Housing PDF Print E-mail
This section is designed to provide you with advice and guidance on housing. Finding a property at university, and then staying in the property without any problems can be very difficult. The process of finding suitable housemates, then a suitable property and completing all the contracts and documentation can be quite stressful.

The information in the section is designed to help you be better prepared and informed for the whole house hunting process, and then also any housing problems that you have once you do move into your house.

If you are unsure on any of the information given, you can always contact your student union. The majority of student unions will have some of form advice centre where students can speak to a welfare/student advisor about any problems you have.

Your universities may also have a housing services department who may help you and give advice on academic matters. Further sources of housing help are also provided in this section.
Finding a Property
Paying for Your Property
Finding a Property
Before you even consider looking for a property to need to decide who you are going to live with. It may seem like a good idea to move into a big house with all your friends, but do you really know them that well? Do you know what their habits are like, are they tidy, do you really want to spend that much time with them? Remember that once you move into a house, it can be very disruptive and difficult to move out later, so make sure you are happy with the people you decide to live with.

You should take your time when looking for a property, and its recommended that you set aside at least a month to find a house. The closer you decide to stay to the university, the more likely it is that the rent will be higher.

You should also take your time when viewing a property. Below is a list of some of the things that you should be looking out for:

Outside - check the windows, drains, gutters, condition of garden.
  • Security – does the house have an alarm, are the doors secure, do the windows all lock?
  • Gas & Electricity – does the property have a Gas Safety Certificate (this is a legal requirement for rented properties), is the heating suitable, are there enough power sockets, is the wiring safe?
  • Inside – is there enough furniture, is it in a good state, are there any signs of dampness, does the property need any repairs, what is the kitchen and bathroom like?
  • Current tenants – what do the current tenants think of the property and landlord?
If you do have any concerns you should raise them with the landlord. If the landlord agrees to correct any of your concerns, you should always get this confirmed in writing before signing any contracts.
You must make sure that you have read all of your contract, understand all the points and agree with all the terms before you sign it. Once you have signed the contract you will be legal bound by it so be careful. The Assured Shorthold Tenancy is the most common type of student contract, therefore this section will only provide information on this. If you have a different type of contract, contact your student union for advice.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
This is the most common type of contract for students. An AST will guarantee you six months in the property, although most student contracts will be for one year or for the academic year.

Periodic and Fixed
An AST can be fixed or periodic. A fixed AST will allow you stay in a property for a fixed amount of time, so if you have a fixed AST for 12 months, you can stay there for 12 months. Once you have signed a fixed AST you are legally liable for that period (unless your contract is breeched or it has a clause that allows you to end the tenancy early). So make sure that the want to stay in the property of time specified on the contract before you sign.

A periodic AST is not for a fixed period. This type of contract is continually renewed. As stated earlier, an AST guarantee's you 6 months in the property. After the 6 months, you could decide to renew the contract periodically, for example every week, month.

Joint and sole
An AST can be joint or sole. A joint tenancy is the most common for students and it basically means that all tenants are sharing the possession of the property together and you have joint responsibility for the property. Your contract should state if it is a joint tenancy but in general if you all sign the one contract and the terms apply to all of you it will be regarded as a joint contract. A sole tenancy means that you only have possession and responsibility of the property (e.g your bedroom), however you may share certain parts of the property such as the kitchen and bathroom.

The difference is very important. If you have a joint contract then all the tenants are jointly responsible for the rent and the condition of the property. So for example if you live in a house with 3 other students, and they decide not to pay the rent or they leave the property, the landlord could request the payment of rent from you. With a sole contract you are only responsible for your own rent and actions.

Signing your contract
Before signing your contract make sure that you have read it, understand it, are happy with the property, have agreed in writing any changes that need to be made and have an inventory (see below). You should try to include the following information on your contract as a minimum:
  1. Date of agreement
  2. Details of landlord and tenants (names)
  3. Details of landlord (name, address, contact details)
  4. Type of agreement (AST, joint or sole)
  5. Length of contract
  6. How much the rent is, when and how it should be paid
  7. Rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenants
  8. Outline of how the contract can be ended
You should also try to ensure that you have an inventory for the property.
When you are staying in a property you will be responsible for the upkeep of it and to ensure that no damage is caused to the furniture provided. Your landlord will most likely have received a deposit form you to provide them security for this reason. You therefore need to establish what the condition of the house is and its contents.

An inventory is basically a list of all the contents in the property provided by the landlord, their condition, and also the condition of the property itself. You should get the inventory before you sign your contact.

When you move into the property you should request your landlord to inspect the property with you. Using the inventory, you should check the furniture and the property. If the landlord has not given you an inventory you could draw one up at this stage.

All the items that are listed on the inventory should be in the property. You should make sure that this is the case, where items are missing or damaged you should note this down on the inventory. You should also note down the condition of each room, and any disrepair (e.g. if the carpet is stained, dampness).

Once you have completed the inventory you and the landlord should sign it and date it. You should both keep a copy of this, so that when you inspect the property at the end of the tenancy you know what condition it needs to be in. If your landlord won't have an inspection, or refuses to sign the inventory, you should get a witness to do this (e.g. neighbour). By doing this you will protect yourself when it comes to the end of the contract and you need to get your deposit back.
Paying for Your Property
There are various costs that you will incur when you take a property.

Rent: The rent will be the key cost that you have for the property that you take. You should therefore make sure that you have can afford the rent for the whole year, as non-payment of rent can result in you being evicted from the property. If you sign a joint tenancy (see contracts) then all housemates will be jointly liable for the whole rent. So if one person were to leave, the landlord could request the remaining tenants to pay the rent. You should make sure that the amount of rent that you have to pay and the method of payment is agreed in writing.

Deposit: The majority of landlords will request you to pay a deposit for the property. The deposit is usually the equivalent of one months rent. It is paid at the start of the tenancy (or when the contract is signed) and is kept by the landlord as protection against any damages that you may cause at the property. Once the contract has finished you should receive the full deposit back if you have not caused any damage to the property or incurred the landlord any financial loss. Always get a receipt for the deposit payment. Some landlords when requesting a deposit, will also state that the deposit is non-refundable if you decide not to take the property. You should therefore make sure that you are happy with this. To protect your deposit, produce an inventory (see inventory) at the start of the tenancy, have an inspection at both the start and the end of the tenancy from the landlord. When you leave the property ensure that the landlord is happy with the condition of the property and get this in writing.

Holding Fee: This is something that has become more common in recent years. Agents or landlords will sometimes request that you pay a fee to them to once you have decided you want to take the property to ‘hold' onto it until you have signed the contract. Only pay this fee if you are sure that you do want the property, as in the majority of cases it will not be returned if you decide not to take the property. Always get a receipt for any payment.

Admin fee: The majority of agents and some landlords will charge an admin fee for granting the tenancy. This should not be an excessive amount, as other than producing the contract and viewing the property there are very little other administrative costs involved. Always get a receipt for any payment.

Bills: Remember that you need to budget for bills such as gas, electricity, water, telephone and TV license. When you move into the property you should make sure that you take meter readings for the property for gas, water and electricity.

Council Tax: If your property is only occupied by full-time students, it will be exempt from council tax. You should be able to get exemption certificates from your institution.



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