Are you looking to rent property in the private sector or need student housing? Then it’s essential to know and understand your tenant rights in a private rental situation. You also need to make sure that landlords are not unethical, as there are some who will take advantage.
So, if this is your first time to rent private property, there are some things you’ll need to know. In this article, we’ll review some of the most important points to consider when renting student accommodations.
1). What’s in the Contract?
Have you ever read a tenancy contract? They’re usually long, and filled with legal jargon, and they’re dull. Not only that, but they can also be confusing. For these reasons, many people have a tendency to avoid reading through the contract for these very reasons. They sign the contract just to get it all over with and move in. However, that’s not the way a contract should be handled.
A contract is a legal document that explains what the landlord is responsible for. It also explains what you (and your roommates) are to take care of. When you sign the contract then move in and find something broken, what can you do? Sometimes there’s nothing you can do, if the contract doesn’t stipulate who is responsible for the repairs.
Once you’ve signed the contract, then you’re legally bound to what it says. So, always read through the entire lease contract before you sign. If something isn’t clear, then it’s a good idea to have a knowledgeable, experienced person read it and explain the contract to you.
2). Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme
It’s important to ensure your deposit is protected. Landlords are required to put your deposit into a tenancy deposit protection scheme. They have 30 days to get this done. Then your deposit stays there until you leave.
When a landlord doesn’t put the deposit into a protection scheme, then they will have to pay you four times the amount back. However, you’d have to go through small claims court to get this done.
3). The Bills
No one likes to hear the word “bills.” But it’s a reality of renting a property. So, it pays to find out how much the bills in your new place will cost. In some cases, the bills may be included in the rent. This is generally called “all-inclusive” rent. All-inclusive rent usually includes all utilities, Internet, TV license, and more. You can save quite a bit of money with an all-inclusive rental.
On the other hand, if the utilities are not included in the rent, then you’ll need to get these services set up. It will be necessary to find the meters on move-in day, then take the readings. You, or the person who will be taking care of the utilities, will need to watch the meter readings through the year. It’s essential to make sure you’re not being overcharged.
If you’re moving in with others, then the best way to handle utilities is to divide the bills between you. Be sure to have an agreement on how to take care of extra costs, too.
To make this easier, some students decide to create a joint bills account together. However, this can be dangerous because from then on, your credit records will be linked. If your flatmates have a bad credit history and lots of debt, then do not combine your finances with theirs. Keep your finances completely separate.
4). Letting Agent Fees & Signing the Contract
When you’re looking for a place to rent, it may be necessary to use a letting agent. This is someone who works for the landlord and carries out tasks related to renting out homes. They help find tenants and arrange the rental of the property. And they may be in charge of collecting the rent, as well as managing the property.
In the past, letting agents charged fees for their services. These could be quite expensive; however, the Government is trying to make it illegal for agents to charge fees to tenants. So, it’s essential to check for any extra fees or charges, before working with a letting agent. If the fees seem reasonable, then go ahead. And if something feels off, then listen to your instincts and go elsewhere to find student housing.
Keep in mind that letting agents are not allowed to charge you for registering, or for showing properties for rent. However, they can charge fees for credit checks, admin fees, or releasing your deposit.
When you’ve decided on a place to rent, then be sure to read the leasing contract through completely before you sign. Look to see how much the deposit and rent cost, as well as the utilities, and more. Look to see what the rent covers (utilities, council tax, and more), as well as when the rent’s due.
If there are things you don’t understand, ask the letting agent or landlord for clarification. You may also ask another person to review the contract with you. If there are points you don’t agree with in the contract, then be sure to talk with the letting agent/landlord. If they do agree to the change, then make sure the contract has been changed to reflect this.
5). Tenant’s Rights
As a tenant, you have certain rights that landlords need to respect. We’ve put together a list of the most common tenant rights.
- Fire safety: the landlord is required to ensure you are protected against fire hazards on the property. This means there should be adequate fire escape methods included with the property. The minimum requirement is a smoke alarm on every floor of the residence. Rooms that have a fireplace or wood stove also need to be fitted out with a carbon monoxide detector.
- Landlord entering property: the landlord or his representatives are not allowed to visitor your home without priory warning. They should give you at least 24 hours’ notice. And if you can’t be there for the visit, then you can request a witness. The only time they don’t need to give 24-hour notice is during an emergency.
- Pest control: you’ll want to make sure who is responsible for pest control—you or your landlord. Pets include anything from rodents (mice and rats), to bedbugs and more.
- Decorating: know before you start changing the décor! Are you able to decorate the home? Some landlords will allow you to paint; however, always ask in advance. If you do paint, the landlord may request you re-paint the room in its original colour when you move.
By paying attention to details and asking questions, you’ll have a great chance of landing an excellent place to live! Plus, knowing your rights will ensure landlords and letting agents can’t take advantage of you.