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Things Students Need to Know When Renting a Home

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Are you a student? Living in private rented accommodation? 

Thousands across the country are in higher education.

From HMOs, to the different types of tenancy, to deposits, there’s plenty to get your head around. The more you know, the better.

We’ll help you get clued up. Here’s some advice for students renting.

Advice for students renting a property – 11 top tips 

  1. Read your tenancy agreement closely
  2. Ensure your deposit is secured with an accredited scheme 
  3. Maintain a good relationship with your landlord
  4. Check the inventory closely
  5. Speak to the tenants of the previous property
  6. Ensure your landlord has a HMO licence
  7. Check your insurance
  8. Check that the property is secure
  9. Budget, budget, budget
  10. Use a letting agent affiliated with a professional organisation
  11. Do your research

Covid-19 & its impact on students

Currently, there’s a significant lack of guidance and help out there for students. The pandemic has not only disrupted academic studies, but also living situations.

Students studying this (and the previous) academic year have found themselves in a position where they’re paying rent for accommodation they can’t live in.

For students living in privately-rented accommodation, government guidance states you must still be provided with a safe, well-maintained place to live. No evictions are expected to be carried out until 25th January 2021 at the earliest, but notices can be served from the 11th onwards. 

Unlike halls of residence, if students don’t pay rent, private landlords likely can’t keep up with mortgage payments. 

House hunting tips

You might decide to go at it alone and search for student accommodation through online searches or tip-offs from your friends.

Alternatively, you could try a lettings agency. They will be able to search their listings for landlords happy to accept students as tenants (not all landlords do so, as some unfairly regard student tenants as a higher risk).

It’s recommended to use a letting agent affiliated with a self-regulating body, such as ARLA. Be warned, agents will charge a fee.

The different types of tenancy

It’s important to understand the different types of tenancy:

  • a joint tenancy
    • Everyone is equally responsible for paying the rent – but all of you sign one tenancy agreement 
  • a sole tenancy
    • If only one tenant signs the tenancy agreement
  • renting a room in your landlord’s home as a lodger
  • renting a room with shared facilities, such as a bathroom, (technically known as a HMO)

Each type of tenancy has its rules and obligations on the part of the landlord and of the tenant. It’s essential you know your tenant rights. Many use student loans to pay rent, but remember it will be a different type to that used for tuition fees.

What is a HMO? 

A HMO stands for ‘Houses of Multiple Occupation’, and refers to private accommodation shared by multiple people. 

To meet the criteria, the rule is you live in a HMO if there are: 

  • 3 people or more 
  • From different households
  • Renting from a private landlord
  • You share a bathroom, kitchen & living facilities

For a large HMO, change the number from 3 people to 5 people. Most privately-rented student housing will be a HMO.

What’s different? 

It’s essential you know your rights as a tenant. Your landlord must take a number of extra safety precautions, including providing a fire extinguisher. 

HMOs & Coronavirus 

All residents should follow safety precautions, including ventilating areas. If one of you starts showing symptoms, behave in the way you would if you were one household: you must all self-isolate.

Council tax 

If you’re a full-time student at university or college, you don’t have to pay council tax.

No council tax bill will be issued if all tenants are full-time students. If someone is not a full-time student, the bill is issued to them, but they may claim a discount due to the student members of the household. For other bills though, such as TV licence and utilities, you’ll need to split the bills fairly. Apps can help you do this.

Understanding deposits

At the beginning of your tenancy, you’re likely to be asked for a deposit – to cover the cost of any damage you may cause. 

Recovering a deposit has been made more secure for tenants through the introduction for all assured shorthold tenancies of a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme. This requires your landlord to hold the money in an approved, independent protection scheme.

The scheme also provides arbitration in the event of a dispute with your landlord about the return of a deposit. 

Your landlord must register your deposit with one of the approved schemes within 30 days of receiving it – and provide you with evidence. 

Inventories 

You must be provided with a detailed inventory of all the fixtures and fittings, and their condition, when moving in. Look through this carefully. If you disagree on the condition of a particular item, raise the concern early on. It might help avoid deposit disputes later on. 

Check the EPC 

An EPC is important when renting, as it will impact how much your bills are. It stands for Energy Performance Certificate, and a lower rating may mean your property isn’t energy efficient, meaning your bills will be higher. Properties are given a rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). 

If it is low (D or below) you could negotiate cheaper rent, or look elsewhere.

You must see it before signing the agreement. 

Tips for a happy tenancy

No one wants to fall out with their landlord, so here are some tips to help things run smoothly: 

  • Keep communication open 
  • Maintain the property in a good condition 
  • Inform your landlord of any damage 
  • Clean thoroughly at the end

Set a monthly budget

Even with the help of student loans, it’s easy to let spending get out of control. Setting a budget and watching your spending is a good idea. This way, you can see if it’s spiralling and where you’re spending most of your money.

Want to make rent payments count? 

You pay your rent every month, why shouldn’t your credit history reflect this? In the future, a good credit score will help you secure a mortgage and other loans (among other things). 

The Canopy app is dedicated to helping renters, from student to beyond. You can help keep track of your spending, get vetted more easily and ensure your regular payments count towards your future.

Download it today to make renting cheaper, easier and quicker.

Insurance 

Most students won’t consider rental insurance, however, you may not be covered by your parents’ policy. This is particularly true if your accommodation doesn’t have a burglar alarm, for example.

Research, research, research

It never hurts to have a chat with the previous tenants and get their advice. You could ask them how much they roughly spend in bills, what the landlord is like etc.

While student accommodation is temporary, you should look into the surrounding area as well as the property. This will impact how much you enjoy living somewhere!

Choose your suppliers

Did you know that if you rent, you have the right to choose your utility and broadband supplier? 

Switching energy suppliers will not only help you find a better deal and save you money, but allow you to do your bit for the planet! Why not find a supplier backed by 100% renewable energy? 

Switch Energy Supplier

Last Updated: August 11th, 2021