Student moving home? Read this first.


Moving out of student halls, or the family home, and into rented accommodation for the first time can be exciting.

However if you're not clued up on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, problems may arise when you need to move again.

"Remember when you sign a tenancy agreement that it can be difficult to get out of it," says Nadeem Khan, helpline advisor at Shelter. "To avoid trouble there are some key things that students should be aware of when renting for the first time."

So what should students bear in mind as they unpack their bags?

Make sure your deposit is protected.

Research from the NUS published in 2014 revealed that almost half of student tenants were unsure if their deposit was protected, and a fifth had not received the legally required paperwork confirming protection.

Landlords must do two things with deposits. They have to protect them within a deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving them, and they must give information about which scheme they're protected with.

Ben Beadle, director of customer relations at the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, says: "It's clear that a distinct lack of knowledge exists.

"We've seen a sharp rise in queries from students over the summer having issues reclaiming their deposits. Many don't know if their deposit is protected or what the money can be used for – both are questions they need to ask at the start of the tenancy.

"When renting, getting your deposit back hangs on the action you take from the day you move in, not just when you move out. Most importantly tenants must check that the deposit is protected in a government approved scheme."

Make an inventory when you move in.

Once you've checked that your deposit is protected, put in the work to make sure that you get it back when you move out. To do that, make sure you look thoroughly at the property when you move in and create an inventory.

"Once you move into a new property I'd advise you to check for any damages and the general condition of the property," says Khan. "Make sure any issues that arise are recorded in the inventory to avoid any disputes when you leave the tenancy."

It's also important to make sure the property is safe. "Ask to see the gas safety certificate and make sure the property is fitted with a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide detector."

For more help on making an inventory, look at Shelter's advice here.

Know what type of contract you're on – and whether you can get out of it.

Students renting shared accommodation can either have separate or joint tenancy agreements.

If you have a joint tenancy – where everyone signs the same tenancy agreement – all tenants have responsibility for the rent, so if one person defaults or moves out, the remaining tenants may have to pay their share.

It can be difficult for one person to move out of a fixed-term joint tenancy agreement, so know what contract you have signed.

"If you've got a fixed-term tenancy and you want to leave before it ends, the landlord can insist that you keep paying rent for the full length of the tenancy," says Khan.

"If you have a joint fixed-term tenancy it can't be ended early unless all the housemates and the landlord agree, which is known as a surrender, or if there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement.

"If someone wants to leave and others want to stay, you could negotiate a new agreement or find another, but the landlord would have to agree to this."

Know how to contact your landlord

Landlords are responsible for most repairs. If they refuse to carry them out, students can get advice from an organisation like Shelter or their student union.

Make sure that you know how to contact your landlord and that you've asked them how appliances work. That way you can talk to them about any repairs before they get worse.

"You'd be surprised how many calls we get from students who are confused about how to use the washing machine or even the oven," says Khan. "Make sure you've asked about these and get contact details, just in case of an emergency."

It's also a good idea to nominate one tenant to be responsible for liaising with the landlord, to avoid any confusion or oversights. And always keep a copy of any letters you send to your landlord, just in case.

Understand your responsibilities

As a renter you have a duty to pay your bills on time and to not disturb the neighbours. Remember it can be hard to get out of a shared tenancy agreement so try to get on with your housemates and talk through any problems with your landlord calmly.

"Whoever you're sharing with, be sure to set some ground rules," says Khan. "Agree who's paying the rent and whose name the bills are in. You could ask that everybody's name is on the utility bill so you're all responsible."

Take care when finding a property:  If you haven't yet moved into a new house, but are looking for somewhere to live, then there are some things to bear in mind.

Letting agents: Ask the agent for the full list of fees involved before you agree to the property. Remember that letting agents can't charge you to register with them or to show you around properties. If they ask for payment for this, report them to your university or accommodation office.

Costs: Ask to see a copy of the energy performance certificate – find out how energy efficient the property is because the more efficient it is, the cheaper it'll be to keep warm. You should also consider the location because travel can make a big difference to your budget.

Visit and talk to housemates: View the property where possible and try and speak to the housemates. They'll be able to tell you whether the property suffers from things like damp, or whether the landlord or letting agent is easy to get hold of when issues arise.

Tenancy agreement: Have the tenancy agreement checked over by the student union or even your Citizens Advice Bureau. If there's anything you're not happy with, you can go back to the landlord or letting agent and suggest changes.

Useful links

• Housing charity Shelter's advice for students
• The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)
• If in doubt, you can also visit your student union or student welfare officer for advice.


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