For students this year, university will be about support bubbles, remote learning and socially distanced social events. But it isn’t all fun and games. Heading into second year, many young people are forced to grow up quickly when suddenly struck with tenancy agreements and direct debit forms, all whilst navigating letting agent jargon, cultivating their first tenant-landlord relationship, and studying of course.
Before signing your tenancy agreement, download our free student renter’s checklist for everything you need to know.
So, if you’re a first-time renter don’t panic, check out our five top tips here:
A tenancy agreement is essentially a contract between you and your landlord. It’s extremely important that you read it carefully and entirely before you sign it, to make sure that you’re fully aware of your rights and responsibilities and of what your landlord expects from you.
The agreement which you sign at the beginning of your tenancy may also require you to provide a financial guarantor who is responsible for paying your rent if you are unable to, so have a good think about who would be able to fulfil this role. Make sure you discuss it with that person before you submit their name as part of the agreement, as it is a big financial responsibility to take on.
Have a close look at the deposit section of the agreement to make sure you’re aware of the circumstances which would cause the landlord to withhold your deposit. For example, if you sign a tenancy agreement which states that the property must be cleaned to ‘exactly’ the same standard as when you moved in, deductions will be made from the deposit if it is not. Other rules may also be set out regarding maintenance of the property – for example, tenancy agreements may require tenants to maintain the garden or forbid the hanging of posters and stickers on walls. In order to abide by these rules, it is important to read the tenancy agreement. For advice on how to avoid common garden maintenance disputes, check out Hamilton Fraser’s guide here.
Arguably, the most important factor to consider when selecting a new home is affordability. By signing a tenancy agreement, you are committing to making rental payments for the property, but there are often additional expenses on top. Occasionally tenancy agreements may stipulate that utility bills are included, but not always, so be aware of extra costs like household, council tax and tv licence bills, which must be considered when establishing the affordability of a property.
Choosing who to share your home with is a big decision. And although we might be drawn towards the biggest party animal or social butterfly, perhaps we should look for the most trustworthy, financially stable, and most likely to help with the washing up.
Students are commonly offered an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (AST) where tenants can be held jointly liable. This means that tenants are often responsible for the whole rental amount, not just their portion. Therefore, if one tenant vacates the property without paying their share of the rent, the other tenants will be held legally responsible. So, take this into consideration when deciding who should be your future housemate.
According to data from deposit protection scheme, mydeposits, cleaning is the most common reason why there are disputes amongst students. So, make sure you choose housemates who will be happy to muck in at the end of the tenancy to clean the property and satisfy expectations of cleanliness set out in the tenancy agreement in order to have full deposits reimbursed.
When you move into your new property take time-stamped photos and written notes about the condition of key items so that they can be used as evidence if any disputes about condition arise at the end of the tenancy.
For example, it is useful to keep a list of key items such as the bed, wardrobe, sofa, doors etc. and take photos of their condition when you move in. Alternatively, some landlords and agents may provide a check-in and check-out report where they note the condition of items before and after your tenancy. While taking inventory notes and photos when you move in, don’t forget to take meter readings to ensure that you only pay for electricity, water and gas that you have used.
Your safety in your new home is paramount. And it is the responsibility of the landlord or agent to make sure that the property is completely safe and compliant with legal regulations and requirements. Make sure that you receive all the required information regarding safety before you move in.
Landlords have a legal obligation to protect their tenants and ensure that their properties are free from health hazards. This means they must ensure that all gas and electrical equipment is safely installed, provide you with a gas safety certificate and an energy performance certificate.
It is highly likely that your landlord will ask you for a deposit before your tenancy begins and, in this case, they are legally required to put your deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme like mydeposits. For more information on your landlord’s obligations check out the mydeposits guide for tenants.
If you have paid a deposit your landlord must protect it in a government-approved scheme within 30 days. They should provide you with deposit paperwork which often includes a deposit protection certificate, an information for tenants’ leaflet, and advice on how to get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy.
Find out more from mydeposits on how to get your deposit back here .
Traditional deposits involve a lump sum payment to the landlord before the tenancy begins, but Ome offers a replacement by substituting your deposit with small monthly payments.
Co-founder of Ome, Matthew Hooker, commented:
“Ome offers flexibility and choice to renters who have previously been bogged down with upfront costs and lack of alternatives, we provide the same protection – for both tenants and landlords – as traditional deposit schemes as well as free dispute resolution.
As students head off to university in September many will be concerned about the upfront payment of a housing deposit, that’s one of the reasons why we developed Ome: to offer flexibility for those who prefer to pay in monthly instalments.”