By understanding their rights when renting properties, students can avoid falling victim to crooked landlords, living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions, and losing any of their precious pennies.
Once you have located the student house you are happy with, the first things you need to sort out with the landlord are the contract and the deposit.
Although it is not actually a legal requirement to have a written licence or tenancy agreement – verbal contracts are equally binding – it is recommended that you insist on signing a contract so that you are sure about the terms of your agreement, and because it is easier to refer to as evidence if something does go wrong.
It is also advisable for students to opt for individual or sole contracts rather than joint ones, as this means each person is only liable for their part of the rent. If a house member happens to leave mid-year, then you will be relieved that you don’t have to pick up their debts.
Finally, before putting pen the paper, it’s very important that you are fully of the details of the contract you are signing, and are happy with all the terms in it.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
If you are concerned about handing over your deposit after hearing scare stories then put your mind at ease. Rules are now in force to stop landlords withholding part or all a deposit upon leaving without good reason.
All landlords and letting agents now have to sign up to the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme, a crucial safety net for both tenants and responsible landlords. Deposits will be paid back to residents at the end of the tenancy unless there is a dispute regarding, for example, damage caused or unpaid rent. Any disagreements are handled by a free resolution service.
One of the most common areas for disagreements between student tenants and landlords is repair problems. It is therefore important to understand where you stand if repairs need doing in your property before the tenancy begins.
Under implied legal obligation, landlords are responsible for the basic upkeep of the property. They must keep the structure and exterior in good repair – including drains, gutters and external piping – and are obliged to keep its installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, heating and hot water in good working order. This would include sinks or toilets, for example, but not features that may use the utility supplies, such as a kettle or washing machine.
Landlords are not responsible for all kinds of repair, as tenants themselves have a responsibility for keeping the property in a reasonable state. They must also avoid or repair any wilful or negligent damage.
It is also not the landlord’s responsibility to make improvements to the property, unless these have been agreed in writing before the contract was signed.
Furniture and Furnishing Standards
The landlord is liable for the furniture and furnishings supplied with the property, particularly those items that are upholstered.
They must adhere to regulations where introduced to reduce the number of people killed and injured by toxic fumes emitted when upholstered materials burn. All upholstered furniture or furnishings included with rented properties must meet strict fire resistance requirements. The only exemptions are sleeping bags, bed clothes, loose covers for mattresses, carpets, curtains and any furniture made before 1950.
Electrical Equipment Standards
The electrical equipment that is supplied in your accommodation is also the responsibility of the landlord, who must make sure that it is safe to operate. Instructions concerning their safe and proper operation should also be provided where necessary.
Regulations are in place that requires all electrical appliances to be fitted with an approved plug with sleeved pins. Each plug must also carry the name and reference number for an appropriate approved body, which is typically BSI or ASTA.
Gas Safety Standards
It is important that you ask your landlord for a copy of the current gas safety certificate. Every year around 50 people die, and many more suffer serious illness as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty gas appliances and blocked flues. Landlords are legally responsible for maintaining gas appliances and are required to have a safety inspection every 12 months.