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Expert advice for students looking for rented accommodation

16/02/2022 Students Tips & Advice Top News
Expert advice for students looking for rented accommodation

While moving into a house with your best mates in your second year is exciting, it can also feel daunting. It may be the first time that any of you have had to go through the often-arduous renting process, plus you have to make sure that everyone's happy.

All of this requires organisation, diplomacy and sometimes compromise - a mixture that can be tricky to achieve when time is a factor and stress levels are high.

As stressful as it can be, remind yourself and your friends that you will find somewhere to live - it’s often just a case of perseverance. And if your initial plans fall through, something better might be around the corner.

Students' experiences really vary with each city's housing market working differently.  To help you through the process, we’ve pulled together the key things you need to know.

Before looking for a property it is a good idea to think about the following criteria:

  • Before signing a legally binding contract make sure you are happy living with all the people you will be living with.
  • Is there a preferred area you would like to live? i.e., near university or near bars and clubs.  
  • Do you feel safe in the area?
  • What are the amenities in the area? E.g., supermarkets, etc.

Landlord or letting agents?

Taking the agency route gives you more security as you can check that they are member of a government-approved redress scheme to deal with complaints.  Letting agents are mandated to belong to redress scheme.

Agents may also belong to a self-regulating body such as the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) or Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).  This means it has agreed to adhere to certain codes and practices.

If you deal directly with a landlord, you may be able to save money, but you will not have the same securities.

How do I arrange a property viewing?

As we’ve mentioned above, your university’s housing office (or equivalent) can recommend letting agents and landlords whom previous students have had a good experience with verified. There may be an online portal where you can browse a list of these, and even properties themselves.

If you decide to go down the agency route, ask friends which ones they’re using. If you have any friends in their second or third year, get their take as they’ll have already been through the process.

You can also browse letting agents’ windows or go online to view the properties on their website. If you see somewhere, you like the look of with a ‘To Let’ sign outside, ring up the agent whose name is on the sign to ask about availability. 

Once you’ve settled with an agent, phone them or go into their office to introduce yourself and let them know what you’re looking for. They can then suggest properties on their books which match what you’re looking for - or get in touch when something suitable becomes available. If everyone likes the look of the property on paper, arrange a viewing.

If you’re in a larger group, it might be difficult to find a time to view a property that suits everyone’s schedules. Because time is a factor, it might be that only some of your group can attend a viewing and they’ll have to report back. If this is the case, pick someone who’ll ask the right questions.

Remember to take photos to show those who can’t make a viewing. Plus, this can remind you of different places if you view lots in one go.

What to look for when viewing a property

You won’t necessarily have a lot of time to view a property. If the current tenants are there, it can be a bit awkward and even difficult to imagine how the place might look without their stuff there or if they haven’t had time to tidy up. However it can be a good time to ask the current tenants about the property and the area.

Here are a few things to look for or ask about when viewing a student rental property:

  • Damp or mould Use your nose - your first warning of potential damp is that musty dank smell. Also look carefully at the walls for any signs. Ask current tenants if they’ve experienced any problems, if possible.
  • Neighbours Bad neighbours are the last thing you want. Take a look at what the neighbour’s property looks like from the outside - if it looks like a ‘party house’ from the number of beer bottles outside, think about how the prospect of all-night noise will affect you during exams.
  • What does the rent cover? Find out how much the deposit is, any other fees, and whether bills are included in the rent. If bills are separate, you’ll probably be able to shop around for the cheapest supplier.
  • What comes with the property? If you see a washing machine and bed on your viewing, it doesn’t automatically mean it will be there when you move in. Find out what furniture and appliances are included in the house and factor in any costs and inconveniences if you’ll be moving into an unfurnished property.
  • Length of contract The most standard contract length for students is 12 months, but nine months is sometimes possible - useful if you don’t plan to be around for the summer.
  • Type of contract It will either be a joint tenancy agreement for the whole property, or an individual contract for each housemate. If joint, be aware that you could be chased if someone else doesn’t pay the rent in your household. 

What happens once you’ve found a place you like?

First of all, congratulations on finding somewhere you’re happy with! As happy as you might be, there are some more tasks you need to get ticked off your list.

  • Communicate clearly and quickly with housemates
  • Get all your housemates to sign the paperwork and pay deposits before anyone else nabs the property.
  • If you haven’t done so already, set up a Whatsapp group or something similar.

Signing a tenancy agreement

As tedious as they can be to read, it’s very important to double check that you’re happy with everything. Try to make sure that all of your housemates have read everything, too.

When reading your contract, there are some key things to check.

You might have to provide a guarantor; this is a third party – normally a parent or close relative – who legally agrees to pay your rent if you fail to meet your financial commitments. Exactly half of parents profiled by Which? University Parents Survey in 2019 said they were listed as a guarantor for their child's accommodation.  If you are international student consider your options as a guarantor has to have a UK address and bank account.

What fees will you pay?

Be prepared for a hit to your bank balance once you’ve found your housing. On top of rent, don’t forget to budget for:

  • deposit
  • holding fee
  • removal van hire (if necessary)
  • any extra furniture or appliances you might need (if necessary)
  • bedding
  • kitchen supplies

Moving in - the exciting bit!

Agree on a suitable moving-in date that works for everyone before signing the contract. You want time to unpack and get settled before starting your studies.

Whilst there is a lot to consider when moving into your first rented property, we are here to help. Call to book a meeting with one of our friendly and experienced team who can talk you through the process and help you short list suitable properties.

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