We can provide advice and guidance on your accommodation issue, whether you live in a BU-managed property, private halls or in the private sector with a landlord or agency.
An inventory can prevent disputes about how much of your deposit you should get back when you move out. You shouldn’t pay a deposit until you have checked the inventory. Note down anything wrong with the property or with the fixtures and fittings. This is to make sure you don't get charged for something that was damaged when you moved in. You can also take photos showing the condition of the property.
Rate and review your landlord/agency, property and area when you move out of your accommodation so next year's students know what to expect when searching for their perfect pad.
If you agree to take up accommodation, yourself and the landlord/lady or agency should sign an agreement which will be either a tenancy or licence, depending on the type of accommodation you are renting.
Your rights as an occupier will depend on the type of agreement you have, so it's worth checking that you have the right sort of agreement. You will probably have either an Assured Shorthold Tenancy or a Licence to Occupy.
Your rights and responsibilities will also be affected by whether you have a Joint Tenancy or an Individual Agreement.
If you sign one agreement for a property as a group, you will have a Joint Tenancy. This means that you are all jointly responsible for the rent and all other terms in the tenancy agreement. If one person leaves the property before the end of the contract, all the joint tenants remaining in the property could be held liable for paying the whole of the rent.
The fairest solution is usually to find a replacement tenant that everybody agrees to. If you do this, make sure that the person who takes over your room takes over all your legal responsibilities as a tenant. Sometimes a landlord/lady will add a clause to the agreement or ask that you are responsible for the rent if the new tenant doesn't pay. The safest thing to do is to get a new tenancy agreement signed in the names of the new tenants. If possible get separate tenancy agreements drawn up rather than joint ones.
It is important to keep in mind the following:
- Make sure that you fully understand the terms of the agreement. Do NOT sign it until you are completely happy.
- Take time to read and check the contract before you sign. The Advice Centre can read through your agreement before you sign it. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Know your rights - you're much more likely to get a fairer and better deal if you do.
Remember, once you have signed a contract you are bound by the terms and conditions of that contract. If in doubt, speak to us for advice - and don't sign until you are completely happy.
Harassment and Illegal Eviction
If a landlord/lady cannot get a tenant to leave their property legally, they will sometimes harass them into leaving.
Harassment can take a variety of different forms but you do have legal protection from this, so if any of the following apply to you, get advice immediately.
HARASSMENT CAN BE:
- Refusing to let you have access to certain parts of the property or only allowing you access at certain times
- Preventing you from having guests
- Constant visits from the landlord/lady or agent
- Offering you money, or threatening violence if you don't leave
- Visiting without permission when you aren't there, or sending builders to do work without giving you notice
- Allowing the property to get into such a bad state of repair that it becomes dangerous or difficult to live there
- Changing the locks
- Removing or restricting services, i.e. hot water
- Throwing your belongings into the street
- Forcing you to sign an agreement which restricts your rights
Harassment and Illegal Eviction are criminal offences - you are protected by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If you are suffering harassment, are illegally evicted, or feel at risk, get help and advice straight away.
In an emergency, the police have the power to help if you are being threatened with violence. You may also be able to get free advice from a solicitor. In certain cases of harassment and unlawful eviction, solicitors may be able to obtain emergency legal funding for a tenant that same day and, in urgent cases, arrange a hearing for the following day. This is something worth looking into.
If you feel you are being harassed then come and see us in the Advice Centre and we will try to assist you. It may be that we need to refer you to a specialist, depending on your circumstances.
Further details about evictions can be found via Shelter.
Deposits and Repairs
Deposits are usually taken by a landlord/lady or agency to cover any unpaid rent, bills, repairs due to damage/negligence by the tenant or cleaning the property after you've left.
Your Tenancy Agreement or Licence should specify what the deposit is meant to cover.
- You should not have any money taken from your deposit to cover fair wear and tear.
- From 1st June 2019, the maximum tenancy deposit is equal to five weeks’ rent.
- Don't pay a deposit until you've signed a Tenancy Agreement or Licence to Occupy.
- When you pay the deposit, make sure that you get a signed receipt (or scheme certificate) for the full amount paid which clearly sets out what the deposit covers.
- Check how quickly you will get your deposit back once you have left the property.
- If you have a Joint Tenancy, money can be taken from all your deposits to cover damage, cleaning and bills for any part of the property or share of bills outstanding.
- If you have an Individual Agreement, you can only have money taken from your deposit to cover repairs or cleaning caused by your actions, or for your share of outstanding bills.
All tenants signing a new Assured Shorthold Tenancy will have their deposit placed into one of three government-backed Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes, which will ensure that your deposit is protected. Your landlord needs to inform you which scheme has been used within 30 days of them receiving the deposit.
In England and Wales deposits can be registered with:
Tenants can check that the deposit has been protected correctly by accessing these websites and providing the following details - postcode, surname, tenancy start date and deposit amount.
Moving In and Inventories:
On the day that your contract or licence starts, visit the property with the agent or property owner, and fill in and sign an inventory. If the agent or landlord/lady doesn't provide one of these, you can do one yourself. The Advice Centre can provide you with a draft form to start you off.
As well as making a record of all the items in the house, make a note on their condition - for example, if a kitchen chair has a ripped back or there are cigarette burns on the carpet, note this on the inventory and make sure that you keep a copy. Also note the overall condition of the property.
It may seem a bit of a hassle but having a completed and signed inventory can really help if you have problems getting any of your deposit back when you leave - so take your time and make sure that it is accurate.
If anything needs repairing, tell the landlord/lady or agent immediately. Put this in writing by sending them a letter which clearly states the problem. Keep a copy of this letter and any others that you send during your occupancy of the property.
If there are any serious problems or the house is very messy or dirty upon your arrival, it is worth taking photographs. These can be very useful if problems arise later.
Try to get someone who isn't going to be living in the property to witness that you are taking the photographs on the day that you are moving in, or take photos with a camera that displays the date.
Always take an inventory!
Moving Out Checklist and Getting your Deposit Returned:
Contact the landlord/lady or agent a month before you know you will be moving out and arrange for them to do a final inspection of the property on the day that you leave. Make sure that you leave the property clean and tidy, even if it wasn't when you moved in.
On the day you leave, take final meter readings. Notify the gas, electricity, water, phone companies (etc) that you have left and give them your new address where the bills can be sent. If anything is damaged, make a list of what is damaged and how. If you are concerned about losing your deposit, take photographs of the damage, preferably with a camera that will display the date.
If you are concerned generally about getting your deposit back, take photographs of each room and get someone who hasn't lived in the house to confirm that the photos were taken on the day you moved out.
Return the keys on time and give a forwarding address to the landlord/lady or agent.
Once a tenancy has come to an end, the landlord/lady or agent may agree to return your deposit in full or they may make deductions that you accept. If you agree with the deductions suggested, then the remaining deposit should be returned to you within 10 working days of the tenancy ending.
If you don’t agree with the suggested deductions, you are entitled to negotiate with them to reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached amicably then you can challenge the suggested deductions through the tenancy deposit scheme’s free alternative dispute resolution service (ADR). You can't use this dispute resolution service unless your landlord/lady or agent agrees to this.
For more info check out www.direct.gov.uk/tenancydeposit.
For useful information about deposit returns, check out this blog by Shelter.
What To Do If Your Deposit Is Not Returned:
If you are not covered by a tenancy deposit scheme then wait at least 14 days, unless you have specifically agreed something different. Write a letter to the landlord/lady or agent asking for the return of your deposit within the next 7 days. Keep a copy of this and any other letters that you send. If you don't hear from the landlord/lady or agent within this time, or if the reasons you are given for the withholding of any part of your deposit are unfair or unclear, get advice immediately.
You can take legal action to recover your money through the Small Claims Court. This isn't as difficult or as daunting as it sounds and can be done without a solicitor.
For more information about the return of a deposit, read this blog by Red Brick.
As a tenant, you have certain responsibilities regarding repairs and conditions in your rented accommodation. These include:
- Keeping your home reasonably clean
- Safety checks on electrical appliances you own
- Keeping gardens or outside areas in a reasonable state
- Minor maintenance such as changing light bulbs or smoke alarm batteries
- Fixing appliances or furniture you own
- Damage caused by you, your family or your guests
- Any minor repairs set out in your tenancy agreement
You only need to maintain your home to a reasonable level. You don't have to leave it in a better condition than when you moved in and you are not responsible for normal wear and tear.
Your landlord/lady is responsible for most repairs in your home. This applies to private landlords/ladies, councils and housing associations. Their responsibilities include repairs to:
- Electrical wiring
- Gas pipes and boilers
- Heating and hot water
- Chimneys and ventilation
- Sinks, baths, toilets, pipes and drains
- Common areas including entrance halls and stairways
- The structure and exterior of the building, including walls, stairs and bannisters, roof, external doors and windows
Your landlord/lady is always responsible for these repairs even if your tenancy agreement says something different. If you have reported a problem to your landlord/lady, they must carry out a repair within a reasonable period.
You can find out more about this by referring to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
How To Get Repairs Done:
The landlord/lady is not responsible for repairs until they have been told that there is a problem. If you tell them verbally, follow it up in writing, clarifying the details. Keep a copy of this and any other letters you send. Arrange a mutually convenient time for the landlord/lady to come and do the repair.
Unless it is an emergency, you have a right to be given notice of when the landlord/lady or their builders will be visiting. Give the landlord/lady a reasonable amount of time to get the work done. Allow 7 days for non-urgent repairs and 24 hours if there is a risk to health.
If you receive no response after a reasonable amount of time, send a second letter by registered post. In this letter, remind them of their responsibility to do repairs, tell your landlord/lady the level of repair that you would find acceptable and give them a deadline to get the repair done. Don't withhold rent as a way of trying to make your landlord do the work as you could leave yourself open to potential eviction issues.
For more information on this and further action you could take, see the Shelter website.
For further guidance please contact the Advice Centre – email@example.com.
Most landlords now require students (and particularly international students) to provide details of a UK-based guarantor before they sign the tenancy agreement as a condition of the housing contract. The guarantor is a third-party individual or organisation who guarantees to pay the landlord/lady any rent which the student fails to pay and the cost of any damage for which the student is responsible and fails to pay for.
If you cannot provide a guarantor, you may be required to pay most, if not all, of the rent for the full contract before you move in. This is a considerable financial challenge for many students.
If you need a guarantor and are able to find one, you must check that your guarantor's financial liability is limited to just your rent/damages. It is becoming increasingly common that landlords/ladies will state that the guarantor’s responsibility to pay rent/costs etc. extends to all tenants in the accommodation. This means that even if you pay your rent on time, the landlord/lady can ask your guarantor to cover any rent not paid by another tenant. They will usually pursue the other tenant’s guarantor first. However, if they fail to pay, the landlord/lady can ask the other tenants’ guarantors to cover the cost.
For students who are unable to secure a guarantor via family or work, there are some companies available that will provide this service for a fee. These companies are:
Unfortunately, renting for the first time can result in some frustrating issues that you may be left unsure of how to report. If there is anything you are concerned about and are not sure where to get support, book an appointment with an advisor.
The first thing to remember is that it is perfectly normal to disagree and fall out. Everyone has individual personalities and different outlooks on life but if you communicate effectively and respect each other, life is likely to be a lot easier.
If there are disagreements occurring within the house, try to have an informal chat with the housemate(s) causing problems. If nothing changes, it may be necessary for someone within the group to call a house meeting.
If despite doing all this, problems still occur, then come and speak to an adviser in the Advice Centre. We may be able to act as a mediator in a meeting between you and your housemates.
How to complain about your accommodation:
Depending on the issue at hand, there are different ways you can complain or try to resolve the problems you are facing. For example, a common issue in student housing is damp or mould. We can help by talking you through the steps to rectify this and signpost you to authorities who can assist you further.
You can complain if the letting agent has:
- Repeatedly failed to carry out repairs or they carried out repairs badly
- Have been rude or abusive towards you, harassed you or you feel you have been discriminated against
- Caused unreasonable delays
- Disclosed confidential information about you
- Failed to keep proper records or respond to your communications
- Failed to provide information you have asked for, and you are within your rights to have it
- Failed to uphold their legal obligations, e.g. fire alarms, service the boiler
- Breaching terms in the Tenancy Agreement
We want to encourage you to speak to a member of our team if you wish to make a complaint; we can help you find some resolve for what can be very stressful and upsetting situations.