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Common Problems for Student Renters

For many the move to full time education at university will come with the bold initial steps into the world of living independently and renting your own home. Of course, for the uninitiated the rental landscape can be tricky to navigate, but here we run through some of the more common issues student renters face.

My Landlord Won’t Do Repairs

Landlords are legally bound to provide a letting opportunity to their tenants that are safe for human habitation and secure. This means that the rental property must provide the tenants with the expected utilities such as water, electricity and gas; although the tenant may have to contact the appropriate providers once they move in. This obligation considers the regular upkeep of this safe environment for the tenants and holds the landlord accountable for arranging any remedial work needed. As can be expected the owner of the rental property must ensure that the opportunity is completely absent of anything that could prove hazardous to the safety of the occupants once they have moved in such as faulty appliances or wiring.

Although the landlord can make certain considerations in regards to changing the property if the tenants have a disability, it is important for occupants to note that the landlord is only obligated to repair the property, not make considerable improvements.  The occupants of a rental property of able to request that their landlord or letting agent carry out any repairs that are needed to the property. Once the request has been made by the residents, the appropriate parties should be afforded reasonable time to carry out the necessary work. With every request a tenant makes for repair work to be carried out on the rental property the landlord should provide a response that makes it clear the appropriate party that will need access to the property to carry out the work, what they are doing to address the issue and how long it will take to reach a resolve.

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With this being said, whilst it is uncommon, some tenants never receive a reply from their landlord or letting agent when requests for repairs are being carried out. In these circumstances it is essential that the occupants of the property document their attempts to contact the landlord. If the landlord proves to be reluctant to have this work carried out it is possible to turn to the local authority through complaining to the environmental health department. In most cases this will result in the owner of the rental property being legally compelled to carry out the needed work, with potential compensation being paid to the occupants if the condition of the let had an adverse effect on their health. It is essential that even if the landlord or lettings agent will not carry out any repairs to the property or respond to any requests being made by the occupants, that rent is still paid as expected. This is because if the tenants stop paying the landlord the established amount of rent this will be seen as a breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement and the landlord will be able to begin repossession and serve the residents with a notice of eviction.

However it is also worth noting that the landlord or letting agent is not hold the exclusive responsibility of ensure the rental property is well maintained and safe to inhabit. With this in mind it is essential not to dismiss the role of a tent in the upkeep of a rental property. Although the landlord or letting agent, as discussed, will oversee the larger aspects of remedial work and repairs, they cannot be expected to be able to address such issues if they have not first been brought to their attention. To this end the occupants of a rental property are obligated to report any safety concerns that regard either the structure of the rental property, its appliances or contents to the landlord or letting agents before the problems worsen.  

Of course, some tenants may dismiss this role as putting the responsibility firmly on the landlord to find such problems in routine property inspections; however the owner of the rental property must also consider the tent’s right to quiet enjoyment. This right entitles the residents to not only occupy the rental property for the duration of the fixed [period, but do so without the constant interruption or harassment of the landlord letting agent or their representatives. This right to quiet enjoyment also largely empowers the residents of the rental property to dictate who is able to access its grounds and when, meaning that is the landlord, letting agent or appropriate parties need to carry out inspections, or carry out repair work they must first seek the permission of the tenants.   Although the landlords must gain the permission to access the property at least 24 hours before they intend to do so, it is worth noting that the residents are under no obligation to allow the landlord into the property. With this being said, whilst the tenants are perfectly able to decline a request made by a landlord or letting agency in most cases this is simply done to find a more fitting time for the inspection or repair works to be carried out. If however, the landlord or letting agency has made repeated attempts to engage with the tenants and gain access to the property in order to carry out repairs and had no response, or been continually declined they are no longer held accountable for this upkeep providing all communication and correspondence has been documented and they can show every effort and reasonable step was taken.  Further to this when moving into a rental property the occupants are expected to conduct themselves in a “tenant like manner”, seeing them perform basic maintenance around the property such as replacing light bulbs and changing the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, alongside the regular cleaning of the rental . This expectation to have the rental property returned in a similar manner to which it was let out extends to the landlord’s power to make deductions from the amount of the tenancy deposit that is being returned.

Leaving a Tenancy Early

Unfortunately, for the majority of cases ending a tenancy early is often overlooked as it is not typically done under pre meditated circumstance. As can be expected a student will typically need to talk to their landlords about vacating the rental property before the end of the fixed term if they are no longer in full time education, and therefore will no longer require the accommodation. Of course, as overwhelming as the process as renting out your first rental property can be it is essential to consider the terms of the tenancy agreement.

 A student will not be able to leave the rental property before the end of the fixed term unless there is a break clause specified within the terms of the tenancy agreement. A break clause must be included with the terms of the original agreement to be enacted by either the landlord or the tenant, however, if this is absent from the terms, students are able to ask this to be included before they sign the tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement should also specify the point at which the tenant or the landlord is able to exercise the break clause, and how much notice they must give the appropriate party before leaving the rental property or ending the tenancy; with the tenant not being liable for any rental payment once the notice period comes to an end.

In most cases neither the owner of the rental property or the occupants will be able to use the break clause before an established point in the tenancy. The date after which a break clause can be used will be specified within the terms of the agreement, alongside the amount of notice that either party will need to provide before the tenancy is void. Regardless of if the tenant has enacted the break clause and served the landlord with a notice they must continue to pay the agreed upon rent over this period. Whilst the pursuit of eviction and repossession of the rental property would be somewhat redundant, the landlord would be able to claim any missing rental payments and arrears from the amounts taken for the tenancy deposit; or if the debt exceeds the financial protection offered by the tenancy deposit the difference could be paid by the tenant’s guarantor.  

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My Landlord Is Trying to Keep My Deposit

Alongside offering the landlord a holding deposit to reserve the property and potentially paying multiple months’ worth of rent in advance, tenancy are likely to able asked to pay their landlord or letting agent a tenancy deposit. Whilst students will already be left writhing from the ever increasing tuition fees, the prospect of high upfront renting costs is far from appealing. With this being said there is a limit on the amount a landlord can ask from their tenants for the deposit. The tenant fees act prevents landlord from taking more than the equivalent cost of five weeks rent for the tenancy deposit if the annual rental charge for the property is up to £50,000. In the instances where the amount the landlord charges in rent each year is over this threshold, the tenancy deposit can be as high as six weeks rent.

This is important to consider as any amount provided to the landlord can be refunded come the close of the renting period. However, this is largely dependent on the condition of the property upon the final inspection, and that the tenant does not have an outstanding rental payments when they are due to move out. If either of these circumstances are a reality then the landlord is able to make deductions from the amount being returned to the tenant to compensate for any costs that they would otherwise incur.

Although a landlord is not required to take a tenancy deposit from their renters, any amounts that are handed over must be entered into a government approved deposit protection scheme. The details of the appropriate scheme and confirmation of the amount being protected must be provided to the tenants.  If the landlord is making claim for deductions that are not true or exaggerated, it is possible to raise a dispute with the deductions being made. Tenants should contact the free dispute resolution serve for the appropriate scheme, however the verdict they reach after considering any evidence handed over by both eh landlord and tenant is final and they will return the appropriate amounts accordingly. When providing the resolution serve with evidence of you claims you should heavily depend on the property inventory and any pictures taken during the first and last inspection of the property as this will detail any changes in the property’s condition over the course of the tenancy.

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