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Can Students Rent Privately?

Whilst renting to full time students is more commonly associated with student halls or accommodation somewhat associated with the appropriate university, many landlords that offer private rental opportunities base the success of their portfolio on letting out their rental properties to students. Although students have been condemned in the rental sector as unruly and the source of additional hassle, perhaps even additional damage to the property being let at the end of the fixed term, with all of these stigmas aside, on face value renting to students can be an attractive, and if don’t correctly lucrative opportunity for private landlords.

Will I Need a Guarantor?

When making an application to rent out private accommodation, the landlord will often request that all aspiring tenants go through the tenant referencing process.  This is the best indication a landlords can gain as to whether the prospective renters would be a suitable fit for their rental opportunity. As mentioned above there are desirable qualities the owner of the rental property will be assessing their tenants for mainly that they will be able to provide them with a consistent income and will respect the condition of the rental accommodation.  With this in mind the tenant referencing process will comprise affordability checks that will determine whether or not the aspiring renter will be able to uphold their obligation to make regular rental payments to the landlord. Such checks will evaluate the applicant’s financial suitability for the rental by determining their employment status, level of income, outstanding debts and a comprehensive credit check.

These checks will be the largest indicator as to whether a landlord will request that the tenant obtains a guarantor before moving into the rental. In most cases where an aspiring tenant is unable to satisfy all of these affordability criteria, most commonly a student, as they will not be able to commit to a full time job, nor will they have a detailed history of renting properties to put the landlords mind at ease. Adding a guarantor to the tenancy agreement is a way in which the landlord can provide themselves, and to a certain extent also the tenant, from mounting rent arrears and excessive debt. This is because once a guarantor has signed the tenancy agreement they become legally liable for any outstanding amounts the tenant has failed to provide to the landlord; therefore if the tenant of the rental property fails to pay their rent, the landlord or letting agency will pursue the due amount from the guarantor.  Whilst some within the rental industry have regarded these practices as unfair, only granting finical safety to the landlord, an argument can be made that allowing for a prospective renter to rent on the condition they first obtain a guarantor makes some rental opportunities that would have otherwise been inaccessible to the tenant within reach, making renting a home easier.

Although guarantors are commonly associated with missing or overdue rental payments, they are also financially responsible for another aspect of the tenancy. As can be expected, such details regarding the exact nature of when a guarantor will be held accountable for payments will be outlined within the terms of the tenancy agreement and should therefore be inspected before signing. With this being said, typically alongside making a payment in the circumstance that the tenant of the property neglects to pay their rent the guarantor can also be compelled to cover the costs associated with repairing the rental accommodation. Naturally, this will hinge on the tenant’s ability to ensure proper care of the rental opportunity throughout the course of the tenancy’s fixed period. In the overwhelming majority of cases, when moving into a rental property the tenant will provide their landlord with a tenancy deposit. This deposit will be used to cover the costs of any repairs that need to be made once the occupants vacate the accommodation. However, if the costs of repairing or replacing the furnishings within he interior of the property, or attending to other matters of repair across the rental amounts to more than the sum requested for the tenancy deposit, the landlord will be required to pay the remaining amount to the landlord, potentially leaving them with an exorbitant amount to hand over.

In most cases when asked to provide a guarantor the tenant will be able to turn to a close friend or family member to take on this role; however, in the midst of the current economic climate there are many concerns being voiced that with thousands of households being plunged into arrears and widespread uncertainty surrounding the consistency of income, many that would have been a suitable guarantor only 18 months ago will no longer fit the bill.

 With this in mind the coming months may see a huge increase in the popularity of using independent guarantor companies as oppose to a familiar face. Traditionally such organisations have typically been utilised by those that have travelled from overseas to study and would therefore be unable to provide a guarantor, however with guarantors being increasingly scrutinised for their suitability many students will have no other option. Put simply a guarantor company will assume the desired role for a student or private renter that has fallen short during the referencing process, for a fee. However, this fee is often charged monthly and for those that work minimal hours to allow for full time studies, these charges may simply be too much, making it much more difficult to meet regular rental payments and rendering the process redundant.

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What Is a Tenancy Agreement?

Although this may seem somewhat obvious to those that are experienced within the rental sector or those that are far beyond taking their first steps into a rental property, for the overwhelming majority of students moving to university will be their first taste of living independently and therefore renting. Before moving into a rental property both the occupants of the accommodation and the owner will be legally required to curate a tenancy agreement. Whilst this can be a verbal contract this will be of little to no benefit to either party if the relationship between the landlord and the tenants deteriorates. The tenancy agreement will outline all the conditions of the tenancy, making it irrefutably clear as to how much the tenant will be required to pay in rent, how often they will be required to pay this rent, the duration of the tenancy agreement and many other details that comprise the tenancy. This documentation will also provide the tenant and the landlord with both their rights and responsibilities, ensuring that both parties of the agreement are held accountable for their actions and respect the terms of the rental. Typically these will detail the tenant’s right to occupy the property, their right to quiet enjoyment of the rental alongside the expectation that they respect its condition, conduct themselves in a tenant like manner and consistently meet their obligation to pay rent. It is essential for new tenants and student’s alike to note that a landlord, whilst able to enter bespoke terms into the tenancy agreement, such as a rent review clause, is completely unable to curate terms that would infringe upon or otherwise dismiss a tenant’s rights once the tenancy agreement has been signed; for example reducing the amount of notice a tenant is required to be given when being served with a notice of eviction.

Do Students Pay Council Tax?

As with many aspects of the tenancy that could be unclear, it is always strongly advised to assess the terms of the tenancy agreement in order to determine if you are liable to pay any council tax. In some cases this will be undertaken by the owner of the rental property, but providing that the tenant is over the age of 18 and named on the tenancy agreement they will be required to pay council tax. With this being said there are considerations that are given to those pursuing further education.

Providing that all of the occupants within the rental property are entered into full time education they will not be required to pay any council tax. With this in mind a resident will be deemed to be a full time student if the course in which they are enrolled has duration of a single year or more and demands that the students are in study for at least 21 hours each week.  If the students are residing within hall; then they will automatically be considered as exempt but will otherwise need to make an application to the local authority for this consideration or discount. To fulfil these criteria the council may ask for the students to prove that they are in full time education, requiring them to produce appropriate documentation provided by the university or college. It is worth noting that if a full time student decides to take some time away from their course and temporarily drop their studies, regardless of the circumstance under which this has taken place providing that the student is still registered with the university and they plan to continue their studies in the future their status as exempt from council tax payments will remain unchanged.  The same can be said for those that choose to continue their studies to a postgraduate level; however they may encounter some difficulties if they are not required to be on campus for extended periods. Similarly if the student is currently in the period between one course ending a new course that they have enrolled for starting then the council may deem it appropriate to charge them council tax for this interim period as they are not in full time education.

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What Will a Tenant Pay For?

As many will know regardless of their rental experience, a tenant will be required to pay their landlord a specified and agreed upon amount of rent at regular intervals in order to remain in the rental property. However there are a number of costs that renters incur before their initial rental payments that they may not be aware of. The first of these would be a holding deposit. This is required as in essence it will reserve the rental opportunity, with its payment obliging the landlord to take the rental opportunity off the open market and begin negotiating the terms of the rental agreement with the tenant. Providing that the agreement proceeds and the tenant moves into the property then they will typically have this holding deposit refunded through a deduction from their upcoming rental payment. However alongside this upfront costs tenant will also be required to pay their landlord a tenancy deposit. Sometimes referred to as a security deposit, the owner of the rental accommodation is in no way legally obligated to take this fee, however the overwhelming majority of landlord choose to do so as this amount can offer protection from any rental payments the tenants neglect to make, or be contributed towards and needed repairs at the close of the tenancies fixed term. With this being said, providing that the tenant is able to maintain the condition of the rental property and consistently pays their rent on time, the taken amount for the security deposit will be returned in full once they vacate the property.

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