Property Guide - Student Guide to Renting

Choosing Who to Live With:

Before you begin to look at properties with your friends, it's important that you carefully consider who would make suitable house or flat mates.  This could alleviate any tensions in the future and help ensure your next year at University is as great as the first!

Assess your friends to find out what you are looking for in a flat/house mate:
•    look at their attitude towards household chores;
•    if they have any bad habits which annoy you e.g. poor hygiene, smoking;
•    if you have common interests i.e. music, sport;  
•    if they are sociable or private;
Most contracts run for a full year, so it’s important to ensure you can live with these people.  Though difficult to tell a friend you don't want to live with them.  It is often much easier than losing their friendship entirely because of lifestyle and personality clashes.

Private Halls
Most students choose to live in shared accommodation after completing their first year. However, private halls are an increasingly popular alternative as they often provide additional on site facilities as part of the rental agreement.
Purpose built properties are often fitted with the latest in modern appliances and can be a great way to meet new people.  Although weekly rent maybe higher it is worth checking out which bills are included and weigh up the best option for you.
Examples of features often found in private halls include:
En-suite bedrooms / High speed internet access / Enhanced on site security / On site gym / Large selection of room styles and size / Inclusive Bills / Built in TV / Onsite laundry service / Secure parking

Where Best to Live
Flat/House-hunting can be exciting and stressful. The best student properties are often snapped up quickly, so it's important to be ready to begin looking for accommodation as soon as possible.
Most student towns and cities have areas suitable for students.  Speak to your friends and the University student advisors who will be able to help identify them.
The pros of living in renowned student areas include:
-    Good public transport links
-    Close proximity to University campus
-    Great social scene nearby
-    Supermarkets and convenience stores nearby
-    Close to other students
The cons may include:
•    Higher noise levels and increased crime rates

Affordability
When renting a property, the monthly rent won’t be your only expense.  There will be other costs you should consider in order to calculate how much you and your new housemates can afford each month.
Some factors can include:
TV license:can be paid either annually or in monthly instalments.  If renting a property on a group tenancy then you will be liable for only one license.  However, if sharers, a license will be needed for each occupier that owns and uses a TV.  
If renting a room in a private hall, you need to check if you need a license for a TV in your living area or bedroom.You're also required to purchase a TV license if you watch live streaming via your PC or laptop.
Utility bills: are payable in a number of ways and it is advisable to check with your landlord/letting agent what exactly they require from you (many will ask for proof of payments before returning your deposit).
Internet:optional and can be highly useful when it comes to coursework and revision, and checking social media!
Contents insurance:something to consider and well worth the money just in case something like a fire or theft were to happen.
Council tax:full–time students are exempt from this, but part–time students are not. If you are planning on living with part–time students, you will need to take council tax into consideration.
Food:can be expensive, reduce costs by eating together and have fun too.

Viewing Properties
Chosen the perfect housemates, decided where to live, now to find the property!
Most letting agents will take you to view a few properties in one go, often with other groups of students who are interested in the same property type; this canput pressure on you to make a decision.  Be patient and try to see as many properties as you can to give yourself a fair idea of the accommodation available.
In order to make the viewing process as stress–free as possible, do the following when going to viewings:
•    Make sure everyone you will be living with attend the viewings?
•    Bring a camera when you are seeing several properties in one go.  This will help you remember which ones you liked and didn't like.
•    Bring our Propfine checklist reminding you questions that you may otherwise forget to ask.
•    Bring a notebook and pen to write down answers to any questions you have asked the letting agent, as well as any other notes that will be useful later on.
It's far easier to avoid a property that doesn't meet your requirements, than it is to live in a property you are not happy with!

Securing the Property
Once you've found a property that you all like and agree upon, your landlord or agent may ask for a holding fee or deposit.  This will prevent the property being offered to anyone else for a set amount of time (specified by the agent or landlord).  Holding fees are a perfectly normal procedure, so don't worry if you are asked to provide one.  Do however make sure that you are provided with a receipt of the payment.
Dependent on whether you are renting as an individual, or as a group, the deposit amount will be variable.  It is usually the equivalent of between one calendar month and six weeks’ worth of rent.
Recent laws have been put into place regarding deposits and it is now a legal necessity that all deposits are paid into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDP).  This scheme is a cautionary measure to protect all renters (not just students) and their deposits.
Once you've handed over your deposit, your landlord must ensure that they have provided you with contact details of this scheme within 14 days, regardless of how long it takes for the money to clear in their account or how long they hold onto the money for.
The Government approved schemes for you to look out for are*:
•    Tenancy Deposit Scheme Ltd
•    Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd
•    Deposit Protection Services
*These are the only Government approved schemes available.
Don't be surprised if you are asked by an agent or landlord to provide details of a guarantor.  This means that if you miss any rent payments, they have a backup from whom they can take the money owed.  This is usually a parent, but could be any adult as long as you have their consent.
When providing a deposit, you will also need to ensure you sign a tenancy agreement, which will lay out the terms and conditions that both your landlord and all tenants need to adhere to.
It is advisable that you read through the document thoroughly and ask your landlord/letting agent to explain anything you are unsure about.  If you still have questions that have not been answered you can speak to a member of your student union who will be able to assist you further.

Moving Out
Your tenancy agreement will provide you with all of the details regarding when your lease comes to an end along with anything else you are required to do.  Some landlords/agents may insist that you have the property professionally cleaned before you move out.  If you are unsure about anything, speak to your landlord/letting agent or your student union.
If you think there could be a lot of rubbish to dispose on moving out day, try to stagger the amount of waste you put out for collection over a few weeks.  Many councils now limit the amount of waste that will be taken per household; and organising private disposal of rubbish can be very costly.
In the weeks building up to moving day, gather as many boxes as possible for transporting your possessions.
•    Supermarkets and shops are usually a good place to find unwanted cardboard boxes that can be reused for free.
•    Try to eat as much of your leftover food (probably a lot of baked beans!) as possible before you move to save cash and space.
Tips to ensure you get your full deposit back:
•    Ensure all refuse has been removed from the property (including from gardens or backyards)
•    Wash walls and skirting boards to remove any marks
•    Repair/replace anything which has been broken
•    Vacuum carpets and mop floors
•    Give the bathrooms, kitchen and all other communal areas a thorough clean
•    Air the property as much as you can
•    Defrost the freezer, clean the fridge and remove all contents
•    Take pictures of the house once you've cleaned and removed your possessions. Just in case there are any disputes over the condition the house has been left in.

International Students
For international students planning to study in the UK it can be difficult to understand which laws and rules apply.  Therefore, it is essential that you do this research before coming to the UK.
Places for student accommodation are often limited therefore it is important that you speak to the University as soon as you have been offered a place to secure somewhere to live.  If you are going into your first year of study, most Universities will guarantee you a place within their halls of residence.
Dependent on the sources of your income, you could also be eligible for additional student funding or tax relief.  It is advisable to check with HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs) and your student union representative for more information about any required paperwork you will need to complete during your stay in the UK.
Other links you may find useful:
•    https://www.ukcisa.org.uk/ – UK Council for International Student Affairs
•    https://www.nus.org.uk/ – National Union of Students
•    https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ – Citizens Advice Bureau

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