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Student Accommodation or Private Renting

Typically when first moving away for full time education at university, many first years will choose to enter into student halls. It goes without saying that where you decide to leave will largely informs your initial exposure to life at university and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Many fresher’s will opt for either private or university owned halls of residence due to them commonly being found close to the campus.  However, the often sited appeal of living amongst hundreds of other full time students, whilst revered for its social aspects, can of course come with its downfalls. To be frank when moving into student halls tenants poses no control over who they could be sharing a home with over the next year, often leading to antisocial behaviour complaints and deterioration in relationships between residents. Whilst this may simply sound as something that isn’t too detrimental to the tenancy, providing that the tenancy agreement entered the occupants into a joint tenancy, if a student vacates the rental their portion of the rent will still need paying by the remaining occupants.

With this being said there are some practical benefits to making your initial rental experience one in student halls. As can be expected the expense of rental payments will be new to most full time students, with this in mind when living in halls it is often the case that utility bills such as electricity and broadband are included within the standard rental fee.  Some also take solace in knowing that if they are in university owned halls that they have an organisation within the university alongside a student union they are able to turn to if any issues should arise. Not only do some universities guarantee a spot within their student halls providing the students successful application, but can also be known to offer catered accommodation, giving the students living away from home for the first time an easy transition into the world of renting.

However, for many after this initial year and those that has rented in the past, finding a private property is the superior alternative.  For some this could be the control, with the students being able to find any size of property in any location they wish, whilst only having to share the property with the occupants of their choice. It goes without saying that this is ideal for those that are heading to university together, giving them the privacy abandoned when living in halls, whist also providing the proximity to campus and city centre lifestyle. Perhaps one of the more vocally appreciated changes when moving into private rentals is the far lower costs of renting, however it is always worth checking if this price also includes bills. Not only that but the relationship with the owner of the property is far more personal when renting privately, even through a letting agent, often meaning that maintenance requests and other queries get resolves far faster.

What to Check When Moving Into Student Accommodation

We understanding that jumping into private renting or student accommodation when trying to handle full time education can be somewhat overwhelming so here we offer some practical advice so make sure your tenancy runs smoothly.

Property Inventory

Carrying out a thorough property inventory is an essential aspect of every tenancy and could later be relied upon by the tenant to ensure that they are not charged for any damages to the property or its appliances they did not cause. Before moving into the rental property both the landlord and the tenant will conduct a full inspection of each area of the rental opportunity, detailing any signs of wear, deterioration or damage that they find. The report should describe the markings found alongside photographs of the affected areas. The document should then be reviewed and signed by both parties of the tenancy, with each also providing a witness to counter sign. Once the fixed period of the tenancy comes to an end the inspection report will then be compared to the findings within the most recent inspection to determine if any new damage has been cause, and to see if the condition of the property has deteriorated further.

It is essential to remember than an inaccurate or vague property inspection report will be of little help to either party if any deductions are proposed to be made from the tenancy deposit. Clarity will ensure that all appropriate amounts are returned to the appropriate party, with consideration to fear wear and tear. When making deductions from the tenancy deposit the landlord is exempt from charging the tenant for what could be deemed as “fair wear and tear”.  Put simply this is the expected deterioration seen in furnishings or areas that have high use over time, and can only regard the overall condition of an item, not its cleanliness.

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What Bills Do You Need to Pay?

For many students that have moved into private rental properties from student accommodation, the consideration of utility bills will be something new. It is essential that the tenants first establish who their utility providers are. These will be the companies that supply the rental property with electricity, water, gas and broadband and they will need to be informed about the new occupancy. This will potentially involve taking a meter reading to establish a starting point for how much of each utility the property has consumed, ensuring that the occupants are not over charged. It is also worth taking a picture of these meters, some of which are commonly found on the exterior of the property, as this may help with any disputes over the final utility bill.

If you are in the position of needing to find a new utility provider for the rental property it is essential to steer well clear of brokers that will often lock unknowing clients into longer contract periods at less than desirable rates. Remember to shop around and evaluate what is realistically affordable alongside you rental commitment, and potential insurance costs.

An additional cost many will be thankful to avoid is council tax. As a full time student you will not be required to pay any rate of council tax; however, the local authority must be informed through a registration as a disregarded person. If the students occupying the rental property neglect to inform the council they may end up receiving an unexpected fee.

Do You Need Insurance?

Another common oversight made by students embracing on their first rental experience is to dismiss their need for insurance. Whilst living at home many of the student’s belongings may have been covered by policies taken out by their parents or guardians: however those that assume their items will be protected under any contents insurance policies the landlord may have taken out will be sadly left disappointed. Whilst the owner of the rental property will naturally have a certain duty of care when letting out a home, ensuring that it is both safe to inhabit and secure; but the unfortunate truth is that student areas are subject to burglary, meaning that students must take out their own content insurance policies. Such policies will offer the tenant protection in the event that their insured items are damaged or stolen, with tenants that would have neglected to take out insurance needing to juggle replacement costs alongside meeting their obligation to pay rent.  With this being said it is worth noting that if a student wished to claim on their contents insurance policy they will be required to pay what is called an excess charge, this should be accounted for when evaluating which policy should be taken out, which items to insure and your general budgeting from month to month.

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What Deposits Do I Need to Pay?

It could be safe to assume that for many full time students, paying their rent could be the largest financial commitment they have maintained to date. But, whilst paying rent is expected, not all of those new to renting a property may be familiar with the numerous deposits they will need to pay the owner of the rental accommodation before they even move in.  When searching for a private rental property to live in during your studies there will of course be a great deal of competition for reach rental opportunity in proximity to the campus. With this in mind students will be required to provide the landlord or letting agency with a Holding Deposit. This deposit will effectively “reserve” the accommodation, with the landlords being required to take the opportunity off the market and begin to negotiate the terms of the tenancy with the aspiring renters. Once the holding deposit has been paid the landlord or letting agency must enter into a tenancy agreement with the prospective tenants within 15 days. In the majority of cases students are happy with the terms and will proceed into a tenancy, with the amount they paid for the holding deposit then being returned in full; however it is worth noting that landlords will commonly deduct the amount taken for this deposit and deduct this from the tenant’s first rent payment. There are however circumstance under which this amount would not be refunded to the students. If the landlord and students are unable to come to an agreement regarding the terms of the tenancy agreement, seeing the student decide they do not wish to rent the property, the student misleads the property owner, or the aspiring tenant fails a right to rent check. However, if the landlord decides that they do not wish to proceed with the tenancy agreement or the tenant has taken every step to proceed with the tenancy agreement but has had no response from the landlord, the amounts taken for the holding deposit will be returned.

In the overwhelming majority of cases students will be expected to pay the landlord or letting agent a tenancy deposit. This is typically around a month’s work of rent and whilst the full amount could be returned to the tenant, the deposit is safeguarded until the end of the rental period. This is because the tenancy deposit is intended to allow the landlord to recuperate any costs they will have incurred through repairing the property, replacing its furnishings or outstanding rental payments come the close of the tenancy’s fixed term. This is why it is in the best interest of the students to maintain the good condition of their accommodation as they will lose hundreds of pounds after the final inspection if the rental is in a state of disrepair. Unfortunately for full time students, their reputation as tenants that have a disregard for the upkeep of the property they rent, many landlords will feel they must request the maximum amount for this tenancy deposit in order to grant themselves the best financial protection; in the majority of cases the landlord is prevented from asking for more than the equivalent cost of five weeks rent, unless the annual charge for renting the property is over £50,000. Once students have paid their landlord the tenancy deposit they must ensure that the owner of the rental property has entered these amounts into a government approved deposit protection scheme. Once provided with the appropriate sums the landlord is required to protect their tenant’s deposits within 30 days, with the details of the scheme the deposit is entered into being supplied to the residents of the property.

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