No running water… an infestation of mice… dodgy heating… these are just some of the annoying issues you might face while living in a rental property. So, when it comes to house-hunting it’s handy to know what to look out for in order to avoid being exploited by a dodgy landlord or agent. Make sure you follow our tips for a smooth transition to your next place.
Ask lots of questions
When looking around a property, keep your eyes peeled for signs of damp or mould, broken electrical switches and signs of pest infestation. If you can, speak to the current tenants and quiz them about the place as agents and landlords are very unlikely to point out faults, or may not even be aware of them. Also, photos aren’t really a substitute for walking into a property and having a good look around.
Get a break clause
Six months is the legal minimum term to live in a tenancy. While agents are increasingly offering longer-term tenancies, they should rarely be taken up without a six-month break clause which means you’ll be able to leave if you need to or your circumstances change. But remember, if you have a break clause all flatmates will need to give notice and move out together.
Get yourself an inventory
You’ll be in a much stronger position to argue against false claims on your deposit if there’s an inventory in place, which is basically a list of all the contents and their condition. If a landlord doesn’t provide an inventory you might wanna think about producing your own. This may just be a set of digital photos that are sent by recorded delivery to the Landlord, or agent, on the first day of the tenancy.
Don’t pay for council tax
If you live in a property occupied only by full-time students (21 hours of study each week), the property is exempt from council tax. Make sure you and your flatmates ask for a ‘Council Tax Exemption Certificate’ or ‘Student Status Letter’ from the university so you’re not accidentally paying for something you don’t need to.
Read the small print
Don’t pay your deposit until a tenancy agreement has been signed. You’ll normally need to pay four to six weeks rent upfront before you move - and your landlord/agent should put your deposit in a Deposit Protection Scheme, which you should get the details of within 10 days of moving in.
Choose your flatmates wisely
If you haven’t already, join the official SU housing Facebook group where you’ll find other students in a similar situation.
If you get yourself in a tricky situation or need further support, visit the University of London Housing Service (ULHS) who have an excellent service and housing guide here.