We understand that organising a new place to live can be a little bit daunting as well as very exciting, so we have created this page all about advice on student housing. If your issue or question isn’t covered on this webpage, please feel free to contact us.
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Signing a contract with a landlord means that you are committing yourself to staying in the accommodation. A contract can be verbal but for your protection, and to avoid any misunderstandings, you should always have a written agreement with the landlord. You must clarify the conditions of the contract before you sign it and make sure that you read it carefully. Check what you are signing for and the length of the agreement. If you decide to leave the property before the end of the tenancy agreement, you may be liable for any outstanding rent that is due. If you find a problem once you have moved in, you should contact your landlord immediately.
Choosing a property
You should go and look at several properties before you make a decision, as the facilities and location will vary and you need to ensure that you are choosing the right place for yourself. You can ask the landlord any questions you have about the property when you speak to them over the phone or in person when you view the property. The landlord should be able to give you some information on which courses your prospective housemates are on.
Check the condition of the property when you go to look around it:
- look for signs of damp (look in corners and be suspicious of furniture lined up in unusual ways, blocking your view of particular areas of the room)
- see if the roof looks in good repair
- check to see if the exterior of the property seems well looked after
- look for signs of mice in the property (mouse droppings etc.)
- check if the heating system is going to be adequate in the winter
- try switching on appliances to ensure that they work (fridge, cooker, gas fire etc.)
- check that lights are working and that there are no loose wires that you can see
If there are tenants in the property when you look around it, you might be able to discreetly ask them about their experience of living in the house.
If you see any problems at the property, make sure that you raise them with the landlord at this stage. Don’t wait until you are moving in. Make sure that the landlord commits to complete any necessary repairs or refurbishment of the property before you move in.
You should check the inventory given to you by your landlord, or make your own, and you should both keep a copy of it. Note anything that is missing or damaged on it and talk to your landlord about it (take photos of anything that is damaged at the start of your tenancy). This is very important as it can avoid disputes later on and may help you to get back your full deposit at the end of your tenancy.
Landlord’s name and address
Make sure that you have your landlord’s name and address details (they are required by law to give you these) and ask for an emergency contact phone number as well.
Landlords advertising their properties through the College are required to join an accreditation scheme. Training given through accreditation schemes ensures that landlords keep up to date with current legislation and good practice procedures.
The College keep a record of each property’s gas and electrical safety certificates, to ensure that these are always up to date.
The rent you will be charged depends on different factors: the strength of the housing market, the quality and location of the property and the rental period you are signing up for. Weekly rent works out at a slightly different total to monthly rent in the long term: for example, if you pay £50 per week it would cost you £50 X 52 = £2,600.00 for a year. If you pay £200 per month you would pay £200 X 12 = £2,400 for a year (because a calendar month is slightly longer than four weeks).
Some landlords will give you a discount for the rental period over the summer, if you are not living in the house over this time. Other landlords have contracts which run from September to July, but you may be able to pay a retainer over the summer so that you can keep the same room in the property for the next year.
Rent does not usually cover the cost of your utility bills (gas and electricity etc.). You need to check whether the water rates are included in your rent. You will also need to pay for an internet service provider. Sometimes landlords include the cost of utility bills in the rent; bear this in mind when you are comparing rental prices. Landlords may levy extra charges for additional services like parking, so look out for these.
Full time students do not have to pay Council Tax, so if your house-share is only with other students you will be able to apply for Council Tax Exemption from Herefordshire Council (download form here). The college can give you a letter to prove that you are a full time student here.
You will also be responsible for paying a television licence for the property. If there’s a joint tenancy agreement for the whole house, you may only need one licence. However, you may need your own licence if your accommodation is self-contained – i.e. you have exclusive access to washing facilities or you have your own entrance to the property. (See TV Licensing website for more information)
Always put the names of all of the occupants on the bills, so that everyone is responsible for paying them. Otherwise you may find yourself liable if someone leaves your house without paying their share.
Some of the landlords in Hereford pay all of the bills for their student houses and include them in the rent. This makes life easier for students as it takes the hassle out of paying for accommodation. Look out for what is included in the rent when you look at the property details on our website.
Reducing your bills
Check what sort of heating system is in the house that you want to rent. A modern gas central heating system will be a lot cheaper to run than an electric heating system. An instant hot water system will provide hot water whenever you need it, without heating a tank that you may not need to use all of the time. You can ask the landlord about the insulation at the property: good insulation reduces heat loss, saving you money.
You can also save on your bills by combining services and shopping around. Taking your gas and electricity supplies from the same energy company or combining your phone and internet bill can get you a discount, as can paying by direct debit. Some companies offer discounts to new customers too, but make sure you check how much you will be paying after the offer period ends and how long you are signing up for. Check if there is a penalty charged for finishing a contract early, or if you can transfer the service with you if you move house.
Under the Accommodation Act 1956 it is illegal for agents to charge money before the contract is agreed for a letting. It is a criminal offence to charge a fee to register or undertake to register the name and requirements of a person looking for accommodation or to charge for supplying names and addresses or other particulars of properties. A fee can only be charged when a contract has been agreed between the landlord and the tenants. Moreover any charge that is made may be challenged under the OFT’s Unfair Contract Terms Regulations. Fees that are described as “non refundable” or contain ambiguous language are in conflict with the OFT’s rules and the landlord can be made to strike the clauses out of the contract.
A landlord or their agent is allowed to charge fees as long as they are up front about them and include these fees in their marketing information. You always have the right to say no to the deal on offer and to go elsewhere for your accommodation if you want to.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licence
The Housing Act 2004 introduces a new definition of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). The new definition is very complex. Generally a house in multiple occupation will be a property occupied by more than one household and more than two people, and may include bedsits, shared houses, non self contained flats and some self contained flats (although most self contained flats are usually not HMOs). You can find more information here
HMOs require a licence from the Local Authority to verify that the standards of the property comply with safety regulations and that the property is in a good standard of repair. Landlords who do not obtain a licence for their property can be prosecuted and may have to pay large fines.
Tenants also have a responsibility:
- to ensure that they comply with the fire safety and litter disposal arrangements that the manager has made
- to take reasonable care to avoid damaging anything that the manager is obliged to keep in good repair
- to allow the manager to access the property at reasonable times so that he/she can complete his/her duties
- to provide the manager on request with all relevant information
- to not hinder the manager in the performance of his or her duties
Any deposit paid to a landlord for an assured shorthold tenancy created or renewed after 6th April 2007 must be placed by the landlord into a tenancy deposit protection scheme. This means that your money is protected and you will get it back at the end of the tenancy, provided that you have met the terms of the tenancy agreement and have not damaged the property.
The landlord should give you details about which scheme your money has been placed in within 14 days of receiving it, along with information on the circumstances under which the landlord will be able to retain some or all of the deposit and what to do if there is a dispute over how much deposit should be returned. (More information is available by clicking here)
The landlord’s right of access
Tenants have a responsibility to allow access to the landlord at a reasonable time of day in order to complete his or her maintenance obligations, to check on the condition of the property and to carry out repairs. When you are renting a room within a house the landlord needs to give you 24 hours’ notice to enter your personal room (except in emergencies).
A landlord does not usually have an unlimited right of access unless he is a resident of the property but the landlord will need to enter communal areas in a shared house with separate contracts for each room at reasonable times to check safety measures or to do maintenance duties and repairs.
It is reasonable of the landlord to let his tenants know when he is coming. Make sure that you read the contract before you sign it to ensure that the terms are acceptable.
The Office of Fair Trading says, “Under any kind of lease or tenancy, a landlord is required by common law to allow his tenants ‘exclusive possession’ and ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the premises during the tenancy. In other words, tenants must be free from unwarranted intrusion by anyone, including the landlord.”
Tenants should inform landlords of anything that needs repairing. Landlords are generally responsible for the exterior and structural repair of the property and for the maintenance of installations and services within the property (water, gas, electricity and sanitation, including baths, sinks, wash-hand basins and toilets).
Tenants must ensure that they look after the property and protect it from damage, make good any damage caused by people living within the property or their guests, keep the property in reasonable decorative order and not make any alterations to the property without the landlord’s consent. (More information is available here)
The landlord has to have insurance for the property, but this will not cover the possessions belonging to tenants. You should make sure that you have your own insurance as the cost of replacing your possessions can soon add up: if you lost your laptop, television, mobile phone and MP3 player in one go, it could cost £1,000 or more to replace them. Check your parents’ insurance as you may be covered, or their insurers may offer you a discount on buying your own policy. You can find some more information on the NUS website
If you are given notice to leave a property by your landlord, you are not obliged to leave until you have had an eviction order served on you from the County Court. As soon as you are asked to leave seek advice from the college’s Student Housing Adviser or from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Do not wait to get advice as it will probably be too late to do anything by the time an eviction notice has been served.
You can find more information on eviction by clicking here
There is an eviction checker on the Shelter website to find out what process landlords are legally required to follow. Go to the eviction checker
The law protects people living in residential property against harassment and illegal eviction. It does this in two ways: by making harassment and illegal eviction a criminal offence, and by enabling someone who is harassed or illegally evicted to claim damages through the civil court. Sometimes a landlord may attempt to make tenants leave their property by using threatening or unreasonable means, this is harassment and you may wish to report this to the college or make a formal report to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Sometimes people sharing houses do not get on. This may be due to differing lifestyles or personality clashes. Sometimes this amounts to harassment. Contact Student Housing firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and guidance in these circumstances.
Check that you know where the fire exits are in the property and that you arrange an action plan to make sure that everyone is alerted in an emergency. If you are in any doubt about the safety of any electrical appliances or wiring in your property, make sure that you ask your landlord to check it out. If you go away for any length of time, it is your responsibility to secure the property and ensure that you take precautions against burst pipes, caused by freezing: you would be responsible for any damage caused if you have not done this.
Make sure that the locks on your doors and windows are secure to prevent intruders from gaining access to the property and make sure that everyone locks the door when you are out. It is best not to leave doors open when you are in the house either as this could leave you vulnerable. There is lots of advice about personal safety for students on the NUS website here
You have a responsibility to be a good neighbour and to keep noise levels down, particularly after 11pm.
You should make sure that rubbish does not build up at your property and that you do not cause a nuisance. This will avoid complaints from your neighbours.
Remember that you are responsible for keeping the property clean and tidy and making sure that emergency escape routes are kept free. If you damage the property or leave it dirty the landlord will take money from your deposit to put things right. It is much easier (and more hygienic!) to keep things clean as you go along than to face a huge cleaning task at the end of your tenancy.
The college uses the same regular landlords and we have a good relationship with them. Please respect your neighbours and your landlord as this is essential to our being in a position to find good quality accommodation for you and future students at Hereford College of Arts.