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Top Student Tenancy Facts
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Top Student Tenancy Facts

Written by Sam | April 1, 2018

I want to move into a student house but unsure of the things you need to look out for. In this next series of articles, we are going to be giving you the facts about tenancies and student housing.

Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO)

It’s worth first clarifying the difference between a private rental and an HMO. An HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) is a property that has 2 or more unrelated people living or the house is 3 floors or more. Unrelated being the keyword. All bedrooms are usually let separately within the contract (AST) rather than the house as a whole.

This means that all student houses will qualify as HMOs, and landlords are expected to follow extra procedures when renting their property out like this. We shall look to cover some of the rules which they have to follow in order to comply with legislation.

Each local council will have a list of registered HMOs, this list is public, you can request the data and you can make sure that your home is on the list. Usually, you can tell if it is or isn’t by understanding How To Spot a Good Student House.

Private rented as said above, the whole house is put on a tenancy and it is usually a joint tenancy to the parents or guardian. They also don’t have to adhere to all the extra health and safety regulations that come with an HMO. Please understand the difference between what we call student accommodation and private rented. Student Accommodation is studios and apartments that are specifically built for students and private rented are houses or HMOs rented from a letting agent or landlord.

10 Tenancy Rights For Students

Fire Safety

There are a few things that the law requires your landlord to do in terms of safety for the tenants. For one thing, there should be adequate means of fire escape in your property, and at least one smoke alarm per floor of the building, ideally situated in the communal area.

Any room that has a fireplace, that’s in use, needs to also have a carbon monoxide detector. If your place classifies as an HMO, then your landlord is also legally required to fit fire alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets on every floor. You can find this out in your tenancy agreement.

Make sure you check who’s in charge of maintaining these alarms. If it’s you, you’ll have to make sure they are maintained to an appropriate standard. This will be detailed in your contract.

You should have fire doors to create ‘compartments’. These contain a fire for a minimum of 30 minutes, giving you enough time to escape. You should find fire doors on bedrooms, front doors of flats and usually on the route to the kitchen if there is a door. All fire doors will be labelled with the appropriate signage.

They should also have fire blankets in the kitchen, just in case there is an electrical fire. If you live in University-owned or PBSA accommodation, they will have a fire evacuation plan and have very different health and safety measures to that of a house! Please read the plan, they should be on the walls and on the backs of doors!

Landlord Visits

The landlord or letting agents cannot just walk into the property whenever they feel like it. Most landlords will use a letting agent to act on their behalf and do all inspections. They are allowed to do inspections, but they must give you notice of 24 hours first.

There are some exceptions to the rule like repairs, however, they will generally keep you informed as they don’t want to walk in at the wrong time!

If you can’t make it, then you can nominate a trusted person to be in the house at that time while the landlord visits.

Appliance Checks

Any gas appliances in the property must be checked yearly by a Gas Safe registered engineer, and there should be a record of every check kept at the property to prove it. The engineer if they come round while you are in should have a Gas Safe card, and you can cross-check it with the Gas Safe website. They are likely to have these checks done in the summer when a lot of students aren’t there and they can access the property easily.

Ask to see this before signing your contract, and make sure your landlord keeps on top of things whilst you’re living there. You can and should report any repairs to your letting agent or landlord.

If they’re providing you with portable appliances (such as kettles or toasters), these should be checked every five years by an electrician. This is called a PAT test. Normally, they have stickers on the socket to tell you that they have been PAT tested, this tells you that the item is safe to use, a little bit like an MOT.

Infestations or Pests

When it comes to infestations of mice, rats, bedbugs, and bats, you’ll be glad to know that it’s your landlord’s responsibility to sort them out (as long as it’s not your fault they’re there in the first place). Be careful with your bins and where you put or keep rubbish.

If you have mice, contact your landlord immediately and they should make plans to get rid of them.  If you discover you’ve got rats, inform both your landlord and the local health authority, which will make plans for a team of experts to come and deal with them as rats are a big health and safety risk. Rats are found everywhere, if you spot one, just make sure it isn’t passing, you will need to be sure that is it is living within the property, this includes any outside spaces within the boundary. The items that attract rats are leftover food, food packaging, and bins left for a long time. Make sure you keep the house clean and tidy and you shouldn’t have a problem.

With bedbugs, it depends on who bought the offending piece of furniture. If you did, then unfortunately it’s your own responsibility to deal with it, but you should let your landlord know. If it was a piece of furniture that’s already there then it’s their responsibility to dispose of it.

If you aren’t happy you can talk to an ombudsman, leave the property, or request for it to be cleaned. If you leave or request to leave you must make sure that you have read all the legal information before. You don’t want it to be turned around on you.

Guests and Sleepovers

Most tenancy agreements won’t mention too much about having guests to stay, so it’s normally more about coming to an understanding with your housemates than anything else. You can’t have someone living with you, this is a breach of the tenancy because they are living with you, however, visiting is allowed.

Do be mindful of those you’re sharing with, especially if your guest will be sleeping in a communal area like a sofa. If your guests cause any damage, remember that you’ll be liable for it and not the others. We like to have friends over, but make sure they respect the property as, at the end of the day, it will be your deposit at risk! Read more on deposits in our detailed article

If you or a housemate accepts money from a guest for staying over, or if you choose to rent out any of your rooms temporarily on Airbnb or something similar, this is considered sub-letting. Don’t do this, as this will breach your agreement.

Decorating

Before you start painting any walls or doing any major decorating, you’ll need to get written permission from your landlord. They will usually refurbish the house in the summer and you won’t be allowed to decorate as they like to use certain products and materials.

However, as you are a student, it’s not worth painting walls. Sprucing up your room with photos or framed pictures is always nice, but make sure you’re not causing any damage to the walls. If you start hammering nails in or using blu-tack, you’ll probably find yourself footed with a bill when the time comes to move out. Read more on how to make a house feel like your new home or watch our video of how to Decorate Your Room & Keep Your Deposit

You can add plants, desk decorations and add some fairy lights, but do be careful if you want to hang anything from the walls, get the landlords permission first! You should always return your room to how it was before you got it!

Repairs

If there are any issues with the property that could result in an accident, make sure you report it to your landlord straight away. They will have varying response levels with repairs but aim to complete them as soon as possible.

In fact, if the repairs are considered an ’emergency’, your landlord is legally obliged to have it repaired within 24 hours; if it’s ‘urgent’ but not an emergency, they need to repair it within four days. Read our detailed article on Repairs

This law is part of the Right to Repair scheme, which requires that any urgent and emergency repairs costing under £250 are done within this timescale. If your landlord doesn’t abide by this rule, contact Citizens Advice and they will be able to advise you.

Evictions

There are a number of reasons why a landlord could legally evict you. These include the following:

• Being at least two months late on rent payments
• Having been regularly late with your payments
• Breaching any of the terms of your tenancy agreement
• Letting the property fall into an unacceptable state
• Causing a nuisance to the neighbours
• Being involved in illegal activities.

If you receive a threat of eviction, seek legal advice immediately. Note that it’s also considered a crime for your landlord to use any harassment tactics to get you out of the property. These include:

• Cutting electricity or gas supplies
• Threats and physical violence
• Refusing to carry out repairs
• Withholding keys.

Notice to leave

If your landlord wants you to move out, they need to provide you with adequate notice. The law states that you must be given at least two months’ notice before you have to vacate the property. 

If you want to leave before your contract has officially ended, you’ll only be able to do so under certain circumstances such as your landlord breaching their responsibilities from the tenancy agreement. Otherwise, you’ll still have to pay for your rent until the end of the lease.

Most students will want to leave during the summer and that is fine, you still need to let your landlord or letting the agent know, hand your keys back and make sure you do everything in this article to get your deposit back!

Housing deposit

Every landlord is legally obliged to place your housing deposit within a government-owned deposit scheme called a TDPS or TDS scheme (Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme). If they are part of such a scheme they usually let you know, plus you will be able to cross-reference this on their website.

This ensures that both sides are equally protected in case of any disputes. If your landlord fails to put your deposit in a TDP within 30 days of receiving it from you, you could be due compensation.

Don’t pay a deposit and book your room until you have signed your tenancy agreement. When you first move in, please make note of the conditions of the property, it is likely that you will have an inventory from the landlord or agent. Make sure you keep hold of that and use it when you are checking out to make sure everything is in the right order before leaving!

Check out our extensive guide on your rights when it comes to your housing deposit here

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