Students: How to have a stress-free tenancy
December 11, 2018
As the academic year progresses you’ll probably be thinking about where you want to live and who you want to live with next year. Moving out of halls is one of the most exciting parts of university, but also one of the most daunting! This handy guide will give you all the information you need to have a stress free renting experience whilst at uni. Private renting as a student comes with its own challenges – our advice on contracts, moving in, and moving out again will stand you in good stead to get the perfect digs.
Do you want to live in a student area?
Many university towns will have a particular area that students tend to congregate in. This can be fantastic as a student because you are usually well connected to uni and will be near many of your friends. On the other hand, it can create a certain amount of friction between local residents and the student population. That’s why it is really important to be mindful of who you are living next to. Any long term residents will take a dim view of late night parties after exams if they have to be up early the next day, especially if they have children. You can get into serious trouble if your neighbours complain about you, including getting kicked off your course, big fines, a warning from the police, and in the most extreme cases an eviction notice. Most importantly it will also create an unpleasant atmosphere on your street.
Getting to know your neighbours will help you feel more at home, and is a great opportunity to meet some amazing people too! At the end of the day if you live next to someone who knows your name and you are being too loud then they are much more likely to come round and ask you to be quiet, rather than complaining about you to your uni, the council or even the police. Locals also know some of the best stuff to do in the area and they will be happy to share any hidden gems.
If you have the time you should organise as many viewings as possible. This may be your only chance to have a look round your prospective new home. Make sure someone takes photos for you if you can’t be there. If you are going through a private landlord it is also a good chance to get off on the right foot. Try to be as friendly as possible, and present yourself well. Student housing can be a busy market, and it is likely that they will be making a choice between you and another group of students. You may have to listen to them talking about their dog’s Christmas outfit, but it will all be worth it if you get the house you want!
If you are going through an agency then you should try and arrange to see lots of houses in quick succession where you can. The letting agent will have a good idea of what you are looking for, so be clear about your requirements and budget.
For many people this will be their first time living outside of halls, in a ‘proper’ house, and most likely be the first time that they have had to organise their own housing. This can be a difficult time to stay organised, especially given the untidy reputation of students (which isn’t entirely undeserved). Moving house generates a lot of paperwork so it is very important that you keep track of everything. If you decide to have a lead tenant then make sure that they regularly check their emails and keep their contact details up to date.
Your landlord might be the nicest person in the world but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of making a mistake. When it comes to getting a deposit back it is much easier to have the assurance of careful documentation so that you can avoid any unnecessary charges. On move-in day you will be given an inventory of all the things that are in the house. Double check to make sure that everything is there, or you could end up having to pay for it at the end of your tenancy. You should also carry out a thorough check of the whole property and take photos of any damage. You can then report anything like mould or water leaks quickly and get them sorted out in a timely fashion. Any damage that you have caused to the property will need to be reported as quickly as possible, and it may come out of your deposit.
Before you sign the contract you should take the time to sit down with your fellow tenants, parents or even landlord and read through it to make sure that you are all aware of expectations. The contract will outline details like rent payments, terms of the tenancy, and the deposit. It will also explain where your tenancy deposit protection is.
Your student union may offer a contract reading service for free. They are the best people to go to if you have any concerns as they will have years of professional experience and useful contacts. Some cities, like Manchester and Newcastle, have a service that checks out landlords and gives them a ranking to help you find the best one for you. Normally any student can use this service for free from any of the cities’ universities. Make sure you check to see whether your SU has a student letting agency as they are a fantastic but often underused resource.
Responsibilities as a tenant
When you take on a property there are certain expectations that are made of you. These include generally maintaining the house and reporting any problems quickly to the owner. This is common sense stuff – both you and your landlord have a mutual interest in keeping the property in optimum condition. Wear and tear is inevitable, but make sure to clarify what constitutes ‘wear and tear’ with your landlord as different people have different expectations. Maintaining a good relationship with your landlord will make these types of conversations a great deal easier.
It is essential that you are informed about your rights as a tenant. There are people out there who will look to take advantage of students, so knowing what you are entitled to is of utmost importance. For more information, please take a look at our post dedicated specifically to tenants rights. Your landlord will ask to see documentation that shows that you are in the UK legally. As a student this should be readily available.
It is now fairly standard practice for a landlord to ask for a UK based guarantor. This is a third party, usually a parent or guardian, who promises to cover your rent if you are unable to pay for it. If you are unable to provide a UK based guarantor – or if you do not have a good credit history – you should talk to your Student Union who will be able to give you advice. They may even be willing to act as your guarantor.
Organising a house full of busy people to pay the correct amount each month can put unnecessary strain on your house dynamics. If you have the option you might want to consider going for a house that has bills included. It can sometimes end up cheaper in the long run, and prevents needless arguments about who left the heating on for the extra half hour.
There are also an increasingly impressive selection of apps out there that can help you calculate, monitor and splits bills and other rental costs. Sticky notes just don’t cut it anymore. Apps such as Zently, RentShare and Splitwise help you and your flatmates keep track of all of your daily expenses – plus they’re completely free!
If you want to watch TV you will have to pay for your licence. It may be included in the contract, so check carefully, but this is fairly unusual. Don’t get caught out by not paying, or you could face a £1000 fine.
As a student you will be exempt from council tax. You will need to contact the council when you move in to confirm this as quickly as possible. If you stop being a student before your tenancy comes to an end you will be liable to pay for the time between graduation and vacating your tenancy. Make sure that you open any letters from the council as soon as they come, and fill everything in on time. If you are living with any non-students they will have to pay council tax, but will be eligible for a third deduction.
Living in a rented property is a fantastic opportunity to experience university at its best. With Vesta, we can make it even better. We are committed to giving tenants the help they need to find their perfect house, and because we only deal with tenanted properties, we offer your tenant maximum security. What’s more, we offer online virtual viewings for maximum convenience, secure payments, and online support. Contact our team for more information.