Guidelines for domestic UK students who are looking for private rented accommodation.
Choose a suitable area
Depending on your circumstance, you should find a property that is close to amenities and resources to suits all your needs such as GP surgery, train station, or work. If you have any dependents, you should also take that into consideration.
Set a budget
Before you rent a place, you need to know what you can afford to make your search easy and fast. Having a budget will bring you various options and help from family and friends.
Make sure you have a signed copy of your contract with your landlord, estate agent or housing association. This is to make sure that every transaction is legally documented.
Types of rental accommodation
There are few types of rental accommodation which you can consider, including Private, Agency, housing association and council houses.
As long as you have some self-contained accommodation which you don’t share with your landlord, you are most likely to have an assured shorthold tenancy. An assured shorthold tenancy can be for a fixed term, for example, twelve months, or it can be periodic, that is, running from one rent period to another, such as from month to month. It’s relatively easy for a landlord to evict an assured shorthold tenant as long as they use the correct legal process. Agency Letting agents are not regulated, which means that anyone can trade as a letting agent without any qualifications or a licence.
It’s best to use an agent that has signed up to the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), or is a member of a self-regulating body such as the:
• Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
• National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)
• Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
• UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)
A letting agent that is part of one of these schemes or bodies offers some protection as they expect member agents to adhere to certain standards, for example, having a complaints procedure in place. Some may also require agents to have money protection arrangements so that if they go out of business, you will not lose your money. The organisations mentioned above and some others have signed up to a private rented sector code of practice.
The code sets out the legal requirements of agents. It may be useful to refer to the code if the agent you use is a member of one of the organisations that have agreed to follow it. Agents that have the Safe Agent registered mark indicate that they protect your money through a client money protection scheme.
Registering with a letting agent
You can register with more than one agent at a time. Lettings agents aren’t allowed to charge you for registering with them or for simply providing a list of properties. If they do, they are committing a criminal offence and you can report them to Trading Standards.
What am I likely to have to pay?
Fees can vary from one letting agent to another, so it’s best to shop around and ask letting agents for details of their fees. You should also ask for receipts for any payments you make. Agents can charge an administration fee. This may cover things like drawing up tenancy agreements, inventories and checking references.
Agents can charge a holding deposit if you’ve agreed to take a property but haven’t yet signed the tenancy agreement. If you’re asked to pay a holding deposit make sure you’re aware of what will happen before you pay any money. It will be useful to know:
• In what circumstances the deposit can be returned, for example, if you fail a credit check do you get the deposit back?
• In what circumstances are you entitled to withdraw, for example, if you change your mind about the tenancy is the deposit refundable?
• If the landlord decides not to go ahead with the tenancy, will you get the deposit back?
• If the tenancy doesn’t go ahead for whatever reason, are you tied to using that agency because it transfers the deposit to another property?
• If you do pay a holding deposit it is usually deducted from the security deposit you pay when you move in.
Agents can require payment of a deposit as security against damage or getting into rent arrears. A typical security deposit is one month’s rent. Security deposits for assured shorthold tenancies paid on or after 6 April 2007, must be protected in a government-approved scheme. You must also be provided with details of the scheme.
A tenancy deposit protection scheme will pay back as much of your deposit as you are entitled to at the end of the tenancy. It also provides an alternative dispute resolution service that can be used if there is a disagreement about the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
Rent in advance
Agents can, and often do, ask for one month’s rent in advance in addition to the security deposit. If you have to pay rent in advance you should check when the next rent payment is due. What should you do if you think fees are unfair or illegal? If you think that an agent is asking for an unfair or illegal charge, you could complain using the agent’s complaints procedure if they have one. If you do complain, the agent may not find you accommodation. So if you can, it may be best to use another agent, or delay complaining and taking action until after the agent has found you accommodation and you’ve moved in. You can take action for an agent charging an illegal fee, by taking court action for the return of the money. Or you can report them to Trading Standards. If you paid a fee which you think was unreasonably high, or you weren’t given details of the charge in advance, you may be able to challenge it on the grounds that it’s unfair. The local authority’s Trading Standards Officer, Tenancy Relations Officer or a housing specialist may be able to help you with this.
A person will be omitted for Council Tax discount purposes if they are a student on a full time course of education at university or college. A full time course of education is one which:
• Lasts for at least one academic calendar year.
• The student is required to attend for at least 24 weeks.
• Involves 21 hours per week of studies, tuition or work experience.
Discounts and reductions are granted if certain conditions are met, they are not based on income. You may be able to claim a discount if you:
• Live on your own and aged 18 or over
• Live with people not counted for Council Tax
• Have certain adaptations in your home for a person with a disability
In some cases, a property is exempt from Council Tax. This means you do not have to pay anything for the time it qualifies for exemption. You can apply for an exemption or find out more about exempt properties.
For information on accommodation costs please visit:
Brent Council Housing Website – www.brent.gov.uk/services-for-residents/housing/
Harrow Council Housing Website – www.harrow.gov.uk/housing-property
Zoopla Website – https://www.zoopla.co.uk/