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Students Guide to Renting

For many students their move to university will be their first venture into the rental market and their initial dive into looking for their ideal accommodation can be an overwhelming affair. Knowing how much you should be paying in rent, what your rights and responsibilities are as a tenant and what should pay before you move in are all explained in our student guide to renting.

Searching For Accommodation

Of course there are the universal aspects that students typically look for in their living quarters, with a close proximity to the university campus, transport routes, parking and a city centre location all being highly sought after qualities. However, before the search begins there are important considerations that shouldn’t be overlooked.

To some this may sound obvious but when looking for student accommodation with others it is important to establish an appropriate rental price than can be easily afforded. In some cases it may not immediately be clear if the rental price includes bills for utilities such as broadband, electricity and water, so it is essential to also budget for these alongside other necessities.

Additionally, it is essential for first time renters to remember that when they proceed with a tenancy agreement they are singing a legally binding contract they cannot simply back out from. To this end, before you move into the property make sure the terms of the agreement and condition of the property are thoroughly looked over and scrutinised. With this in mind it would be less than ideal to move into the accommodation to only engage in countless disputes with other housemates, or have them abandon the tenancy and leave the remaining students in an uncertain situation.

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Student Tenancy Agreements

It is safe to say that the type of tenancy agreement a student will typically have is a shorthold tenancy agreement that expires after 12 months. However, if you are looking at moving into student halls, it is likely that you will be on a fixed term agreement, meaning that you have a rental period that lasts until the end of the academic year, but can be evicted if the terms of the agreement are broken.

The landlord is able to present students with either a joint tenancy agreement, or an individual contract. If the agreement proceeds under a joint tenancy, all occupants will share the collective and equal responsibility of paying any due rent alongside looking after the property and its contents. This type of agreement, whilst favoured by some, can leave students in a perilous financial situation as if a student leaves their course and wishes to move out, the other students in the property will still have to cover the rental payments.

Arguably an individual contract is more suitable for students, leaving them less exposed to paying a higher rent due to other tenants, during a period of their lives synonymous with low income; and also only leaves the student liable for any damage that occurs in their individual living space, with the exception of communal areas.

Do You Always Need a Guarantor?

As mentioned, moving into student accommodation, for many will be their first taste of living away from home. Typically when assessing a tenants suitability for a rental property the landlord will have them undergo a referencing process, with a key aspect being their ability to constantly meet their obligation to pay rent. With students however, the line of what constitutes “affordable” is a little less clear. Many students will not have an adequate credit history and sue to their academic commitments will be unable to maintain an income level typically demanded of tenants. To this end when renting to students, many landlords will request that the tenant obtains a guarantor. When in this position most students will naturally turn to parents or other relatives to fill this role. Essentially the guarantor will become liable for any outstanding rental payments, and potentially any amount required to amend damage to the property. However, it is important to remember that serious legal action can be taken against a guarantor if excessive rental arrears are left unpaid, meaning they shouldn’t be considered as an alternative to paying rent. If the agreement concerns a joint tenancy, the guarantor will also be responsible for the rent in its entirety, not just a single tenant’s portion of the due payment.

How Much Is the Deposit for Student Accommodation?

Whilst this is down to the discretion of the individual landlord, typically a student will be required to pay two deposits before they move into their rental accommodation. Once the student finds their ideal letting opportunity, in order for the property to be taken of the market, essentially being reserved, the student will need to pay the landlord a holding deposit.

Traditionally a holding deposit is not too expensive, something most students will surely appreciate, usually amounting to the equivalent cost of a single weeks rent. Providing the potential tenant proceeds with the tenancy agreement, the full amount is returned to the student. With this being said the amount paid for the holding deposit isn’t directly paid to the student, but rather deducted from any future rental payments made to the landlord.  

Once the holding deposit has been handed to the landlord, and the property taken off the market the student will then have 15 days in which to reach an agreement with the landlord and sign a tenancy agreement. If the student is content with the details of the tenancy and signs the agreement, the holding deposit must be returned to them within seven days.

However, there are circumstances under which the holding deposit will not be returned, allowing the landlord to pocket this amount. If the student fails their Right to Rent checks, provides the landlords of referencing agency with knowingly false or misleading information regarding their identification or renting history, neglects to communicate with the property owner to commence the tenancy, or simply changes their mind about moving forward with the agreement the landlord is permitted to keep the tenancy deposit.  This is intended to act as a financial safeguard for landlords, allowing them to be compensated for their time and the time lost in marketing the rental opportunity.

Tenancy Deposit for Students

Prior to moving into the accommodation students will be required to provide the landlord with a tenancy deposit. Unlike the holding deposit, this larger sum can be retained by the landlord as a safeguard against any costs incurred repairing the property or replacing its contents at the close of the tenancy period. It is for this reason many landlords choose to take a far higher tenancy deposit, not only granting them more protecting, but simultaneously acting as a monetary incentive for the occupants of the property to be increasingly mindful of the accommodation’s condition.

However, landlords are prevented from requesting exorbitant amounts under the guise of a deposit with the introduction of the Tenant Fees act 2019. The act dictates that a landlord is not able to request more than the equivalent cost of five weeks rent for a tenancy deposit when the annual rental charge for the property is less that £50,000. If however, the tenant of the rental property pay more than £50,000 each year in rent, the limit is raised, allowing the landlord to ask the tenants for up to six weeks rent.

Once you have given the landlord the tenancy deposit they must then enter this amount into a government approved deposit protection scheme within 30 days. After the landlord has entered the tenancy deposit into the protection scheme they should let you know the details of the scheme under which the deposit is being held, whilst confirming the amount taken, and the appropriate rental accommodation.

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How Do I Get My Student Deposit Back?

Regardless of the type of tenant, location, or type of let, all occupants of a rental property take on the obligation to return the property in a condition akin to the start of the rental period. Of course, slight deterioration and signs of use are to be expected, to this end when the rental property is inspected at the close of the tenancy period, allowance will be given for signs of “fair wear and tear”. But what is fear wear and tear? Well, whilst there is no strict definition to abide by, essentially fair wear and tear is the expected deterioration of a furnishing, appliance, item or area within the rental property that has not been maliciously caused by the occupants, but rather regular use over time.   

When asking how to get your full tenancy deposit back many choose to emphasise what the tenant is able to do at the close of the rental period. However, some would argue due to their infancy students will need to take additional measures and precautions in order to safeguard themselves from ‘opportunistic’ landlords looking to wrongfully cash in on a tenancy deposit.

Before a student moves into a private rental they will be required to inspect the condition of the property, signing off a landlord inventory. This document will comprehensively detail the furnishings contained within the property alongside their condition, giving both parties an undisputable reference for future inspections. Whilst this inventory will have a description and numerous photos of the properties contents, it is good practice for students to take their own photos too so these can also later be relied upon.

If anything was to be broken during the rental period informing the landlord and replacing the damaged items could be worth addressing yourself, as it could potentially be cheaper than having the associated replacement costs being taken from the tenancy deposit. With this being said, students should check the details of their tenancy agreement to see if they would be liable for such damage, as in some cases the landlord would need to replace the effected furnishings; in these instances the student should simply notify the landlord of the needed work as soon as possible.

When moving out of a property students should be aware of any outstanding fees for their utility bills, or any final payments that need to be made. Before vacating the rental property utility providers should be made aware that new occupants will be taking possession of the rental. Typically, a final statement will be issued that will need to be settled. If the students fail to address this last payment it will undoubtedly fall upon the landlord who will be within their rights to deduct this amount from the tenancy deposit.

It goes without saying but the better condition in which the property is presented at the close of the tenancy, the higher your chances of getting back the full tenancy deposit amount. With this in mind cleaning the entire rental property in the final days of the tenancy period can make all the difference, with multiple tenants only making the workload lighter. It is worth noting that in most cases there will be multiple students living in the same accommodation, the responsibility is to return the property in a fit condition; having “done your bit” toward the cleaning isn’t enough to protect your deposit, the entire rental must be in an excellent state.

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