Calling all students! Here’s what you need to know about your renting rights
Well, boys and girls, with summer a distant memory, you’re now probably in the depths of freshers’ flu.
You’re missing your home comforts. You can’t remember the last time you ate a vegetable and those first term deadlines are looming. But have you had a second to think about your rights when it comes to renting? Probably not.
When renting a property, be it private or through your uni, there’s a lot going on that we don’t really pay attention to – apart from the whopping great expense, of course.
Sure you can hit up Primark for a faux fur throw and Urban Outfitters for some cool artwork to add a bit of colour to all those white walls. But what happens when the washing machine breaks? Or you just can’t curb your home sickness and decide uni isn’t for you.
Your student house is probably the first time you’ve lived out of your family home. So along with making lots of new experiences and memories, people (read: landlords and letting agents) will likely come to you for paperwork and payments. But just because they seem to be an ‘authoritative figure’, doesn’t mean they have your best interests at heart.
And with that being said, we thought we’d take a look into some tips to follow when it comes to your rights as a tenant.
First, we did some digging…
A recent National Union of Students survey found that less than half of students actually knew their rights – or felt able to assert them as tenants.
To find out what this actually means for renters, our charity partner, Shelter, took a look at the survey findings. They spoke to students in the fabulous city of Sheffield to find out some key issues – plus what students can do about them.
You have the same renting rights as everyone else
Half of the students that Shelter spoke to wrongly thought that, as students, their rights were different from other renters.
So much so, that when they did have a housing problem, they would usually turn to online forums or family (instead of an official body) where they may not be getting the most accurate advice.
Should you run into a housing issue, such as wanting to end your contract early or the quality of where you’re living not being up to scratch, it’s important to know your rights as a tenant and get advice from a trustworthy source.
We recommend talking to your Students’ Union housing service or using Shelter’s online housing advice if you have a problem or you’re not quite sure of your options.
Don’t pay any fees you don’t have to
Since the 1 June 2019, letting agent fees for things like protecting your deposit, credit checks, reference checks and other ‘administration’ costs are banned. Before the ban, the NUS found that some students were paying around £250 in agent fees or more – an amount we think is much better spent on having some fun with your new uni mates.
It’s worth pointing out that you can still be charged for things that are technically ‘your fault’ – such as losing your front door key or paying rent late. And if you signed an agreement before 1 June 2019? You may still have to pay some charges.
If you’re asked to pay a ‘banned’ fee? Naughty, naughty. You can report the landlord or agent to trading standards.
Check your deposit is protected
According to the NUS, 44 per cent of students don’t know which scheme their deposit is protected by – and a whopping 36 per cent received no evidence their deposit was protected at all!
When forking out for costly down payments, you should always make sure that your landlord or letting agent protects your deposit in one of the three government-approved schemes. When protecting it, they must follow certain rules – and you can even claim compensation if they break them.
And if your deposit has definitely been protected but things still go wrong? You can make use of your scheme’s dispute resolution service if you and your landlord can’t agree on deposit deductions when you move out.
Rent from a university-accredited landlord
Look, friends, we all know what it’s like. We all start off with the best intentions, but sometimes important things get left until the last minute. Besides, ‘dem Mother Clucker burgers ain’t gonna munch themselves!
If you’ve spent the summer partying like a rockstar and NOT planning your accommodation, don’t lose hope. For those looking for last-minute digs (OK, late by now) or for the super-organised that are already thinking about housing for next year, it’s a good idea to do your research.
First things first, find out if your university runs an accreditation scheme for landlords and their properties. These schemes often check that properties meet certain standards and they have procedures in place to make sure repairs are done. They’ll even help sort out any disputes you might have with your landlord!
Many students that Shelter spoke to didn’t know that universities ran schemes like this, but most said they would make use of them when they started looking for their next house.
Your student house should be a home from home. Remember, you don’t need to put with poor housing and always get advice if you need it.
Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through advice, support and legal services.
It’s Shelter’s mission to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to them for help but should you need to? Get in touch via the Shetler website.
They can help with all sorts of problems, from poor living conditions like mouldy walls and slugs to leaking showers… But they can’t help decide who’s doing the washing up. Soz.