You’ve found somewhere to live, you’re about to sign the contract and move straight in – there are a few things that you need to consider at each stage in the process before you’re installed in your new place.
Signing the contract (tenancy agreement)
Make sure you read it. This is crucial – it’s so easy to sign on the dotted line, especially if you don’t feel like you’d be able to change the contract even if you wanted to. However, remember that this is a binding legal document and, in most cases, once you’ve signed then you’re committed to whatever it says. You can take the contract to your Student’s Union if you’re struggling or get your parents to read it with you. For more information on what the tenancy agreement should contain, skip to our Student Tenancies section.
Make sure you know what the fees are
The rent and the deposit are unlikely to be the only fees demanded of you and you will need to have everything up front before the agent or landlord will hand over the keys.
- Agent charges – if your landlord is using an agent then there will mostly likely be their admin fees to pay and these are often passed on to the tenants. These should be prominently displayed in the advert for the property.
- Holding deposit – called a deposit but really a fee, this may be an option to reserve the property and take it off the market. It’s normally refundable if you don’t end up moving in but agents or landlords will deduct their costs from it.
- Contract fees – there may be a fee to prepare the contract, normally payable by the tenant or split between landlord and tenant.
- Inventory fees – normally, this charge is paid by the tenant when moving in and the landlord when moving out. It’s important to have an inventory so you have a record of the state of the property when you moved in an can avoid being charged for damage you didn’t do so it’s worth the money.
You will be asked to pay a deposit – this is normally four to six weeks rent in advance. The law requires this deposit to be protected by the landlord in one of three approved government schemes. The deposit must be protected within 30 days of being paid to the landlord and then you must be notified of which scheme is holding the deposit. This is a legal requirement and non-negotiable. If your landlord says something along the lines of “let’s not do that it’s expensive and a hassle” then don’t agree – it doesn’t cost you the tenant anything to do it and landlords are not complying with the law if they don’t. For more information skip to the Deposits and Student Properties section.
Moving in checklist
- Sign and date the tenancy agreement (contract). Make sure you get a copy for your records.
- Get a receipt for the money paid to the agent/landlord. Make a bank transfer or use a cheque rather than cash.
- Get a copy of the gas safety certificate for the boiler (a legal requirement for the landlord to give it to you).
- Ask for a copy of the last electrical safety record.
- Fill out the inventory. Go around with your housemates and note any existing damage or furniture and fittings that have seen better days. Add time stamped photos if you have that as an option.
- Make sure the agent or landlord signs the inventory, or send it to them via email and state that it’s agreed unless you hear otherwise. If you’ve taken time stamped pictures then if you can print them out and get the landlord or agent to sign them you’ll be in an even stronger position.
- If the agent uses an inventory clerk then, when the inventory arrives, take it around the property with you and go through it in detail. These are often wrong so make sure you add in any issues you spot. If you don’t then you may end up having to pay for them later.
- Get some insurance. Burglaries of student houses are common and your possessions won’t always be covered by your parents’ insurance.
- Get a TV licence – it’s just not worth the fines these days so buy one as a house from tvlicensing.co.uk and split the cost.
- Allocate utilities bills to everyone in the house so that someone has responsibility for each bill. They will then need to make sure they call the utilities company and transfer the account into their own names.
- Set up a standing order for your rent. There can be penalties for missing rent payments and it’s much easier to set it up to come out automatically.
- Ask the agent/landlord for emergency contact details. You should be given contact details for regular issues and also a number that you can call at the weekends/in the evenings if something urgently needs to be taken care of.
- Find out which scheme is protecting your deposit. You’ve probably already asked this question but if not, now’s the time to do it. As soon as your deposit is paid over your landlord has 30 days to notify you in writing which one it is.
- Make sure everyone has a key – the landlord or agent should give you one key for everyone in the property.
- Make a cup of tea! You’re about to start the unpacking/flat pack furniture assembly but at least you’re in. Time for a cup of tea and a sit down for five minutes!
Initial decisions – where to live, who to live with, viewing properties, what to look out for, questions to ask.
When you’re renting for the first time it can seem like a pretty intimidating prospect – where do you even start finding the right place, the right people and making sure you don’t get ripped off? Luckily, The Tenant’s Voice Student Guide is here to help you answer all these questions and more. So, before you start your search for a student property, here are a few things to think about.
Where are you going to live?
You may already have a good idea or you may just be rather the dazed by the prospect of it all.
– Most cities have student ‘areas’ where others have naturally congregated so decide whether you’ll appreciate being with your own kind or not.
– Check out bus and train routes and decide what would be an acceptable commute time to campus for you. If it helps (and you’re a bit of a geek) get a map and draw a circle around the campus that indicates which properties are with x miles or travel time.
– What do you want to have nearby? Are you keen for a residential road where you can study in peace and quiet or are you desperate to be in the centre of the action? Do you need a corner shop for milk and beans or are you happy to walk a bit to pick up a paper.
– What are the safe areas of the city? This is an important consideration for all tenants. You can get local crime rates from police.co.uk and by doing an online search you’ll be able to compare different areas.
Who are you going to live with?
Your housemates are a pretty key component of student living and you could make friends for life or some pretty irritating enemies so give some serious thought to who you sign a contract with.
- Remember that you’ll normally be responsible for anyone housemates who don’t pay the rent so avoid people you know are unreliable and always skint.
- Try to choose people who have a similar attitude to money as you – if you’re a dependable budgeter and you enjoy the scrimping and saving then you might struggle with someone who goes from big blow outs on lobster and champagne to stealing housemates’ food.
- And also to cleaning. If you all want to get a cleaner, great, get a cleaner but make sure you agree on how you’re going to look after the house before anything gets signed. This will not only impact on how you find living with your housemates but also whether you get your deposit back too.
- Choose people you trust. If you have an instinct about someone then listen to it as bad housemates can make uni life really difficult. It’s a stressful time and probably the first time people have lived alone away from home so there are bound to be some stumbling blocks. However, if you think someone is going to be a constant party animal, super messy or moody then think twice before putting your name next to theirs on the contract.
Disclaimer: This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our Student accommodation category.
If you experience problems with your tenancy deposit, have disrepair in your rented property or suspect that your landlord should have a licence to rent your property but does not have one then you can receive a free consultation by calling our advice service: Call Tenant Assist on 0333 344 3788.
For more ways to reach us, please visit our contacts page.