Money Week blog of the day – Your Tenancy Rights made simple(r)
Housing law is complicated and most students will have transient accommodation arrangements for the duration of a standard undergraduate course. If we know we’re not going to be somewhere for very long, we might feel less inclined to read the small print and familiarise ourselves with the full terms and conditions of our tenancy agreement. That said, it is good to get the basics covered, which is where we come in.
Do you have a tenancy agreement? Most Landlords/Agents will provide a written contract, but a common myth is that tenancy agreements are a legal requirement. They’re not. If you’re living as a lodger, you may simply have a verbal understanding. If this applies to you, we suggest you keep any email trails between you and the landlord as it’s easy to forget what has been agreed. You can set up a separate folder in your inbox so they don’t get lost.
Invest some time in researching the right insurance policy. As most students now have their own laptop and many will have a bike, tv, music equipment and other valuables it is really important to get these covered by a contents insurance policy. If you are renting, you won’t need building insurance. Money Saving Expert has a detailed helpful guide which you access here. There may be money to save in buying a household policy rather than individual ones, so see what works for you.
Always make your own inventory when you move in, and out! Take photos of any damaged items and if you have a feature on your phone or camera which enables you to include the date on the photo, this can help if a problem or disagreement arises later on.
If you buy a new item collectively as a group of housemates, you may need to agree in advance who keeps it at the end of the tenancy. This may also be dictated by who moves out when. If you have clubbed together and bought a second fridge for example, which no one now wants, the Landlord may deduct money from your deposit to remove unwanted left items not listed in an inventory.
Check what is included in the rent eg utility bills and phone line etc. Usually students have to pay for bills on top of their rent, but some landlords may include water so be sure you know as this will help you budget more effectively.
Wear and tear is perfectly normal, and a landlord should not charge you for minor scuffs and marks. However, if something breaks or there is more serious damage, you should contact the landlord as soon as possible. This demonstrates responsibility and if they know that a cooker is faulty, or it is due to be replaced, they will possibly come and have a look first. If you know you have broken something like a window, you may need to negotiate. Landlords will use their own trades people to make repairs and it is unlikely they will expect you to source someone yourself. Unless you’re really handy, or know someone who is, we wouldn’t recommend your attempt a major repair independently
Your landlord may request regular maintenance checks during the tenancy and if the term of the tenancy is coming to an end they will want to show new students round. This is a reasonable request, but they should give you reasonable notice (subject to interpretation) and they must ask before coming in unless there is an emergency such as flood or fire. If it is not an emergency, you should ask them to leave if you don’t feel safe or comfortable.
In most situations the Landlord will not increase the cost of the rent within an assured shorthold tenancy, however there are exceptions and these should be explained to you by the Landlord. Any planned increase in rent must be communicated to you in writing and you can challenge the increase. Citizens Advice has more information here
Rights work both ways. Both you and the landlord have rights, some may be ‘express terms’ which means they are written down, others are ‘implied terms’ which are typically set by legislation.
Keep the property well aired as this will reduce condensation and always lock any windows and doors, even if you are only popping out for 2 minutes.
Keep the contact details for your Landlord, Agent, Insurance cover, Utility provider and any trades connected to the house accessible and convenient. You never know when you might need to make an urgent call.
If you run into difficulty with paying your rent on time, maintain a dialogue with the agent or Landlord. They are more likely to be understanding and open to negotiation if you communicate with them.
Chris Chesman, UoB graduate, produced this very useful House Hunting Good Practice Guide which has some excellent student focused hints and tips.
Throughout Money Week, we’ll be publishing different articles in support of the national theme Where I Live and you can also have a go at our energy saving Money Week quiz
Today’s roadshow is rolling in to Moulsecoomb. Come and see the Advisers in Cockcroft foyer between 12 – 2 and tell us what you like about where you live.
See you there!
Student Advice Service