Moving into your first student house or flat is an exciting time. It will be your home from home for many months, so you need to find the right property. Whether you’re after a warm place to study or a pre-drinks venue, here’s what to consider before signing up to anything.
Our next physical accommodation fair - 26th November, 11am-5pm in the SU.
We also have our digital accommodation fair you can check out.
Make sure it’s legal
A shared student house is usually a house in multiple occupations (HMO) governed by strict criteria under the Housing Act 2004, which stipulates that rooms must be a minimum of 6.51 sq metres. The local authority will set amenity standards, such as the number of bathrooms, toilets, hand basins and sinks, and the size of worktops and fridge space.
Most shared student homes require a licence, so you should make sure you see one before signing the tenancy and send it through to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free tenancy check. Landlords and agents are legally required to provide certain documents to tenants, including the gas safety certificate, energy performance certificate (EPC), how to rent guide and details of the authorised scheme within which the tenancy deposit has been protected.
What to look for in a tenancy agreement
Check the start date and end date – Remember most tenancies start on the 1st of September, your student finance will not have been paid at this date so you will need to cover at least 5 weeks rent.
Make sure you know your rights / landlord rights and what those obligations are:
Check for any agreed changes to the terms of the contract and ensure you have this in writing, so it gets done. Once you have signed there is no turning back
Deposit Protection Schemes
Make sure that you know what you're paying and that the full amount is protected for the whole time you live there.
By law, all deposits taken by landlords must be registered with a government-backed deposit protection scheme within 30 days.
There are only three approved schemes in the UK: the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), MyDeposits, and Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS). Check that your landlord is part of a scheme and that they've submitted your deposit to be protected.
Most landlords will require every student tenant to have a guarantor. Put simply, a guarantor (usually your parents or guardian) is someone who agrees that in a very worst-case scenario, they will pay your rent if you can't make the payments.
Make sure you ask questions:
Internet speed, utilities, what is included or not, TV license, accessibility, repairs, to name but a few important things to remember
Always ask to see the Energy Performance Certificate, EPC.
Talk to the current tenants if possible. Finding out about their experience in the tenancy and how happy they have been living there. If they say something that worries you then this could be a red flag.
Get a break clause
For most students, this will be the first time you will have had to look for a house and take out a private tenancy. Getting a fair break clause is one way to ensure you can leave the property if you must.
Think about the location
Ask yourself how convenient the area is. That means looking at local amenities, but also considering costs such as transport. Although it can be cheaper to live further away from your university, it may be important to be close to the library and be around other students who can provide support. Try the walk a few times, will it be a safe walk in all weathers and times of the day? Don't let a long walk to university put you off going to your lectures!
Waiting before signing
Remember, letting agents are salespeople and you are their customers! They want your money and their property occupied, the longer you wait then you may be able to negotiate the amount they are charging down and get a better deal.
Join our 'Plymouth Uni Students Housing/Accommodation Community'
This Facebook group is run by our Advice Team and it's a great place to get advice and support about housing!
To get support from the SU Advice TeamClick here