Moving out of halls and into a house with your best friends can be an exciting time, but there are some things you should know before you do.
The chances are that during your time at university, you will hear plenty of landlord/house horror stories, but if you know your rights and look after them, you’ll be fine. Here’s what you should know:
When you search
The earlier that you hunt for your house for the next year, the better. You’ll get your pick of the best properties, which is ideal if you are in a large group of six or more people, as bigger properties are generally harder to come by.
Generally, the frenzy of finding accommodation picks up pace from around February. It’s important to visit properties and talk to the people who live there at the moment – what kind of bills do they pay?
How long is their commute to uni? Does the house suffer from damp, or does it get particularly cold in the winter? They will be best prepared to answer your questions honestly. Consider all the costs, not just the rent, but the bills and the cost of travelling to campus.
If you are going through a letting agent, watch out for admin fees and potential hidden costs. Trusted agencies will always tell you their full fees up front.
Before you move in
- Know the terms of your contract
You should know whether you and your housemates will have separate tenancy agreements or a joint tenancy agreement. A joint tenancy means that you all share the same agreement, so if one person moves out or defaults, the other people will have to pay their share. If your tenancy is fixed-term and you want to move out before the end date, you will have to pay until the end of the tenancy. Knowing the terms of your tenancy can help you decide whether you want to go ahead or not.
- Know how to contact your landlord
Your landlord will be responsible for most repairs on the property, so knowing how to contact them is vital in the event that something breaks. You can also ask them for information on how to use the property’s appliances like the washing machine or the oven to avoid breaking something. You should aim to nominate a housemate to be responsible for liaising with the landlord as it helps to avoid confusion. You should always keep a record of any communication.
- Understand your responsibilities
As a tenant, you have a responsibility to pay your bills on time and not disrupt the neighbours. You should also check the terms of your tenancy agreement as some landlords expect you to be responsible for maintenance tasks such as de-weeding the garden and having the oven professionally cleaned. If you don’t perform these tasks, you risk losing your deposit.
- Ensure your deposit is protected
Legally, landlords must protect your deposit in a deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it. You should also receive information about which scheme the deposit is protected with. If you are unsure what your deposit can be used for, don’t leave any questions until the end of the tenancy.
- Check out the home insurance
You should know if you are covered by the landlord’s home insurance or whether you need to take out your own policy – this relates to your individual belongings, like your laptop and games console. If you aren’t protected by the house insurance, this could be a nasty shock in the event that the worst happens.
- Make sure the property is safe
Ask to see the gas safety certificate and ensure the property is fitted with a smoke alarm. If you are not able to see the safety documents, walk away – it’s not worth risking your life.
When you move in
- Make an inventory and take pictures when you move in
Your landlord should provide you with an inventory of everything that is in the property on the day that you move in. If they don’t, ask the letting agency or make one yourself. Also, take dated pictures of things like cracks in the wall, peeling paint or marks on the carpet – things that you could get the blame for when you move out and thus lose your deposit. Send the photos to your landlord or letting agency at the same time.
- Take a gas and electricity meter reading
Whether your bills are included or not, take a gas and electricity meter reading on the day that you move in, as well as the day that you move out. This avoids the landlord or the utility provider overcharging you.
- Set up a standing order to pay rent
The easiest way to ensure that you will never forget to pay your rent is to set up a standing order. You can set one up by visiting your local bank – most landlords will adjust their rent payment dates to fit with the student loan payment timetable, but some might not.
If you or your housemates have a car, it’s worth asking about parking permits as the last thing you want is a parking ticket outside your own home. You might also want to get visitors parking permits for when your friends and family come to visit you.
- Pay for a professional clean
As a tenant, this will be the most important money that you spend. It could be the difference between getting your deposit back and losing it. In a group, it won’t cost you much more than £30 each. You can clean the property yourself, but getting it done to a professional standard will look better.
- Look for the little things
Look out for the little things that could stop you getting your deposit back – cracks in the wall, marks on the sideboard, even stains on the hob. You don’t want to give the landlord any excuse to not give you your money back.
- Know when you should get your deposit back
The tenancy agreement should state when you can expect to get your deposit back. It should usually be within a month or so of leaving the property, so knowing the date is beneficial as you can chase the landlord up if you don’t hear anything.
Moving into a student house is nothing to worry about, as long as you know your rights. Ensure your deposit is protected, take photos when you move in and leave the property as you found it – you shouldn’t encounter any problems.
By Leila Jones,
Leila Jones is a content writer for Light Supplier. She studied Public Relations at Sheffield Hallam University and spent two years in halls before sharing a house with six others in her final year.