probably be to share with other students, it is worth considering the advantages of this arrangement as well as the disadvantages.
You will have less freedom to bring home guests and friends which could leave you feeling isolated from other students. You will be living by somebody elseâ€™s rules regarding using the kitchen, playing music etc.
Advantages Rent can be slightly cheaper and bills are often included in the rent. Properties are usually kept in better repair than rented properties. You are not tied into a contract so itâ€™s a good way of getting to know the area, meeting other students and making a decision about where and who to share with once you have started your course. Disadvantages It is not your home and if you fall out with the landlord/landlady, you will usually have no option but to find somewhere else to live - sometimes at very short notice!
Bed and Breakfast/Guest Houses Being a popular holiday destination, Falmouth and Penryn are well served with temporary accommodation such as Bed & Breakfasts, Guest Houses, Hotels and Backpackers. We do advertise a selection on the accommodation list. A more comprehensive range is available through the Tourist Board which is contactable on 01326 312300 or visit www.visitcornwall.com Some students choose to stay in temporary accommodation in the summer or even at the start of the autumn term while looking for more permanent accommodation. It can be a good way of finding something suitable without making a rushed decision. Each year a small percentage of students withdraw from their courses and their housemates then need to find replacements to take over their rooms and contracts. Note: This can work out to be an expensive option if you stay for an extended period.
Four health & safety
Health and safety checklist
Like anyone providing a service, especially one as important as accommodation, landlords have a duty of care toward their tenants. They also have to comply with various legal and statutory obligations regarding a wide number of health and safety issues.
On pages 21 & 22 you will find a checklist of health and safety issues which you may find useful when house hunting.
This is especially true for landlords offering the more traditional shared student accommodation (known as Houses in Multiple Occupation - “HMO”s). Indeed larger HMOs have to be licensed with the local authority. (Usually these are houses on 3 storeys with 5 or more students)
This is not a complete check but just a quick guide as to some of the main issues you should look out for and ask the landlord or agent about before you sign a tenancy agreement.
These can include such issues as: • Fire safety measures • Gas and electrical safety • Fire retardant furniture and furnishings • Sufficient toilet(s)/washing facilities • Sufficient waste disposal facilities Landlords who register properties with the Accommodation Office and advertise on our list have to show that they meet these requirements but we also produce a Health and Safety checklist which we recommend you take with you when you view any accommodation.
Five money and accommodation costs
Work out what you can afford Do your figures before you start looking and be realistic about what you can afford. The following websites can be of use providing a range of comprehensive advice on funding, managing money and budget planning: www.insolvencyhelpline.co.uk/students or www.ucas.com/students/studentfinance and Falmouth and Exeter student union: www.fxu.org.uk - under Advice -’Living on a Budget’ leaflet. Weekly rents These can start at £50 for a “box” room, although we recommend to landlords that students are usually looking for property at £60 to £70 per week for a reasonable sized room. However the rents can be £80+ depending on location/quality/size and if services are included.
Are owners prepared to negotiate? Some owners will vary rent levels and may offer to improve the house/install more facilities. Whatever you agree, write it down and get the owner to sign it, so there is no confusion later. Weekly or monthly rent Remember if you are paying your rent monthly it works out slightly more than four weeks rent. For example, a weekly rent of £50 is equal to £216.67 per month (50 x 52 ÷ 12) and not £200 (50 x4).
Deposits Security deposits Most landlords will want to take a deposit at the start of the contract. Typically this will be a monthâ€™s rent, though it can vary. A security deposit will normally be taken to cover potential damage or loss to the property or even for unpaid rent during the term of the contract.
Find more information at www.direct.gov.uk Holding deposits Many landlords will ask for a â€œholding depositâ€? particularly as students often agree to take a property many months before moving in or when the tenancy starts.
If you sign an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and your landlord takes a deposit they MUST secure them in one of 3 government sponsored Deposit Protection schemes.
Often the landlord will deduct this from the security deposit or simply use the holding deposit as the security deposit when the tenancy begins. The law over such deposits is not always clear but they are not illegal.
The schemes were introduced in 2007 to protect all tenants from unscrupulous landlords and ensure that you will get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy as long as you are entitled to it. The schemes also provide a service to sort out any disagreements about the deposit without the need to go to court.
Be aware however that unless you actually take up the tenancy you may well find the holding deposit is non-refundable. Particularly if you decide not to move in and find alternative accommodation.
For more detailed information the Falmouth and Exeter Students Union (fxu) produce a useful guide and you can also before moving in or when the tenancy starts.
Increasingly, landlords or agents may ask your parents or guardians to become guarantors. Ultimately this means they’ll have to pay your rent if you don’t. If you are signing a joint contract with other students, your guarantor could also be asked to pay the rent of another tenant if they default (unless the agreement they sign specifically mentions what they are responsible for eg in a house for four, one quarter of their son/daughter’s liability). If you are not happy about finding a guarantor, some landlords do not require one, so you could look elsewhere.
Inclusive/exclusive rent In a typical shared house your rent may include some bills (e.g. water) although it is rare to have all bills included. Therefore, you may need to think about some or all of the following expenses: • Rent: typically £60 - £80 per week • Gas and electric: from around £5.00 - £12.00 per week • Water • Contents Insurance • TV licence • Broadband • Telephone Also consider the condition of the property, the type of heating, how you heat the water and the size of rooms. A well insulated house with a recently installed central heating system will be cheaper to run than a lower priced property in poor condition with electric heating.
Heating/hot water Find out how the heating and hot water works and whether, for instance, you might be paying for hot water you may not use. Some houses that look cheap to run may turn out to be expensive when you add up running costs, whereas others that appear more expensive could cost you less in the long run. Weigh up the pros and cons before you sign up! TV licences If you have a joint contract, then one TV licence will cover all the TVs in the house. If you have an individual/single contract, then you will each need an individual licence for a TV in your room. Information is available at www.tvlicensing.co.uk/information/students.jsp Council Tax The vast majority of full-time students are exempt from council tax (including over the vacation). The Admissions Department at Falmouth & the Registry Team at Exeter notify the local authorities at the beginning of the new academic year. However the situation does become more complex if you
share with non-students. Remember if you take on a tenancy before you begin your first year (e.g. if your tenancy begins on 1 July and your course begins in September) you may be liable for some or all of the Council Tax for this period. For further information see the information on Council Tax on the Falmouth and Exeter student union website www.fxu.org.uk - under Advice. Lettings/Estates Agents charges Before you start to use a letting agent you should ask them for a comprehensive list of all the fees that they charge - typical charges could be: Contract fee (drawing up the contract). Reference checking fee. Finders fee. They cannot however, charge you just to show you the accommodation or an accommodation list.
Six living in the community
Falmouth has a relatively high student population and certain parts and roads are considered to be ‘student’ areas. Wherever you decide to live, most of your neighbours will almost certainly be residents who have lived in the area a lot longer.
The Police and the district council have powers to prosecute and do use them. If noise levels are found to be excessive, Fixed Penalty Fines of £100 can be issued. Non-payment can result in a court appearance, and a further fine of up to £1,000.
Whilst most local residents welcome the liveliness and creativity students bring, and understand that you are here to enjoy yourself as well as study, please understand in return that everyone has the right to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
Bringing the institutions into disrepute is also a disciplinary offence. We will take action if a student-occupied house is causing problems for local residents.
University College Falmouth and the University of Exeter are both well established and respected institutions, and work very closely with the Police, the town and district councils, landlords and the local community to ensure that students are integrated positively into the local population; that harmonious relations are fostered and maintained; that complaints about late night noise are kept to a minimum; and that anti-sociable behaviour is dealt with.
Keep the noise down after 11pm (and remember to control noise levels the rest of the time too).
Please therefore do everything you can to be a good neighbour:
If you’re coming home late at night, don’t talk too loudly outside or bang car doors. Close doors and windows when you play music.
Introduce yourself to your immediate neighbours and ask them to pop round if they have issues they’d like to discuss Consider the impact of your behaviour on people who live behind or in front of you, not just those who live to the left and right Warn your neighbours if you’re planning a party and turn the music down if they ask Control gatecrashers and consider the health and safety implications of having too many people in your house Keep your garden/yard tidy and be house proud. If the outside of your house looks untidy put pressure on your landlord or agent to tidy it up Use the local authorities’ kerbside recycling service Put your rubbish out on the right day in strong black bags (to outwit the seagulls!) Respect the fact that you are living amongst families and elderly residents who live different lifestyles to you.
Seven where to get help
The Accommodation Office Tremough Campus Services The Annex, Tremough Campus Treliever Road, Penryn Cornwall, TR10 9EZ Tel: 01326 253741 Fax: 01326 253649 firstname.lastname@example.org Oliver Lane Operations Manager Richard Wilkins Private Sector Liaison Officer Teresa Smith Accommodation Assistant The Accommodation Office is not able to give advice on contractual law, but can signpost you to the appropriate help. If you have a problem you will need to ensure you have all your paperwork and any supporting documents, eg letters written to the landlord, to hand.
Falmouth & Exeter Students Union (fxu) - www.fxu.org.uk Telephone to make an appointment to see a student advisor.01326 370447 (Woodlane) 01326 213472 (Tremough) email: email@example.com Falmouth & Exeter Students Union have a number of leaflets on the private sector, including ‘checking a tenancy agreement or contract’, ‘living on a budget’ and ‘difficult landlords’. All can be viewed on their website under Advice at www.fxu.org.uk Citizens Advice Bureau, Mulberry Passage, Market Strand, Falmouth, TR11 3DB, Tel: 01326 313340 Shelter - Cornwall Housing Aid Centre, West End, Redruth Tel: 0844 5152300 Please phone for appointment. Cornwall Council’s Healthy Homes Team Carrick House, Pydar Street, Truro, TR1 1EB, Tel: 01872 224317. www.cornwall.gov.uk
Shelterline: Nationally available emergency helpline: 0808 800 4444 or www.shelternet.org.uk Advice on tenancy deposits: www.direct.gov.uktenancydeposit Office of Fair Trading (OFT) issues useful guidance on unfair terms in tenancy agreements: Office of Fair Trading, Consumer Helpline: 08457 224499 www.oft.gov.uk
Appendix house hunting checklist - health and safety Yes
Are the detectors battery or mains powered (or both)?
Is the fire safety equipment in good working order and checked regularly?
Fire Fire extinguishers
Has the landlord carried out a fire risk assessment?
Gas Safe Register landlords safety certificate
Ask the landlord to provide this
Current electrical test certificate (NICEIC or equivalent)
Ask the landlord to provide this
Sofas, chairs, beds, mattresses, pillows, bean bags, garden furniture etc should all be fire retardant
Look for labels on the furniture which should state that the item complies with â€œThe Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988â€?
Do they look secure? Make sure the landlord provides window lock keys
Security Door locks
Gas Central Heating Heating
Ask your landlord how to work the heating system
Storage Heaters Other
Smoke detectors in Communal areas
Are there sufficient bins for the number of students in the house?
Ask your landlord (or current tenants) how much the heating bills are
Check on which day the council waste and recycling services are
Yes Loft insulation Insulation
No You may need to ask your landlord about this
Damp or condensation
Are there any patches or damp, mould growth in any of the rooms?
Ask your landlord to treat the affected areas and check that there is adequate heating and ventilation throughout the house. Also check whether there are extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom(s)
Who is responsible for maintain the garden?
Is you are expected to do so, are there sufficient tools provided?
If the house has 3 storeys and will be let to 5 or more tenants, it must, by law, be licensed by the council
Ask your landlord to see the license or check with the local authority
Assured shorthold tenancy agreement
Ask to see a copy of the agreement BEFORE you sign. Check if it is an “individual” or “joint” contract
There should be a complete inventory (in writing) of what the landlord is providing including the condition or age of each item
Check through thoroughly BEFORE you sign
This is not a complete check but just a quick guide as to some of the main issues you should look out for and ask the landlord or agent about before you sign a tenancy agreement.