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Student housing advice

Finding the perfect student accommodation doesn’t have to be a chore. But it’s important to remember that there is more to consider than just the size of your bedroom and how close you’ll be to the nearest pub! Our Student Housing Guide will help you avoid all the common mistakes thousands of students make each year when moving into their new student house.

Visit our dedicated website for more valuable housing advice you can’t afford to be without when choosing your future accommodation - Student Housing Guide.

  1. Accommodation Checklist
  2. Home Safety Issues
  3. Household Costs
  4. Contracts
  5. Your Rights
  6. Safety Advice
  7. Financial Matters
  8. Tenancy Deposit Law
  9. Tenant’s ‘Right to Rent’ Privately Rented Accommodation
  10. Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  11. Inventory
  12. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
  13. Tenancy Agreements


1) Accommodation Checklist

The Exterior

  • The roof looks sound, there aren't any tiles missing.
  • The gutters and pipes aren't broken, leaking or full of grass.
  • The window frames aren't rotten.
  • The windows aren't broken, cracked or draughty.

The Interior

  • No signs of damp, e.g: dark patches, peeling wallpaper or flaking paint.
  • Few signs of condensation such as mould on the walls.
  • There aren't any signs of pests, like slug trails and mouse droppings.
  • Check if the furniture is included in the let.

Gas & Electricity

  • The plugs don't get hot when switched on. Check there are plenty of sockets.
  • The wiring doesn't look old, there aren't any frayed cables.
  • The gas fire heats up properly and isn't heat stained (if it is it may be dangerous).
  • When was the last service and is there a valid Gas Safety Certificate?
  • The cooker works! Try it.

Plumbing

  • There is hot water.
  • The taps all work properly.
  • The bath and basins aren't cracked and the toilet flushes properly.

Security

  • The external doors are solid with five-bar mortice locks. Your insurance may insist on this.
  • Locks - If you rent your own room, with a separate tenancy agreement which includes shared use of common parts with other tenants, then your room should have a lock. Otherwise this may not be something the landlord is willing or able to do.
  • The windows all have locks.
  • Does it have a burglar alarm? Use your bargaining powers to get one. It is in the agent's/landlord's interest as well as your own.
  • Does it have a smoke detector?
  • Print out Check List:

PDF Format
Word Document

Top 2) Home Safety Issues

Gas Safety

Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances. Only a Gas Safe registered engineer should fit, fix or service gas appliances. Visit https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/ for more information. Landlords have responsibilities for gas safety. By law your landlord must keep all gas appliances supplied for you to use in good condition. They must arrange for a Gas Safe registered engineer to carry out a gas safety check on them every 12 months and provide you with a copy of the landlord’s gas safety record.

Always:

  • Ask for a copy of the landlord’s current gas safety record before you move in. By law, landlords have to give a hard copy to the tenant on or before the move in date.
  • Cooperate with your landlord and let a registered engineer in when a gas safety check or servicing has to be done.
  • Check the ID card of any gas engineer that comes to do work in your home. The engineer must be Gas Safe registered.

Monoxide Awareness
Does the property have a carbon monoxide alarm? If not, ask the landlord to install one in every room which has a gas appliance.

By law, the landlord must fit a carbon monoxide alarm in any room that has a coal or wood burning fire or stove. This does not include gas but it is a good idea to ask you landlord for this.

If you have gas appliances in your house, Carbon Monoxide is a possible danger.

Badly fitted and poorly serviced appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas which can kill quickly with no warning. Know the six main signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness. Don’t mistake the symptoms for a hangover.

It's invisible and odourless, but it can kill.

Watch out for...

  • Gas flames that burn orange or yellow rather than blue.
  • Sooty stains on or around your appliances.
  • Solid fuels that burn slowly or go out.

Know the symptoms...

  • Unexplained drowsiness.
  • Giddiness when standing up.
  • Headaches.
  • Sickness and Diarrhoea.
  • Chest pains.
  • Unexplained stomach pains.

If you think a gas appliance is faulty turn it off and let your landlord know immediately. In an emergency call the gas emergency helpline on 0800 111 999. If you feel unwell, seek medical help immediately. Click on the Gas Safe logo link for more info! The Health & Safety Executive has a Gas Safety Advice line on 0800 408 5500 In the event of an emergency call 0800 111 999

gas_safe Click on the Gas Safe logo link for more info!
The Health & Safety Executive has a Gas Safety Advice line on
0800 408 5500
In the event of an emergency call
0800 111 999

Electricity

From 1 July 2020 landlords of all new tenancies in England must have had the electrics in their property inspected by a competent electrician and landlords must provide you with a copy of the inspection report. Landlords must deal with any issues raised by the report within 28 days and then provide written confirmation of this to each tenant within 28 days.

These rules do not apply to student lettings in halls of residence or in Wales, but these may hold an NICEIC certificate which will prove that the property has been inspected within the last give years. HMOs in Wales are legally required to have the electricity installations inspected every 5 years.

Fire Safety Furniture and Furnishings

The relevant regulations are the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988. "The regulations provide for all furniture manufactured after 1 January 1950 to be fire retardant and carry the proper labels". This means that furniture and furnishings supplied in let accommodation must comply with the fire and safety requirements in the Regulations. All residential premises including flats, bedsits and houses where furniture is supplied as part of the let are covered by these regulations.

The type of furniture covered by the regulations are: any upholstered furniture including chairs, sofas, children's furniture, beds, head boards (if upholstered), mattresses, scatter cushions, seat pads, pillows and even garden furniture if it is upholstered and can be used in the dwelling. Carpets, curtains and duvets are not covered by the regulations.

All furniture, manufactured after 1 January 1950, and supplied in a let property must have a label attached which is clearly visible and gives information on manufacture and materials. If the original label has fallen off the landlord should have it re-tested.

Fire Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Private landlords are required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties, and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove).

If your property is an HMO (see HMO section below) your landlord will also have to comply with standards set by the Local Authority which will include the provision of fire extinguishers and blankets. If they are not provided you should ask for them. Also contact your local fire brigade for free advice on making a fire action plan and further information on fire safety.

It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that alarms are in good working order on the first day of the tenancy. After this it is generally the responsibility of the tenant to test the alarms on a regular basis and replace batteries. But read your tenancy agreement and see what it says.

Visit the site below to find out more:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smoke-and-carbon-monoxide-alarms-explanatory-booklet-for-landlords/the-smoke-and-carbon-monoxide-alarm-england-regulations-2015-qa-booklet-for-the-private-rented-sector-landlords-and-tenants


Fire Safety

You should have access to escape from the property in case of fire, so check that this is the case.

Top 3) Household Costs

Bills

  • Clarify what is included in your rent. For instance, some agents/landlords include water rates, others don't.
  • Some tenancies may also be inclusive of other bills such as gas and electricity. Check your tenancy agreement carefully before you sign it to make sure that it agrees with what you have agreed with the landlord/agent.
  • If relevant, ask the previous tenants the rough cost of gas, electricity and water.
  • Take readings of the relevant meters as soon as you can, once the last tenants have left.
  • Where you are responsible for bills, change the bills to your name with the relevant suppliers from the time you move in, and decide whether joint names will be put on the bills or if the responsibility will be divided. It makes sense to put the names of all residents on the bills to ensure shared responsibility.

Insurance

  • Don't think of doing without it; the number of burglaries and thefts in student houses is rising! Your landlord’s insurance will not cover your personal possessions.
  • Shop around to find the right insurance package for your requirements.
  • Make sure that you're covered over the holidays.

Council Tax

  • Properties where all the occupants are full-time students will be exempt. You may be asked to produce a certificate giving evidence of your student status; this certificate will be obtainable from your faculty office after you have registered on your course.
  • If one or more of the occupants of your house is not a student the house becomes taxable so you must clarify whether you are expected to pay anything towards the cost.
  • If you are unsure about your status with regard to Council Tax then seek advice from your Student Accommodation Department.

TV Licence

Click here for more information.
Call: 0300 790 6113 for more information.

Top 4) Contracts

Contract

The protection you have largely depends on your status as an occupier. However, an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (England) or Short Assured Tenancy (Scotland) are the most common. These can be made for a specific period of time, for instance, one academic year, but they will not usually be made for a period of less than 6 months. Please note that if you are staying in Home Stay or with the owner of the property then you will not be a "Tenant" and should therefore not be required to sign a contract.

Please note that if you are staying in lodgings, Homestay or with the owner of the property then you will not be a "Tenant" and should therefore not be required to sign a tenancy agreement. They may issue a room licence.

Joint Tenancy

If you are sharing a house then you may be asked to sign a joint tenancy agreement or a separate tenancy agreement. It is a joint tenancy if you have all signed the same agreement. It is a single tenancy if you have each signed separate tenancy agreements (i.e., just for your own room with shared use of the rent of the property). If you sign a joint tenancy then you will all be responsible for each other's debts and damages. If one of the tenants moves out without giving the notice or paying rent then the remaining tenants are liable to pay that tenant’s share. If you have a separate agreement for your own room then if there are any discrepancies, the argument is between yourself and your landlord and will not normally involve your housemates (unless perhaps it relates to the common parts of the property).

Points to Note

  • You should be very careful about signing a joint contract with others as if they fail to pay their share of the rent the landlord can claim it from you. You are effectively all guaranteeing each other’s rent. So only rent a property jointly with people you can trust.
  • Rents must be agreed before the contract is signed since this is a binding agreement. Remember you can negotiate with the agent/landlord over rents and opt out clauses. If you agree any changes make sure the tenancy agreement is amended accordingly before you sign it.
  • You cannot give notice during the period of the contract if there is no clause providing for this (generally known as a ‘break clause’) in your agreement. If you leave before the end of the fixed term then you (or your housemates) remain liable for the remaining rent. However, your landlord may sometimes be willing to allow you to end your tenancy early if you can find new tenants to take your place.
  • Always try to get your contract checked; the Students Union Advice Centre/Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice will be able to check your contract.
  • Landlords must comply with relevant legislation on notice to Quit, possession notices and Termination of Tenancies. Notices to Quit (which cannot be used for assured shorthold tenancies) and section 8 notices must contain prescribed information and there are also strict rules about the content required for section 21 notices. A Landlord cannot simply evict a tenant without a Court Order and this will only be granted on certain grounds.
  • Resident Landlord and homestay landlords should issue a Room Licence.
Top 5) Your Rights

Your Agent/Landlord is responsible for...

  • Ensuring that the property (where in England) is ‘fit for human habitation’ when let and during the tenancy. This means that it must meet basic standards for example as regards, repair, with no risk of harm to the health or safety of the occupiers.
  • Keeping in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling house, including drains, gutters and external pipes.
  • Keeping in repair and proper working order the installations for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences) and for heating rooms and heating water.
  • Providing a rent book if statute so requires e.g. where the rent is paid weekly.
  • Providing you with the agents/landlord’s full name and address.
  • Providing you with a copy of the valid current Gas Safety Certificate (see Standards).
  • Providing you with a copy of the electricity report
  • Allowing you to "peacefully enjoy" your accommodation (unless there is an emergency).
  • Agents/Landlords have the right to enter the property at reasonable times to carry out the repairs for which they are responsible and to inspect the condition and the state of repair of the property. They must give at least 24 hours’ notice in writing of an inspection. It would be helpful to set out the arrangements for access and procedures for getting repairs done in the tenancy agreement.
  • Providing you with a copy of the ‘How to rent’ checklist.
  • Providing you with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
  • If you are renting from an agent, they must be part of a letting agent redress scheme and display this on their website.
  • Always check the terms of your tenancy agreement for details on responsibility for maintenance and repairs. Although note that your landlord cannot by law exclude responsibility for keeping the property in repair and fit for human habitation.

You are responsible for...

  • Acting in a "Tenant-like manner". This means you should perform the smaller tasks around the house such as changing a light bulb; unblocking the sink when clogged with waste and cleaning the windows when necessary.
  • Not damaging the property, if you do then you and your guests are responsible for the repairs.
  • Note that you may be held responsible for damage done by your guests.
  • Checking smoke alarms on an ongoing basis and replacing batteries.
  • Refuse collection! Remember to find out the collection day from your local council. Put the wheelie bin out and bring it back in again, it's illegal to leave it on the street.
  • Securing the property when you go away; lock all the doors and windows!
  • Being reasonable about noise and parties; weekends are better, let your neighbours know in advance and comply with the Law.
  • Reporting all repairs needed to the agent/landlord (preferably in writing). The landlord's/agent's responsibility to repair begins only when they are aware of the problem. If the fault is not corrected within a reasonable period of time (dependent upon the nature of the disrepair) then seek advice from the Students Union Advice Centre/ Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice.
  • It may also be a good idea to keep a diary where you record anything relevant as it may otherwise be difficult to prove (or even remember) when and whether events took place.

Harassment and Unlawful Eviction

If your agent/landlord wants you to leave your property then a legal process must be complied with before you can be evicted. This will include a written notice and applying to the Court for a possession order. If you are evicted without the agent/landlord following the correct procedure then the agent/landlord is committing a criminal offence. In addition, if the agent/landlord (or someone acting on their behalf) interferes with your peace or comfort either with unannounced visits, by not fulfilling his/her responsibilities for basic repairs (as listed above), disconnecting utility supplies and so on, then this may amount to harassment which is a criminal offence. If you are in danger of eviction or suffering from harassment by your agent/landlord then contact the Student Union Advice Centre, Accommodation Department, your local Council's Housing Advice Team, or your Council's Anti-Social Behaviour Team. Citizen's Advice also produce a booklet entitled "Protection Against Harassment and Unlawful Eviction".

Top 6) Safety Advice

We would always recommend viewing a property in person, rather than relying on the information on the web. You will need to check that the landlord and the property are bona fide. We would never recommend transferring any monies to anyone before doing so in person. For your own personal safety, it is always advisable for you to view a property accompanied and try to arrange the appointment at a reasonable hour. However, there are advantages to viewing it after dark so that you can get an idea of how you will feel when walking home at night. It is important that you contact your University Accommodation Department if you feel that you were in any way subjected to sexism or harassment during the appointment.

Security

Here are a few pointers in checking the security of the property:

  • Is the property in a 'good' area?
  • Is the property set back from the road? Is the street lighting sufficient?
  • Are the front and rear doors solid?
  • Have the doors got five lever mortice locks?
  • Is there a chain on the door? If not, can the agent/landlord fit one?
  • Are the curtains of your room see-through? Insist on thicker ones if they are.
Top 7) Financial matters

Under the Tenant Fees Act 2019 (in England) and similar legislation in Wales, your landlord/agent are now restricted in the fees that they charge.

It is illegal for any charges to be made other than:

  • A holding deposit (before the tenancy)
  • A traditional deposit (see below) which cannot be for more than five weeks worth of rent, and
  • Rent – note that the landlord cannot charge a higher rent in any month (eg in lieu of an administration fee)
  • Utilities and Council Tax
  • A TV license and communication services (eg broadband and satellite TV)
  • For the actual cost of lost keys
  • Interest at 3% above bank base rate for unpaid rent after 14 days
  • A fee of £50 (or sometimes the landlords actual expenses) if the landlord varies the tenancy agreement at your request
  • Payments if the tenancy is ended early by agreement – which must not be more than the total rent due under the tenancy agreement

Landlords may be able to make other charges with agreement of the tenant – for example if your elect to pay for an alternative deposit scheme rather than pay a traditional deposit.

Beware fraudsters

It's worth mentioning here that criminals are always with us and there are many scams aimed at students. Be very careful about paying money out in respect of properties you have not seen. If possible it is best to rent from landlords approved by your student accommodation office.

Top 8) Tenancy Deposit Law

Holding Deposit

Some landlords/agents may ask for a holding deposit which by law can only be for up to 1 weeks worth of rent. This is to provide security to the landlord/agent while they take the property off the market while doing checks. However, there are strict rules on holding deposits and, unless you are responsible for the tenancy not proceedings (e.g. if you give incorrect information and fail referencing or decide not to proceed) the money must be returned to you or (if you agree to this) offset against your rent.

The landlord/agent can only hold the money for 15 days unless this time is extended by agreement with you. At the end of this period the landlord/agent must either return the money to you or tell you why it is being withheld.

Tenancy Deposits

You will normally be required to pay a tenancy deposit to the agent/landlord as security in case you damage the property or furnishings. It can also be used to cover unpaid bills, rent or missing items. Most agents/landlords will ask for a sum equivalent to four weeks' or a calendar month's rent but the maximum an agent/landlord can charge by law is a sixth of the annual rent payable in five weeks’ worth of rent in England and Wales.

In order to ensure that you get your deposit back:

  • Ensure that you have a written statement from the landlord explaining what is covered by the deposit (this will normally be covered by a clause in the tenancy agreement).
  • If the landlord gives a verbal explanation, write to him/her to confirm the details.
  • Ensure that you have a receipt for monies paid.
  • Ensure that you have a full inventory of furniture.
  • Get the agent/landlord to sign it.
  • You may wish to take photographs.
  • Take reasonable care of the house and furniture during the tenancy.
  • Towards the end of your tenancy write to the agent/landlord inviting him/her to inspect the property.
  • Settle all the bills.
  • When you leave return all the keys to the agent/landlord and make a written request for the return of your deposit. Keep a copy of the letter.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Deposits paid by tenants who have assured shorthold tenancy agreements, are safeguarded by a Government sponsored scheme, which will facilitate the resolution of any disputes that arise in connection with such deposits.

There are two types of scheme:

  1. Custodial Scheme a tenant pays the deposit to the landlord who in turn places it into a designated scheme account. When the scheme administrator returns the deposit to either the tenant or the landlord it is done so with interest at a rate specified by the Government. If they are not in agreement, a final court order will have to be obtained specifying the proportion of the deposit to which each is entitled.
  2. Insurance based schemes a tenant pays the deposit to the landlord who only transfers it into a designated scheme if there is a dispute at the end of the agreement. When the landlord and tenant reach agreement or a court decides how much each party is entitled the administrator will distribute the deposit accordingly.

If an agent/landlord fails to pay the deposit to the scheme then a scheme will have adequate insurance cover to compensate the tenant in the event they are owed monies. Within 30 days of receiving your deposit your agent/landlord must give you the relevant information regarding the scheme safeguarding your deposit. You should always check that the scheme has received your deposit.

Alternative Deposit Schemes

Some landlords and agents are now using these. They involve a much smaller payment by the tenant, or sometimes a regular monthly payment, by the scheme who will then pay up to a certain sum to the landlord if you leave owing rent or having damaged the property or its contents.

You need to be very careful about these schemes. They are all different – some may be very good, others less so. Here are a few things to note:

  • Your landlord/ agent MUST allow you to pay a traditional deposit if you prefer. They cannot insist on the alternative deposit scheme
  • What you are paying is not a deposit but a non-refundable fee. You will never get it back. Unlike a traditional deposit where you will get all the deposit back if you leave the property in good condition.
  • If your landlord claims on the scheme, the scheme may then pursue you for the money they have to pay out to the landlord/agent. This could be a considerable sum as these schemes sometimes guarantee the landlord more than the tenancy deposit limit of five weeks rent If you disagree with the sum claimed by the landlord/agent there may be a fee to pay if the dispute goes to adjudication. For some schemes there could be other fees.

You should be very careful about signing up to one of these schemes. Read all the paperwork carefully and if you are worried, speak to your Student Accommodation Department.

Retainers

These are paid to the agent/landlord by prospective tenants. The retainer period forms part of the contract (typically July to August) when the student is unlikely to want to occupy and the agent/landlord may wish to carry out certain maintenance works to the property. The normal retainer payment is 50% of the per calendar month rent.

Points to Note: England and Wales only

You usually have to pay a deposit if you want to rent somewhere, but as you probably know, it’s not always easy to get it back when you leave.

Disagreements:

If there is a dispute about deductions from the deposit at the end of the tenancy then there is a free adjudication service you can use which is provided by all the tenancy deposit schemes. You can find out about these by visiting the scheme websites. In a few situations it may be necessary to go to court but this is rare. Speak to your Student Advice Centre if you experience problems.

However, your agent/landlord has to use a tenancy deposit protection scheme if they want to take a deposit from you. This means that:

  • you will get your deposit back if you're entitled to it.
  • there will be a way of settling any disagreement about your deposit without going to court.

What if my agent/landlord does not protect my deposit?

If your agent/landlord doesn’t protect your deposit (assuming this is a traditional deposit), or refuses to tell you which scheme they are using, you can take them to court. The court may either order your agent/landlord to pay you back the deposit or to pay it into one of the schemes available. It may also order your agent/landlord to pay you between 1 to 3 times the amount of the deposit as a fine.

Note that you can check to see if your deposit has been protected by looking at all the scheme websites – which are:

The scheme websites also have a lot of helpful information for tenants so are worth checking out.

If you’d like to find out more about the Tenancy Deposit Law, visit: https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection

Top 9) Tenant’s ‘Right to Rent’ Privately Rented Accommodation

The Immigration Act 2014 introduced a requirement for landlords of private rental accommodation to conduct simple checks to establish that new tenants have the right to rent in the UK. Landlords who rent to illegal migrants without conducting these checks will be liable for a civil penalty.

The checks are straightforward and quick for law-abiding landlords and tenants to comply with.

Key Facts

  • The checks apply to all adults over the age of 18 living at the property. That is even if:
    • they’re not named on the tenancy agreement
    • there’s no tenancy agreement
    • the tenancy agreement is not in writing
  • Checks are mandatory, there are resources provided such as draft Codes of Practice, guidance and online resources, including an aid to help landlords and tenants identify whether they are affected and, if so, how to conduct a check.
  • To access these resources Visit: https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents
  • Checks apply to adults which use the property as their own home and you will need to provide original documentation which proves you can live in the UK, such as a passport or work visas.
  • Landlords have to carry out these checks as if they do not this could result in an unlimited fine or being sent to prison.
  • It is important to check the latest timescales and requirements directly.
  • Guidance and an online tool is available on www.gov.uk. A helpline (0300 069 9799) is also available.
Top 10) Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

What is an EPC?

The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) gives home owners, tenants and buyers information on the energy efficiency of their property. It gives the building a standard energy and carbon emission efficiency grade from ‘A’ to ‘E’, where ‘A’ is the most efficient and with the average to date being D. In addition to the rating for your building’s current energy performance, part of the EPC report will list the potential rating that the building could achieve (using the same ‘A’ to ‘E’ scale), if the recommendations that are provided within the report were to be made. It is not mandatory for anyone to act on the report’s recommendations. However, doing so may cut your energy bills and reduce your carbon emissions.

Who needs an EPC?

As a tenant moving into a property, it is the legal requirement of the existing owner to provide you with a full Energy Performance Certificate, free of charge. This law came into effect after 1st October 2008. Agents/Landlords and owners are only required to produce an EPC for a property that is self-contained and the certificate is then valid for 10 years. However, an EPC isn’t required when a tenant rents a room from a resident landlord and shares facilities. A group of friends rent a property and there is a single contract between the agent/landlord and the group as the contract is for the rental of a whole dwelling. An EPC is required for the whole dwelling.

As of April 2020 it is unlawful to let any residential property that doesn’t meet an E.

For further information, please visit the Government EPC website here.

Top 11) Inventory

What is an inventory?

It is not uncommon for tenants not to receive a copy of inventory from their landlords when first moving into their new house.

An inventory can be extremely useful evidence of the condition of the property when you first move in. It provides a full inspection of the property’s contents and their condition.

If you aren’t supplied with an inventory by your landlord or letting agent, don't hesitate to ask for one. If you still don’t receive one, provide them with your own. You do this by making a list of the contents room by room and then take photos or use video evidence to record the property contents and condition as back up.

The Agent/Landlord and tenant(s) should both sign the inventory and initial every page to indicate that you agree to the condition of the property contents and condition.

If at all possible, the final inventory check should be done on move out day and checked against the original inventory. This should ensure that there aren't any disputes about the extent of any damage, should there be some, as the landlord may need to take monies out of the deposit to pay for these.

Note that landlords will often use specialist inventory companies to do this work.

When compiling an inventory, it is essential that you:

  • Describe the condition of every item within the property.
  • Back it up with photographic/video evidence.
  • Make sure that any photographs you take are clear and include something to show the scale an out of focus photo of a scratch could be anywhere.
  • Get all parties to sign and date them on the back to prove when they were taken.
  • Take a note of the gas and electric meter readings.
  • Get the agent/landlord to agree to and sign the inventory.
  • Keep a safe copy of the signed inventory to check against when moving out.
Top 12) Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

The Housing Act 2004, which was introduced in April 2006 in England and Wales, was created with the intention of providing a fairer and better housing market for renting properties.

The legislation provides special rules for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which are essentially properties where people who are not family members share accommodation or live in the same building, as these types of property are considered to be higher risk.

The type of properties likely to require HMOs include:

  • Shared houses
  • Blocks of flats
  • Bedsits
  • Lodgings
  • Blocks of converted flats
  • Accommodation for workers

Some HMOs need an HMO license (see below) but all HMO landlords must comply with the HMO Management regulations. The management regulations are basically health and safety related and require landlords to comply with additional safety standards, including:

  • Fire safety
  • Water supply
  • The common parts (eg where tenants have their own agreements for individual bedrooms and share common areas)
  • Outside areas
  • Rubbish disposal

The landlord/agent must also ensure that a notice giving the name address and telephone number of the landlord or person managing the property is clearly displayed in a prominent position in the property.

HMO Licensing

This is now covered by The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2018

The government’s new guidelines, which came into effect on 1st October 2018, state that a property must be licenced by their local housing authority if it is let to:

  • 5 or more people
  • Who come from 2 or more separate households

The key change is that HMO licensing is no longer only for properties 3 or more storeys high (although this still applies in Wales).

A licence may still be required in certain areas even if it is smaller and rented to fewer people than set out above dependent on local planning restrictions.

There are also new rules alongside this that enforce:

  • Minimum room size requirements for bedrooms
  • Waste disposal provision requirements

It is important to note that the individual HMO requires the licence, and not just the building within which it is situated. So if a building has multiple flats and each flat contains five or more persons from two or more households they will each require a HMO.

To find out more click here or contact your local authority.

For further information on tenants rights generally see the Shelter site at https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice

Top 13) Tenancy Agreements

The Contract

Most landlords and agents will ask you to sign a tenancy agreement.

This is a legally binding document setting out each party’s rights and responsibilities. By signing it, both you and the landlord have certain rights protected in law, which cannot be overwritten by the contract. Before you sign make sure that you understand all clauses, so there can be no nasty surprises after you've signed.

We would always recommend seeking advice regarding your contract before you sign it. If your landlord will not allow you to take a copy of the contract away to be checked, you should not sign it.

Your legal obligations and rights are different if you live in University accommodation or share a property with your landlord. Please contact your local Student Accommodation Department for further information on this issue.

If asked to sign an agreement, it is likely to be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement and will normally last for at least six months, after which the tenancy can run on a monthly basis. However, many tenancies run for a fixed term, i.e. July 1st 2020 to June 30th 2021. In this case make sure that you are happy with the length of the contract as it is very unlikely that you will be able to end the tenancy early.

The tenancy agreement should also state the following:

  • How much the rent is and when and how it should be paid (check that the rent adds up and that there are no extra charges).
  • Information on when and how the rent could be reviewed in the future
  • How much deposit is and how it will be protected (note that by law now deposits cannot be for more than five weeks worth of rent)
  • The circumstances in which the deposit may be withheld either in full or in part, e.g. to carry out repairs works due to damage the tenants have caused
  • If you are paying for an alternative scheme rather than a traditional deposit this should be set out in the agreement. Make sure you check the provisions of the alternative scheme carefully. Note that your landlord must offer you the choice of a traditional deposit.
  • The landlord's and tenants’ names and address of the property being let.
  • The date the tenancy began and its duration.
  • Who is responsible for the fuel bills, water rates and council tax.
  • Details of whether other people are allowed the use of all or part of the property, and if so, which part.
  • Whether the landlord will provide any services (i.e. laundry, cleaning), and whether there are service charges for these.
  • The length of notice which the landlord or the tenant need to give, if the tenancy is to be ended. (There are statutory rules regarding this dependent on the type of tenancy and usually you cannot give notice to end a tenancy early).
  • The landlord's and tenant's repair obligations. (Again there are statutory rules regarding this).
  • The landlord's right of access, which should be at a reasonable time and after 24 hours’ notice.

The terms of the agreement must be in plain, intelligible language and fair. For example, any clause allowing the tenancy agreement to be ended early (known as a break clause) must apply to both landlord and tenant a clause just allowing the landlord to end early will be invalid, and tenants should not be subject to unreasonable rent increases. Note that most fees and penalty clauses will now be illegal under the Tenant Fees legislation.

Tenancies will be either ‘joint’ or ‘individual’. If you sign a joint tenancy, i.e. all the names on one contract, you are jointly and severally responsible for the payment of rent and the ‘well-being’ of the property. For example, if your housemate doesn’t pay their rent, the landlord is legally entitled to demand it from the other tenants. Individual tenants still have joint responsibility for damage to communal areas.

Read the small print of a tenancy agreement. Most student accommodation contracts are for a fixed period of time. It is unlikely that there will be a ‘get out’ clause in your tenancy agreement, so you need to be 100% sure it is the place you want to live in and the people you want to live with. A landlord or agent may consider releasing you if you have a suitable replacement tenant to take over your room. In the past some considerate landlords and agents have released tenants if they have been kicked off their courses or have left University for health or financial reasons – but they don’t have to if they don’t want to. If a landlord or agent won’t release you, you will usually be responsible for the rent for the rest of the tenancy period.

Most things that you agree to in a tenancy agreement you will have to stick to. For example, if you agree not to use blue tack on the walls, you cannot use blue tack on the walls (and if you do, you will probably have to pay for the walls to be re-decorated when you leave).

Here are certain legal obligations that apply to student housing regardless of most tenancy agreements. For example:

  • The property must be ‘fit for human habitation’ at the time it is let and throughout the tenancy. This means that it must meet basic standards for example as regards, repair, with no risk of harm to the health or safety of the occupiers.
  • The landlord must carry out some basic repairs, and is responsible for the structure and exterior of the property.
  • The landlord must keep the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation and heating in good working order.
  • The tenant has a right to live peaceably in the accommodation without interference from the landlord.
  • The tenant should take proper care of and not damage the accommodation.
  • The tenant should be supplied with the name and address of the landlord, and the address to which notices should be sent (for example, notices requiring repairs to be carried out).
  • For an assured short-hold tenancy created on or after 28th February 1997, the landlord must provide basic written terms of the agreement within 28 days of the tenant requesting this in writing.
  • The landlord should give 24 hours written notice to enter the property. For example, to undertake repairs or view the property with prospective tenants.

For further information on tenants rights see the excellent guidance on the Shelter site at https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice

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