Stu­dents need to be care­ful when tak­ing on a rented home

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Sharon Dale

WITH the start of the aca­demic year ap­proach­ing, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Res­i­den­tial Let­ting Agents (ARLA) is ad­vis­ing stu­dents on how to nav­i­gate the chal­lenges of the rental mar­ket when they sign for a flat or house.

Ca­role Carter, ARLA’s spokesper­son for York­shire says: “Last month, three-quar­ters (74 per cent) of ARLA mem­bers re­ported that there were more prospec­tive ten­ants than prop­er­ties avail­able, so for many stu­dents, rent­ing a prop­erty – alone or with friends – can be a com­plex process, with a tight bud­get and vary­ing pri­or­i­ties to take into con­sid­er­a­tion.”

ARLA’s tips for any stu­dent look­ing to rent a pri­vate prop­erty are:

1. Re­search. Be­fore search­ing for a prop­erty, speak to other stu­dents or check univer­sity advice web­sites for first-hand ex­pe­ri­ences of rent­ing in the area. The amount of stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion avail­able and the av­er­age rent charged can vary sig­nif­i­cantly across the re­gion which could af­fect your bud­get.

Many stu­dent unions of­fer free hous­ing or le­gal advice and con­tract check­ing ser­vices, so find out what ser­vices are avail­able to help you.

2. Rent with the ex­perts. As there are no re­stric­tions on who be­comes a land­lord there are, un­for­tu­nately, some un­scrupu­lous land­lords who may not have a ten­ant’s best in­ter­ests at heart.

For peace of mind, seek advice from a let­tings agent af­fil­i­ated to a pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tion like ARLA. All ARLA agents must ad­here to a strict code of con­duct, as well as of­fer­ing client money pro­tec­tion and re­dress schemes, which pro­tect con­sumers if things go wrong.

3. Don’t ig­nore the smallprint. Find out what kind of ten­ancy agree­ment you are sign­ing, as this can make a dif­fer­ence to your li­a­bil­ity. Many shared ten­an­cies will have a joint and sev­eral li­a­bil­ity clause and this means you are re­spon­si­ble for the ac­tions of your co-ten­ants for the terms of the ten­ancy, not just the pay­ment of rent. Be­fore you en­ter such an agree­ment con­sider how well you know your shar­ers.

If you do wish to get out of the ten­ancy dur­ing the fixed term, en­sure you take in­de­pen­dent advice as to any on­go­ing li­a­bil­ity you may have. As well as check­ing this, make a note of the no­tice pe­riod – even if your land­lord knows you are a stu­dent, you will have to give ad­e­quate no­tice (usu­ally a month) at the end of term when you want to move out. Fail­ing to do so may mean that you have to pay rent after you’ve moved out.

If you are plan­ning to rent a prop­erty with other ten­ants, it is im­per­a­tive to en­sure that the land­lord has the rel­e­vant Homes in Mul­ti­ple Oc­cu­pancy (HMO) li­cence, as this is a le­gal re­quire­ment which can dif­fer in cer­tain parts of the coun­try and within ar­eas of a town or city. Fi­nally, check your de­posit is be­ing put into a de­posit pro­tec­tion scheme by the land­lord – this is a le­gal re­quire­ment in Eng­land and Wales, and is likely to be shortly in Scot­land, but it is still important to make sure.

4.Be aware of hid­den costs. When work­ing out your bud­get it is important to fac­tor in costs on top of the weekly or monthly rental rate.

The de­posit can of­ten rep­re­sent sig­nif­i­cant ini­tial out­lay and is typ­i­cally the equiv­a­lent of six weeks’ rent. And util­i­ties bills, TV li­cence and in­ter­net ac­cess will all need to be fac­tored in, even if you are shar­ing the cost with other ten­ants. If you are a stu­dent liv­ing only with other stu­dents, you will usu­ally be ex­empt from pay­ing coun­cil tax.

In ad­di­tion, even if the prop­erty you are rent­ing is fur­nished, it is worth check­ing which items of fur­ni­ture come with the prop­erty to avoid ex­pen­sive sur­prises when you move in.

5. Insurance and In­ven­to­ries. Of­ten, while you are a stu­dent, your per­sonal prop­erty will be cov­ered by your par­ents’ con­tents insurance, but if you aren’t cov­ered, there are a num­ber of insurance providers which of­fer stu­dent-spe­cific poli­cies.

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