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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Renting private student accommodation

If you’re renting from a private landlord or letting agent, find out whether your property needs to be licensed. Read any tenancy agreement carefully and if you’re not happy, seek advice immediately.

Renting a place of your own

If you’re planning to move out of halls in your second year, you’ll probably need to start looking for private accommodation in the spring term of your first year.

Remember that as a student, you have the same rights as any other private tenant.

For tips on where to start looking, see ‘Student housing: finding somewhere to live’.

Does your landlord need a licence?

If you live with friends, check with your local authority to see if your landlord needs to get a ‘House in Multiple Occupation’ (HMO) licence for your property.

Your house must be specially licensed as a ‘House in Multiple Occupation’ if it has:

  • five or more unrelated people sharing

and:

  • three or more storeys

Some local authorities may also choose to license houses with smaller numbers of occupants or storeys.

This licence requires landlords to be capable managers, and to ensure the house is occupied by a limited number of people.

Tenancy deposits and guarantors

Once you’ve found a suitable place to rent, most landlords and letting agents will need you to pay a deposit, and may also ask for a guarantor before they draw up a contract. They may also ask you to pay rent in advance.

Don't hand over any money until you've had a good look around the property: check for obvious signs of disrepair, damp, badly fitting doors or windows, or anything that could compromise your security.

It might also help to take someone else with you to get their views on the property.

Paying a deposit

Landlords often ask for a deposit to cover missing rent or damage made to the property. Always get a written receipt for money paid to a landlord or letting agent.

Ask your landlord if they will provide an inventory of the contents of the house, including kitchen goods such as a kettle and toaster.

Your deposit should be returned to you if all fees have been settled and the property has not been damaged beyond normal wear and tear. If you feel that it's being withheld unfairly, see 'Problems with rented student accommodation' for tips on getting your deposit back.

Guarantors

Your landlord may ask students to provide a guarantor who agrees to cover costs if you don’t pay the rent, or cause significant damage to the property. A guarantor will usually be a parent or guardian.

If you have a joint tenancy, any guarantor will also be jointly liable for overdue rent or damage caused by the other tenants.

Guarantors can try and limit their liability by writing it into their guarantor agreement - to do this, seek independent legal advice.

Tenancy agreements

Tenancy agreements help to protect your rights as a tenant and outline what your obligations will be.

Whatever your type of tenancy, read any paperwork involved carefully before you agree to move in or sign any written agreements.

Whatever type of agreement you sign, you will be required to look after your property in a reasonable way - for example, emptying bins and keeping the house tidy and clean.

For more information on different types of tenancies, see ‘Types of tenancies - private renting’.

If you break the terms of your agreement

If you break any terms of a tenancy agreement - for example, if you cause damage to the property or fall behind with your rent, your landlord may be entitled to begin eviction procedures against you.

This could include having people to stay for long periods of time if you are living in a licensed house in multiple occupation (HMO). Check to see if the agreement limits the number of people allowed to live in the property.

Problems after you've moved in

Find out about repairs, maintenance and what to do if one of your housemates leaves you in the lurch in ‘Problems with rented student accommodation’.

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