ARLA has issued guidance to students who may be using the Christmas break to line-up accommodation for the coming year.
Looking for a property - When you start looking for properties with your letting agent you should bear in mind that rents are negotiable and do background checks where you can. For example, you should try to speak to the previous tenants about any issues they’ve had with the property although a letting agent should be well equipped to advise you.
Agency fees - You are entitled to receive a full list of costs from your letting agent so you know exactly what you are paying for. It can sometimes seem that there are many different costs, so ensure you are aware exactly what everything is and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Tenancy Deposits - Your deposit must be protected in one of the three government-authorised tenancy deposit protection schemes. You must be given a certificate to say who is protecting your deposit and information about the scheme; so make sure to ask your letting agent about this if they do not provide the full details. You must also be given a copy of the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide and will be asked to provide ID to demonstrate you have the right to live in the UK.
Property checks - It pays to know exactly what state the property was in, and what furniture was and wasn’t included in the agreement, in order to protect yourself at the end of the rental agreement. Conducting an inventory will help you avoid any unfair costs at the end of your tenancy – you and your landlord should each have an agreed signed copy of this.
Utilities - Unless your contract states that water, gas and electricity costs are included in the rent, tenants are jointly responsible for paying these. Take meter readings at the start of the tenancy and regularly throughout the year to ensure you’re paying for what you use. For those whose landlords factor the bills into the rent, you can ask for a breakdown of each added cost to ensure your landlord is not overcharging in their favour – this is illegal.
If you live with any non-students they will be responsible for paying the council tax (discounts maybe given in this situation) so ensure this is addressed properly.
Paying for the TV licence is also not to be missed off your checklist. Whilst it can be seen as an unimportant cost for many, if you start paying a monthly amount from the beginning you avoid the risk of having to pay a large lump sum later on.
Maintaining the property - Regularly cleaning your property and maintaining the garden can help to avoid bills at the end of your tenancy. And don’t be scared of reporting any repair issues. If something breaks in the property or a water pipe starts leaking, tell your agent. Getting your property back into working order quickly makes life easier and more pleasant for you – and cheaper for your landlord.
Leave your property in a good condition - Make sure you leave the property clean and as you received it when you moved in. Nothing should be left in the property that wasn’t there when you arrived and don’t forget to do the garden. Properties left in a poor state of cleanliness and unkempt gardens are the main reasons why tenants have money deducted from their deposits.
Moving out - Any damage to the property made before you move in should be recorded properly in the inventory, so you don’t end up in a dispute with your landlord over damage caused before you moved in. Your deposit should be returned promptly and if there is a dispute with your landlord, remember you can always take advantage of the free, impartial, dispute resolution procedures provided by the scheme your deposit was protected through.
However, if you have taken care to ensure you’ve abided by our top tips, your moving out process should be straight-forward and problem-free.
Finally, you should also be proactive with taking meter readings and informing your utility providers when you are moving out as, if your account is in credit, you may have money coming back to you.