Once you have settled on the shared house, flat or bedsit you like, the next thing is to sort out the paperwork.
- You will almost certainly be asked to sign an agreement such as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy or a license.
- This is a binding legal document so read it through carefully before signing. If you do not understand some of the clauses, do not sign but seek clarification, if needs be, from the University Accommodation Office or the Students' Union – they may well have model Tenancy Agreements – or from a local Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Advice Centre.
- The housing charity, Shelter, provides information on tenancy agreements and renting in general for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- It is much easier to agree terms at this early stage but almost impossible after you have signed and moved in.
- This is one of those occasions in your life when it pays (literally!) to read the small print.
Where you are sharing with other students, be aware that a joint tenancy implies joint liability so you might end up being responsible for the deeds and, more importantly, misdeeds of others.
- Some landlords will ask that students provide a guarantor – somebody who will sign the tenancy agreement and pay the rent or other charges if you don’t – and the same applies here and your guarantor may well be liable for the actions of unpaid rent of others.
It is becoming more common for landlords to include the cost of energy and other items such as water, the internet or contents insurance in the agreement.
- Make sure you fully understand how the charges will be calculated and if there are any limits on usage.
- Never part with money without getting a receipt and keep a copy of all documents.
- Remember that by law the landlord cannot increase the rent more than once a year unless your agreement contains a rent review clause.
What other paperwork might you expect?
- An Inventory and Schedule of Condition listing everything in the accommodation when you take it over and its condition. If you are given one, check it for accuracy and annotate any changes. If you are not, make one of your own, have it witnessed, send it to the landlord, and keep a copy yourself. Take photographs if necessary to record any initial damage.
- A Rent Book in the unlikely event that rent is payable on a weekly basis.
- A recent Gas Safety Certificate issued by a recognised Gas Safe engineer.
- A record of current gas/electricity meter readings. If not, take your own readings as soon as you move in.
You will not have to pay Council Tax if all the residents are full-time students.
- However, you may need to obtain an Exemption Certificate from the university to offer as proof.
- If, on the other hand, one of the residents is not a full-time student then a reduced Council Tax will be levied and if two or more then the full Council Tax.
The average length of the contract in private-sector accommodation is likely to be higher (45 weeks and often 52 weeks) than for university-owned property and deposits nearer £250 (higher in London) can be expected.
- The longer let is becoming more popular and can, of course, be a distinct advantage for some students.
- You will not have to make way for conference delegates, can keep your belongings with you, and stay to obtain vacation work in the university or nearby.
- You might even get a rent discount, especially if you are staying in the property for a further year.
Next page: Sharing