Top tips for first time student renters

With the university term in full flow, many students will be looking ahead to secure their rental property for next year over the coming weeks.

Most students won’t have dealt with a letting agent before, and although universities usually offer services to help students with their property search, there are several things to consider which can help with the process of finding a suitable home.

Nik Madan, President, Association of Residential Letting Agents, says: “Renting with friends at university can be a fantastic experience – and one most university students won’t have had before. There is a lot of help available for student renters, so it’s important to seek this out if you fall into problems. Additionally, there are several steps students should follow as standard when looking for a property. First and foremost, it can be stressful if you’re not dealing with a good letting agent – using an ARLA agent means you’re in good hands, as they have to adhere to the highest professional standards.”

Students looking to privately rent a property at university should follow the below tips from The Association of Residential Letting Agents.

Finding the right property for you    

As a starting point, it is important you choose the correct letting agent for your search. One way to ensure peace-of-mind is to register your search with an ARLA agent – all of whom adhere to a strict code of conduct.

When you find an agent, you should not feel pressured into handing over money straight away and remember that rents are negotiable. If possible, you should speak to the current tenants about their experience of living in the property.

Costs and fees

You should receive a full list of costs from your letting agent before you pay anything so you know exactly what you are paying for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; it can be slightly unnerving when given a long list of different costs but the agent is there to guide you through the process.

Where is your deposit going?

Before you move in you will be required to pay a security deposit, which is usually around six weeks rent – although it can be slightly more or less. Your deposit must be protected in one of the three government-authorised tenancy deposit protection schemes legally, so make sure your letting agent shows you evidence of this. If you do not receive the full details, ask your letting agent for them as soon as possible. You must also be given a copy of the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide and should be asked to provide ID to show you have the right to live in the UK.

Don’t forget about the bills

Don’t forget to factor in additional bills on top of your weekly or monthly rental cost when working out your budget. Unless your contract states water, gas and electricity costs are included in the rent, tenants are jointly responsible for paying this separately to the providers. You should take meter readings at the start of the tenancy and regularly throughout the year to ensure you’re only paying for what you use.

While students aren’t required to pay council tax, if you live with any non-students they will be responsible for paying it (discounts may be given in this situation) so ensure this is addressed properly.

The TV licence is also an important cost to factor in. Paying a monthly amount is an easy way to make your payments more manageable and avoid the annual lump sum.

Moving in… Inventory

It is important to make sure your letting agent or landlord organises a comprehensive inventory before you move in. This should state exactly what condition the property is in. It will also list all the fixtures and furniture that come with the property, so it’s clear what belongs to the landlord and what is your property. A good inventory will help you avoid disputes at the end of your tenancy.

Keep it clean

Cleaning your property regularly and maintaining the garden will help to avoid bills when your tenancy comes to an end. Don’t be scared of reporting any repair issues, if something breaks in the property, tell your agent. It’ll make your life easier and more comfortable if things are back in order quickly – an agent can’t fix a problem if they don’t know it exists.

Moving out… The condition of the property

You have to return the property in the same condition as it was at the start of the tenancy. Nothing should be left that wasn’t there when you arrived – and this means both inside and outside areas. Properties left in a poor state of cleanliness and unkempt gardens are the main causes of disputes over deposits.

Your deposit should be returned promptly with any deductions for broken furniture, damage, or bills for cleaning. If your landlord challenges it, remember you can always take advantage of the free and impartial dispute resolution procedures provided by the scheme your deposit was protected through.

– Property Reporter