If you’re leaving home or halls for the first time, and feeling a little nervous at the renting from a private landlord, you’re not alone. Every year thousands of students seek accommodation in the wider world, and most of them have a great time, but face a few problems – and it pays to be prepared.
Do your research
Check average prices in your ideal areas before you start house-hunting, that way you’ll know when you’re getting value for money; and ask around about the area to make sure nobody has any horror stories. Check if your uni or student union offer free housing or legal services too, you might end up saving money with their help.
Consider your bills
Once you inform the council that you’re students you’ll be exempt from council tax, but there are other costs to consider. Experienced renters will be able to give you an idea of roughly how much you’ll be paying in gas and electricity, or you can use online tools like this one from uSwitch to estimate costs, so you can factor that into your budget. Remember that electric central heating, single glazing and poor insulation can push up your bills in winter.
Read your contract
We accept terms and conditions for software and apps on a daily basis and nothing bad seems to happen, a rental agreement can’t be any different, right? Wrong. There are lots of things to look out for, including your notice period at the end of your tenancy, whether you get a six-month break clause and who is liable for damage. If you’re unsure of anything, run it by someone you trust.
Check the inventory
Inventories are a catalogue of everything in the property when you move in, including descriptions of their condition. It’s this that will be used at the end of your tenancy to prove whether you’ve caused any damage or not: so make sure it’s accurate and covers every piece of damage. Don’t be frightened to challenge anything you disagree with, and take photos to back up your case. The same applies when you move out.
Keep your deposit safe
Your deposit (usually four to six weeks rent, never more than two months’ rent) must legally be held in an independent tenancy deposit scheme, which requires your approval before the landlord takes any money from it. Make sure you request certification of this when you hand over the deposit, and chase the landlord/letting agent if you don’t receive anything within the first month of your tenancy.
Plan your insurance cover
Your landlord will have building’s insurance, which will cover things like structural damage to the building, but it’s your responsibility to insure your possessions. Don’t assume you’re covered on your parents insurance, ask them, and check the policy if they’re not sure. If you buy your own insurance, make sure it covers all your possessions and that you don’t get stung by the excess (the amount of a claim that you pay before the insurer starts contributing).
Be burglar aware
It might sound obvious, but it’s important to keep valuables out of sight and doors and windows locked. Areas with lots of student accommodation are often the target of burglars, so you can’t be too careful. If you’re burgled because doors or windows were left unlocked, your insurer may not pay out either.
Check your safety measures
All properties should have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, as well as gas safety certificates. Appliances should also be PAT tested. It’s reasonable to ask for proof of any of these if you’re unsure.
Know your rights (and responsibilities)
Every tenant is entitled to expect certain things of their landlord, you can find out more about your specific rights from your Tenant Information Pack, Citizens Advice or Renting Scotland. Remember that you have responsibilities too though. Basic household maintenance like changing light bulbs, unblocking drains and looking after the garden (if you have one) are all down to you. Neglect your duties and you might risk losing part of your deposit.
If you’re not keen on looking after a property, you should consider looking at dedicated student accommodation like CRM Students that take care of those details for you!