General lettings advice for students
The contract that you are most likely to sign will be a joint shorthold tenancy agreement. It is essential that you read the contract yourself and take note of what are usually the most important aspects of such an agreement:
FIXED TERM:- Once you have signed it you are obliged to pay rent for the duration of the agreement. In the same way the landlord is bound by the contract to allow your use of the property for the same period.
JOINT & SEVERAL LIABLILTY:- All tenants who sign an agreement are liable for the full rent payable for the property. If someone moves out the remaining tenants will have to pay the rent of the person who has left.
Before signing any agreement you should check the condition of the property and its contents and discuss any problems with the landlord. Any deposit that you pay is refundable providing that you leave the property in the condition that you you received it. You should always ask for a receipt for any monies paid. Your deposit should be held in a government approved scheme the details of which your landlord should give you.
The landlord can withhold part of the deposit for any repairs he deems necessary, including damage to furniture, unpaid bills, or an unclean property. You should have an inventory of everything that is including in the property at the start of the agreement.
Ask the following questions before paying any deposit:
- If you decide to rent the house ask the landlord for a deposit receipt.
- Is any part of the holding deposit refundable if you change your mind about renting? As a general rule, if you change your mind (for whatever reason), none of the deposit is refunded. If you and the landlord agree that all or part of the deposit will be refunded, make sure that these terms are in writing.
Your deposit can also be used to cover any unpaid bills outstanding on the property gas/ electricity/telephone/water.
The deposit cannot be used to cover reasonable wear and tear, which you have paid for in your rent.
Paying a deposit
Always pay your deposit and get a receipt, which states the amount paid. Attach the receipt to your copy of the contract.
The average deposit is between £150-£250 per person. It should not be paid until the contract has been signed.
If you are unhappy about any aspect of the condition of the property when you move in (damage, outstanding repairs, damage to decor or the level of cleanliness) – inform the landlord/agent in writing immediately and keep a copy for your own records. If you fail to notify them about your concerns then you could find yourself paying for the previous tenants damage at the end of your own tenancy.
Protecting your deposit
There are many legitimate reasons why deductions may be made from your deposit. Below are a few tips to help avoid problems.
- Check what your responsibilities are for the garden – if you are responsible gardening equipment should be provided.
- If you bring furniture from home make proper arrangements to store or remove the owner’s furniture where it will not get damaged.
- Always report any repairs in writing and keep a copy, so you can show that it is not damage caused by the household.
- Maintain the house properly, cleaning/vacuuming from time to time.
- Clean all cookers, fridges, toilets, showers and baths properly at the end of the tenancy using proper cleaning materials.
- Respect the owner/agents fixtures and fittings. Burn marks on the carpet and/or the furniture could cost you your entire deposit and more.
- If you do break/damage anything (deliberately or accidentally) then inform the owner/agent immediately. Do not leave it until the end of the tenancy.
- If you signed a joint contract your deposit can be used to cover outstanding rent and/or damage caused by your housemates.
Arranging an Inspection
Three weeks before your tenancy ends make sure that you have contacted your landlord/agent to arrange an end of tenancy inspection visit by the landlord/agent. Ideally you should be present at that visit so that you can agree any work you need to do with the landlord/agent.
Before you are due to move out you should also contact all the utility companies (gas/electricity/telephone) and arrange for final readings to be taken. You will also need to write and request your names are taken off the bills from the date you all move out.
Making Sure Everyone Does their Fair Share of Work
If you are renting a shared house then you should leave the property in a fit state for the next set of tenants to move in. If you have signed a joint contract (as many students do) then you are jointly responsible for the whole house and it is important that the whole house is cleaned and left in a good condition.
It is important that every occupant does their fair share of work. Avoid individual occupants leaving one by one over the last few weeks leaving cleaning to one or two remaining tenants. Work out who will clean what.
Most students will clean their own bedroom, but make sure you divide the responsibilities between yourselves for living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, corridors, cellars and gardens. Generally, cleaning and clearing the kitchen and bathroom in a house is 50% of the task of cleaning the whole house.
Allow yourself plenty of time to clean the house at the end of the year.
Never have an end of house party on the last day. Always leave at least three days after any social event to clean up and move out.