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How Can a Student Rent Privately?
Although there will always be those that choose to begin their search for their new home until just a week before the start of the impending term, this is the less driveable approach. Naturally, those that start searching for their next home early will have more rental opportunities to choose from, and with the competitiveness and high demand that comes with student towns and city centre locations due to the cross over with young professionals, there could be little left come the start of term. However, regardless of when you begin there are fundamentals that will help the search all the easier.
Whilst this will have come into play when comparing student halls this will be the first time in many cases that as student will have needed to consider bills, in some cases catering alongside the rental fee. An accurate budget will not only serve you well in knowing which properties are obtainable, but will also help prevent a year spent scraping by to avoid accumulating arrears. Not only that, but for many a city centre location right by the door of campus is not an option, leaving them to commute to lectures. For this reason before committing to a rental property see how easy it would be to take public transport to the campus, or how much local parking could cost.
If you are unsure on where to start you search, online property portals such as PropertyLoop have connected thousands of landlords and tenants. Alternatively each university will be able to point you in the right direction, perhaps even able to recommend local letting agents and landlords.
Read Your Tenancy Agreement
It goes without saying that perhaps the most crucial aspect of any tenancy is the agreement. This document details every aspect of the tenancy, empowering both parties with tier legal rights, as well as holding them accountable for their responsibilities. In the overwhelming majority of cases any students that rent privately will enter into what is referred to as an assured shorthold tenancy. Typically this will establish an agreement where the terms specify a specified amount of rent is paid in exchange for possession of the rental property over a set period; this period is referred to as the fixed term and once it ends you will need to vacate the property. If the occupants decide to remain in the rental property once this fixed period has expired and the landlord neither wishes to renew the tenancy agreement, nor immediately seek possession, a periodic tenancy will occur. This will happen automatically once the fixed term has ended and will not require either the landlord or the tenant to submit any paperwork or sign any new agreements. Periodic or, “rolling” tenancies, as the name suggests run on a monthly basis, with the tenancy renewing each period where rent is paid. However, whilst this type of tenancy offers the most flexibility, it also fails to provide tenants with a lot of the protection against eviction they would otherwise have, as they are entitled to a far shorter notice period if the landlord serves an eviction notice.
It is not unheard of for some students to enter into a joint tenancy. The crucial difference with a joint tenancy when compared to an assured shorthold tenancy is the tenants are equally liable for any costs incurred. This means that each occupants is not paying for their “own share” of the rent, but rather contributing to a set total; therefore if a tenant vacates the property before the end of the fixed term, the remaining tenants will be left paying more in rent to make up the usual figure. This also means that once the landlord or letting agent carries out the final inspection on the property, some tenants could be left paying for damages caused by other occupants of the property; however they are all equally responsible to cover these expenditures as they have joint liability.
Can the Landlord Increase the Rent?
Another common concern amongst new renters is how frequently the landlord is able to increase the amount they are required to pay in rent each month. Thankfully a landlord is only able to increase the amount of a rent a tenant must pay during the fixed term under a select number of circumstances. Typically, a rent increase will require both the landlord and tenant to enter into a new tenancy agreement will the reviewed amount of rent specified; however the tenant is under no obligation to agree to this. With this being said if the landlord has entered a rent review clause into the tenancy agreement then they are able to increase the rent in accordance with the wider market. This review clause will specify when the tenant can expect to face the increase.
Who Deals With Repairs?
Unfortunately, one of the more common causes of debates between landlords and there tenants can be the responsibility to attend to repairs or maintenance throughout the rental property. As can be expected, when letting out a rental property, the accommodation must be safe for human habitation, with the obligation to attend to the regular upkeep of the rental falling on the landlord. This responsibility is established through section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, with the regulations clearly stating that the landlord must attend to the structural aspects and exterior of the property, comprising the gutters, flues, drains being maintained and kept ‘ in repair’ by the landlord. This legal responsibility extends to “keeping in repair” any furnishings, appliances and installations found throughout the rental property, with the owner of the rental property ensuring that there is a consistent supply of essential utilities such as electric, gas and water.
Once the student has moved into the private rental property if they were to find any issues that would need repairing they can make a request to the letting agency or landlord to have the matter addressed. However, it is worth noting that these requests must be reasonable, as the landlord is liable to maintain many aspect of the property, the same cannot be said if the request is considered an improvement. However, if the request for a considerable improvement to the rental property comes in light of a health and safety concern, or has been made to accommodate a tenant with a disability then these could be made.
But this is not to say that the occupants of the rental property have no duty regarding its upkeep. It is safe to say that a landlord cannot be expected to attend to any issues of damage, repair or maintenance if they have not first been made aware of the work that needs to be carried out. To this end upon the signing of the tenancy agreement the tenants undertake the responsibility to update he landlords with any issues found that may need addressing, and to allow the landlord, letting agent or the appropriate parties reasonable access to the property in order to carry out the repairs or maintenance work. However, it is important that this access does not infringe on the students right to quiet enjoyment of the property. Simply put this right empowers the tenant to enjoy use of the rental property without disturbance or harassment from letting agents, landlords or other parties; granting them the right to dictate who is able to access the grounds of the rental property and when. This is not to say that the residents are able to continually deny access to the landlord or letting agent, as if they have taken all appropriate steps to address issues with the property and the tenants withhold access or do not respond, the landlord is unable to uphold the condition of the property and is therefore no longer liable for repairs.
With this being said it is essential to note that under no circumstance, even when the landlord is neglecting their duty to attend to the upkeep and maintenance of the rental property, must the occupants withhold any due rental payments. This is because when singing the tenancy agreement the residents of the property made a legally binding agreement to make consistent rental payments to the landlord in exchange for the accommodation. With this in mind if the tenants decide to withhold any rental payments then they will be found to be in breach of the tenancy agreement, therefore allowing the owner of the rental property to commence eviction proceeding and reposes the property.
If the landlord is proving reluctant to carry out repairs, the occupants are able to report the negligence to their local authority. The local council will then communicate with the landlord to enforce their obligation to carry out repairs across the rental. Before compelling the owner of the rental property to conduct the appropriate remedial works, the local council will carry out an inspection of the property to document its condition and any issues found. Alternatively if the tenant has tried repeatedly to make contact with the landlord to carry out repairs, to no avail, they are able to take legal action against the owner of the rental property. Providing that they have sufficient evidence to support these claims and prove the negligence of the landlord, the tenants could be awarded compensation if their health was affected by the condition of the rental, with some or all of their legal costs being paid by the landlord, alongside the court ordering the landlord to carry out the appropriate repairs.
Will I Need to Pay Council Tax?
To the delight of many students, providing that each of the occupants within the rental property is entered into full time education, then the rental opportunity will be considered as exempt from paying any council tax. In order to ensure that no council tax charges are unknowingly served to the property, each of the residents must obtain the appropriate documentation from the university confirming that they have successfully enrolled for full time studies. Once the appropriate documentation has been obtained by the students they need to make an application to their local council whilst providing this correspondence that shows their exempt status.
Whilst this being said, there are a number of circumstances where even with a student residing within the property, the council can lawfully issues the rental with a council tax fee. Perhaps most common of these instances is where those in full time education live alongside those that are not students. If this is found to be the case then it is likely that the local authority will serve the property with a council tax bill, however any students that use the rental as their main residence will not be required to contribute towards the payment of the bill. Even in non-student tenancies it is the responsibility of the landlord to settle any matters regarding the council tax for the property, however this can be passed onto the tenancy though the terms of the tenancy agreement. Generally speaking if the rental property has been built for use my multiple households, each of the tenants maintains their own tenancy agreement for their living space, or you live alongside your landlord, then the owner of the rental property is obliged to handle the council tax payments. If however, the rental property in question is a flat or house that the occupants share a joint tenancy over, any of the parties that have signed the tenancy agreement that are not in full time education must settle any council tax charges.
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