You Break It You Pay For It: Student Housing Advice

student break

As a student leaving home for the first time the thought of going to live with other students is an exciting one. Living with other like-minded individuals, staying up until the small hours of the morning and bonding over Pot Noodles are all part of the student lifestyle and some of the most enjoyable years of your life will be spent in student accommodation. However, living in rented property isn’t all fun and games and it’s important to remember that the house or flat is not owned by you or your fellow students. There are rules that must be adhered to – rules laid out by a landlord when signing a rental agreement and national flat inventory.

Getting back your deposit

When you move into a rented property, the landlord will generally ask for a deposit. This maybe to the sum of one month’s rent, maybe two months’ rent – either way, you are going to be handing over a significant amount of cash.

The idea behind taking a deposit from the landlord’s point of view is that it gives you as the tenant an incentive to look after the house. What it also does is provide the landlord with some financial collateral should any damage show up in the end of tenancy inventory report.

To ensure that everyone is able to have their deposits returned without dispute, you should lay down some ground rules before moving in.

First, every person living in the property should be clear about the rental agreement and what is and is not allowed. Establish how much rent each individual has to pay and when. It can be a good idea to have each member of the household pay their share of the rent by direct debit, this way everyone can avoid lending money and the risk of jeopardising a friendship over disputes.

There should also be a common understanding that whoever breaks something pays for it. That way bills will not end up falling in the lap of other students.

Try to spend as much time together as a group as possible, that way you can all pull together to abide by the rules of the landlord and air any grievances without causing too much tension.

UK property inventories

UK property inventories are an essential part of the rental agreement and something that should be done before you move in and after you move out. Generally, the landlord will compile a property inventory and you will be required to sign it, declaring that the condition of the home and its contents is as the document says. If the landlord does not provide you with an inventory report it is well worth investing in rental inventory services. UK companies carrying this type of report are comprehensive in what they do and will check the house top to bottom for damage, ticking off items down to the last piece of cutlery.

It is also worth carry out regular inventories yourself during your tenancy, just to ensure everything is as it should be.

An inventory report will help prevent disputes over damage and the general condition of a home (usual wear and tear is allowed) and should be signed by all parties involved in the rental agreement.
Before moving out of the home, you should give yourself a few weeks to carry out any cleaning and minor repairs. Schedule an appointment with the landlord at least a week before you move out. This way, anything that is flagged can be rectified. As long as you have kept to the inventory checklist, there will be no dispute over the returning of your deposit.

Living in rented accommodation with fellow students should always be an enjoyable experience that results in you receiving your deposit back and the end of the tenancy. The arrangement of UK property inventories will help ensure that you do get your money back, and we all know how much you’ll need it!

5 Things every student should know before renting

student-renting-nolettinggoLeaving the family home to live in rented accommodation as a student is as daunting as it is exciting. The thoughts of a student are generally consumed by studying and socialising rather than the responsibilities of running a home and living with others. However, the good parts of being a student are definitely made easier if you know your rights and are organised when it comes renting. For the most part, landlords are genuine and caring people that are a joy to deal with, but there also some out there that are not so pleasant and can make your tenancy a misery if you allow yourself to be taken advantage of.

To make your rental experience a memorable one for the right reasons, here are five things that every student should know before renting.

1. Landlords are obligated to protect your deposit

Since April 6, 2007, landlords have a legal obligation to protect the deposits of tenants under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Landlords must safeguard deposits in one of three government schemes and inform tenants as to which scheme they are using within 30 days of receiving payment.

2. Don’t rent without an inventory

UK property inventories are provided by specialised inventory services and are designed to monitor the condition of a property and its contents before a tenant moves in and just before they move out. Having an inventory in place helps prevent disputes between landlord and tenant over damages that could result is the withholding of a deposit. If the landlord does not provide you with an inventory to sign, as the tenant you are well advised to compile your own. It is possible to do this yourself using photos and written descriptions; however, using one of the many qualified rental inventory services in the UK will ensure a much more comprehensive document.

3. You must abide by the rental agreement

As a tenant, it is important that you fully understand and adhere to the rental agreement provided by the landlord. The agreement will determine what is and is not possible in the house (i.e. pets, smoking, modifications) and you may be evicted and lose your deposit if you do not abide by the rules. If you wish to make any changes to the property, make sure to first seek permission from the landlord in writing.

4. You may not have to pay council tax

If you are a full-time student, you will be exempt from paying council tax; part-time students, though, will not be. When renting with other students it is wise to stick with people undertaking the same length of study. If you are a full-time student, try to share with other full-time students and vice-versa

property-to-let-students-nolettinggo5. Landlords are responsible for most repairs

Landlords have a ‘duty of care’ to tenants that involves carrying out most major exterior and structural repairs. Any problems related to the roof, walls, guttering, chimney, and drains must be carried out by the landlord. It is also their responsibility to ensure water, gas, and electricity is always in safe working order.

Most rental agreements will make it the tenants’ responsibility to take care of minor repairs and maintenance related to furniture, décor, and gardens.

Bills aside, renting a home should be an enjoyable experience and armed with these five tips it should be exactly that. One thing you should not forget at the end of your tenancy, though, is your deposit. To get your money back, make sure home or flat inventories have been carried out and signed by both parties. After three years of hard partying, you’ll need that money more than ever!

Photo sources: libguides.blc.edu – flickr.com

Large deposits make inventories more important than ever

This article up from Property Drum by Operations Manager for ARLA, Ian Potter, further highlights how critical inventories with schedule of condition report have become.

With such large sums of money at stake, ARLA has called on tenants and landlords to consider the benefits of establishing a comprehensive property inventory check upon the commencement of a new let.

Ian Potter, Operations Manager of ARLA, said, “Deposit disputes can be one of the biggest problems for both parties involved in any rental property, and many potential issues can be avoided if a professional inventory is prepared.

“A licensed letting agent will offer you the best advice on checking to see if an existing inventory is available or whether any extra charges are invoked in drawing up a new document. A true inventory is not simply a list of items in a property – it also includes a description of the condition and cleanliness at the start and finish of the tenancy, enabling one to be compared against the other with clarity and accuracy.

“Photographs are a good support for comments made in a written inventory but should not be considered a replacement for the written word. Photographs which are unsigned and undated generally are not worth the effort, so make sure they are accepted at the outset and again at the check-out stage.”

Ian Potter said, “A well put-together inventory can give both landlords and tenants peace of mind throughout the occupation period. The inventory is not designed to catch tenants out, but rather to ensure both parties are in agreement over the quality of the property being rented.

“If conducted correctly, and agreed by both tenant and landlord, an inventory should form a key point of reference for any deposit-return queries or issues over reported damage. In recognition of the importance of inventories ARLA has its own sub division, the Association of Professional Inventory Providers, whose members have passed an accreditation exam as well as having a Code of Practice to follow.”

For Professional Inventory Management Services throughout the UK talk to No Letting Go, APIP members, who can provide all inventory management services including Inventory, Check In, Propert Visits and Check Outs with full dilapidations reports. Contact us on 0800 8815 366 or contact one of our local offices at www.nolettinggo.co.uk/contact

Unpaid rent and filthy tenants – Latest Student Landlord Survey 2011

With student market nearly upon us, New Student Publications carried out an interesting straw survey on Student Landlord Problems

Different categories were addressed covering areas from unpaid rent to cleanliness issues.

Unpaid rent, filthy tenants and panicking about filling your properties for next year?

The results were astounding, with over 14% of landlords saying that their current biggest problem is just finding tenants to take their properties and fill in any gaps should someone drop out during a contract, with more than 2% feeling like they are struggling just to get viewings. One agent simply said “we have unlet properties remaining for July 2011, the situation is worse than in previous years” In a similar 2009 survey finding tenants was also the biggest problem raised by landlords.

Dirty Tenants

Landlords cited dirty tenants as their second biggest problem, with 16% left to pick up massive cleaning bills, or called out at 4am to change a lightbulb. The general consensus was “students don’t take care of the property or make any effort to keep the house clean.” 3.5% of agents thought that students demanded a much higher standard of accommodation than ever before, although it seems that tenants are unwilling to take out contracts for a full twelve months, with one landlord struggling to get even shorter terms “the majority of people contact me to rent for one or two months.”

Pressure From Pupose Built Halls

Many of the landlords surveyed said that they felt increased pressure from new purpose built student villages found in many city centres; more than 8% of those surveyed would eradicate those villages if we gave them one wish! 2% of landlords are afraid that their properties were not close enough to ‘hotspots’ and so would soon be abandoned in favour of more central locations.

Unpaid Rent

11% of businesses struggle with unpaid rent, while 2% note that this messes with their cash flow and although some are sympathetic to the issues caused by the Student Loans Company, most are fixed on the bigger picture; “a lot of time is spent chasing payment. Students seem to think that it is not always necessary for them to pay their rent.” This coupled with tenants excessively using all inclusive utilities means that businesses are less profitable. One landlord’s wish was simply that we could ‘undo the recession’ as 8 different landlords complained of increases to the cost of maintaining their properties to a decent standard.

Relax Regulations

Bogged down with HMO paperwork and expense? Over 18% of those surveyed would love to change or relax the regulations and the council powers to control them. One landlord stated; “there should be a national guide for HMO legislation.” Some landlords feel so strongly about HMO licensing that they named specific city councils or even actual councillors as their biggest fear for the future. 3 landlords said they had qualms about council schemes to shift populations from one area of a city to another, and how it would affect their business.

Worries Over Tuition Fee Increase

Landlords are worried about the tuition fee increase, with more than 14% saying that if they had one wish, they would fight the fees and leave the system as it stands, a worry which probably contributes to 13% of them saying that they feel the future of the market is uncertain, as some students may choose to stay at home to study. Competition from the university owned housing is a headache too, with 4% saying an increase in that sort of accommodation would be detrimental to their ability to let.

Problems With Advertising

Landlords raised the issue of advertising, when to do it and how the culture of marketing lets so early can damage the business, with nearly 5% of landlords thinking there should be a guideline that means property is marketed in January and not before. 4% thought university accommodation offices charged them too much for advertising, and 5% would like to see cheaper, and more effective advertising available to them.

Deposit Protection Unfair

Some landlords were concerned that the existing Deposit Protection Scheme did not offer them enough scope to reclaim money for damage to their properties. Eight separate landlords would like to see the entire system revised, with 1% of those surveyed listing it as their biggest problem. A case from the survey highlights the DPS’s flaws; “£1500 worth of damage but ex tenants refuse to give consent to DPS to pay the landlord.” And some feel that from a legal standpoint the law does not protect them, 3% of landlords would like to see more legislation to protect the financial interests of the landlord.

Worries Over The Potential Drop In Student Numbers

And what of the future of the student property market? More than half of those surveyed were very worried about the potential drop in student numbers next year, with one landlord summing up the problems this will create; “if student numbers drop because of the £9,000 a year course fees then we might see empty houses, lower rents or both.” A worry shared by 3% of those surveyed, who fear the contraction in the market will mean a forced reduction of rents, while other suggested offering shorter term contracts or starting to appeal to the housing benefit market was the only way to keep the business afloat.

No Problems At All

But this isn’t the full picture. Almost 9% of those surveyed have no major problems with the lettings market, their tenants or filling their properties. One landlord is more than happy with his tenants; “we enjoy our students. We pride ourselves in helping them learn how to care for and run the house. We regard them as ‘professionals-in-training’ and teach them what they should reasonably expect from a landlord and what they should reasonably do as a tenant.” One respondent would use a magic wand to change the public’s attitude towards students; “they tend to live in larger houses that are too big for modern families and therefore almost act as guardians for some of our most impressive architecture. They should be seen as a positive part of any community.”

 

Top 5 biggest fears for the future Number of responses Percentage
Fewer students in the future 101 54%
Student villages 15 8%
Legislation increasing workload 15 8%
Unpaid rent due to fees 10 5%
Universities moving into market 8 4%
Top 5 current biggest problems Number of responses Percentage
Bad tenants 51 13.6%
Uncertainty for the future 49 13.1%
Finding tenants 48 12%
Unpaid rent 41 11%
HMOs 17 4.5%

No Letting Go are working with a number of student letting agents and bodies around the UK to help protect both landlords and tenants from many of the issues arising from cleanliness and deposit protection. Better use of Inventory services, checking tenants in, property visits and managing the check out is critical to ensuring that potential problems are dealt with in advance and issues arising from check outs are dealt with quickly and efficiently. Contact No Letting Go on 0800 881 5366 or find your nearest office at www.nolettinggo.co.uk

Compiled by Emma Parker New Student – Student Housing Magazines – www.newstudent.co.uk