Here is a general guide for students looking for accommodation in the private rented sector (Landlords / Estate Agents). For further information visit the Beds SU Welfare and Advice Service (WAS).
Things to remember. NEVER SIGN ANYTHING YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT. Get it checked by one of our advisors first.
If your Landlord lives in the house with you, your legal rights are very different. Please visit WAS if you are concerned.
Make sure you give the University your address and full contact details or you may miss out on vital information.
Important stuff. Most tenancy agreements are an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. This means you are usually LEGALLY tied into the tenancy for a set time, in the case of students this is usually 6 or 12 months, so make sure you are happy with the property and the people you are sharing with. Landlords are now legally required to protect your deposit in a deposit protection scheme; they are also legally required to notify you where your deposit is protected. If your landlord/estate agent does not mention this, make sure you ask. Whether you have a joint or single tenancy is important as a joint tenancy may make you legally responsible for another tenants rent. If there is more than one tenants name on the agreement that you sign then this is a joint tenancy. Seek advice from WAS if you are unsure what this means.
Never sig n an agreement or pay money for a property you have not viewed!
Take your time when looking for accommodation; do not be pressured into signing anything, a good landlord / agent will understand that you may wish to seek advice before signing. WAS has lists of estate agents in Bedford and Luton who let to students. We also have information on admin fees (this can vary greatly) and whether you need a guarantor to let a property. We can also provide you with a useful checklist to help you know what to look for when viewing properties.
Inventory. Ask your landlord / agent for an inventory listing everything in the property room by room. Carefully check each room and note any dirt or disrepair in as much detail as possible (take photos if possible) and ask the landlord or agent to sign it. Failure to do this may result in you being blamed for damage you did not cause and may result in loss of deposit.
Utilities. Ask your landlord / agent who supplies the gas, electric and water to your house. Contact them and give meter readings as soon as you can to avoid inheriting debt from previous tenants. If you are sharing ensure the bills are in all the tenantâ€™s names, putting them in your own name may leave you with a big bill and others refusing to pay. Ask your landlord or agent for a Gas Safety Certificate. There is a legal obligation for the landlord to get gas appliances professionally checked every 12 months. If they donâ€™t have one insist that they get it done.
TV License. Buy a TV licence. It is a criminal offence not to have one if you watch live TV on any type of device. Visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk to find out how to purchase your licence, you can do this with a payment plan if you are unable to pay upfront.
Council Tax. Full-time students do not have to pay council tax. Get a Council Tax Exemption Certificate from SID, give a copy to the council, your landlord/agent and keep a copy for your records. If you are a part-time student contact SID who can advise you whether you may be exempt.
Repairs. If you feel there are any problems with the property or the tenancy ACT NOW. Raise the issue with the landlord / agent in writing, a delay in highlighting problems may make them harder to resolve.
Landlord Responsibilities. The structure and exterior (including drains, gutters and external pipes). The installations for the supply of gas, water and electricity and for sanitation. Installations for main heating and hot water supply. If the Landlord provides a service or item, they should ensure it works (e.g. a washing machine) and is safe to use.
Tenant Responsibilities. Take care of the property Ensure the fixtures and fittings are not damaged Carry out minor repairs such as replacing lightbulbs Pay the utility bills unless it says in your tenancy agreement that the landlord is doing this.
Getting it fixed. You should inform your Landlord in writing of any problems and keep a dated copy of your letter. Keep a note of any visits or telephone calls. Once you have informed your Landlord of a problem: (1) Allow the Landlord time to carry out the work (2) Ask for a date when the work will be finished (3) Allow the Landlord access to the poperty. Take photos of the disrepair, keep receipts for damaged property, excessive heating etc and obtain medical evidence from a GP / counsellor / social worker if the disrepair has affected your physical / mental health.
If the landlord wonâ€™t act. KEEP PAYING THE RENT. Unless a set procedure is followed, you could face court action for rent arrears. You do not have legal right to withhold your rent.
When leaving. Before moving out you should do a thorough clean. Get all those marks off the walls, clean the cooker and fridge. Hoover and shampoo the carpets if necessary. Return furniture to the place indicated on the inventory. Take photographs or videos (dated if possible) as proof of the condition of the property and its contents. Make sure you meet the owner/agent to check off the inventory. If the landlord wonâ€™t check and sign the inventory, get an independent witness to do it instead. Pay your final bills and send copies to your landlord or agent when you leave. Take meter readings and notify the relevant utility services: gas, electricity, water and telephone. Hand back all the keys (doors, windows, shed etc.) or you will be charged for replacements (ask for a receipt). Notify the university of your new address. Inform the Post Office, who can forward your mail to your new address for a fee.
Getting your deposit back. You should get your deposit back within ten days if you and your landlord agree about how much you should get back. It is reasonable for your landlord to take money off the deposit to cover, for example, damage to the property or furniture, or missing items that were listed in the inventory. But they should not take money off the deposit to pay for fair wear and tear. If there is a disagreement you can ask the deposit protection scheme to make a decision for you.
Beds SU Welfare and Advice Service can help if you are having any housing problems or require advice and clarification.
If in doubt. The council has extensive powers under the Housing Act 2004, which can force a Landlord to carry out repairs. Give them a call, and ask for private sector housing.
Luton Brough Council 01582 546 000 Bedford Brough Council 01234 221 797
A piece I designed for Beds SU to convey important information for students looking to rent.