Students need to be careful when taking on a rented home
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.