This section to many of you may just equate to boredom and you will just flick through it - if you've reached this far that is. You really do need to read this and more importantly take note. I know the feeling - you've found a house that's so close to your local that you can almost get served without leaving your living room. Your room's also got a double bed, and that's all that matters, so "lets get it". Be warned, without taking time to evaluate your potential new home properly, you may live to regret making any hasty decisions.
Many landlords may hold a NICEIC certificate which proves that the property has had an electrical check within the last five years. Although this is recommended, it is not a legal requirement.
Fire Safety - Furniture and Furnishings
On 1 January 1997 the final phase of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 came into force. This means that furniture and furnishings supplied in let accommodation must comply with the fire and safety requirements in the Regulations. All residential premises including flats, bedsits and houses where furniture is supplied as part of the let are covered by these regulations. The type of furniture covered by the regulations are: any upholstered furniture including chairs, sofas, children's furniture, beds, head boards (if upholstered), mattresses, scatter cushions, seat pads, pillows and even garden furniture if it is upholstered and can be used in the dwelling. Carpets, curtains and duvets are not covered by the regulations.
Gas Safety Certificates
Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances. It has replaced CORGI registration. Only a Gas Safe registered engineer should fit, fix or service gas appliances.
Landlords have responsibilities for gas safety. By law your landlord must keep all gas appliances supplied for you to use in good condition. They must arrange for a Gas Safe registered engineer to carry out a gas safety check on them every 12 months and provide you with a copy of the Landlord's Gas Safety Record.
Ask for a copy of the Landlord's Gas Safety Record before you move in.
Cooperate with your landlord and let a registered engineer in when a gas safety check or servicing has to be done.
Check the ID card of any gas engineer that comes to do work in your home. The engineer must be Gas Safe registered.
Badly fitted and poorly serviced appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas which can kill quickly with no warning. Know the six main signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning - headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness. Don't mistake the symptoms for a hangover.
If you think a gas appliance is faulty turn it off and let your landlord know immediately. In an emergency call the gas emergency helpline on 0800 111 999. If you feel unwell, seek medical help immediately.
For more information and to find and check an engineer go to www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500. Better Gas Safe than sorry.
Remember, if you think a gas appliance is faulty turn it off and let your landlord know immediately.
In an emergency: If you smell gas or think there might be a gas leak: turn off the gas at the meter, extinguish naked flames, open windows and leave the area. Seek medical advice if you feel unwell. Call the Gas Emergency Freephone Number 0800 111 999.
Carbon Monoxide is a gas that is highly dangerous to people and animals and is produced by appliances that burn fossil fuels such as gas or coal. Even an appliance that has been serviced regularly can produce Carbon Monoxide. NEVER COVER OR BLOCK AIR VENTS.
Even if a property has a safety certificate problems can still occur. Carbon monoxide is difficult to detect because it is:
Colourless. Odourless. Tasteless.
LOOK OUT FOR THE DANGER SIGNS
Sooting or staining marks on or around the appliance. A yellow or orange lazy flame - not crisp and blue. Condensation in the room wherethe appliance is installed.
SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
If unsure, consult your GP.
IF YOU SUSPECT A GAS LEAK OR CARBON MONOXIDE YOU SHOULD:
Open doors and windows to let the gas escape.
Check if the gas supply to an appliance has been left on unlit or if the pilot light has gone out
Turn the gas supply off.
Do not use matches or naked flames.
Do not smoke
Do not turn electrical switches on or off, do not use a doorbell.
Telephone the Gas Emergency Line on 0800 111 999.
Carbon Monoxide? Be Alarmed! Campaign
In October 2008, the Carbon Monoxide Consumer Awareness Alliance launched a new national campaign aimed at cutting the number of deaths and injuries caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Clarify what is included in your rent. For instance, some landlords include water rates, others don't.
If possible, ask the previous tenants the rough cost of gas, electricity and water.
Take readings of the relevant meters as soon as you can once the last tenants have left.
Change the bills to your name with the relevant suppliers from the time you move in.....decide whether joint names will be put on the bills or if the responsibility will be divided.
Don't think of doing without it - the number of burglaries and thefts in student houses is rising!
Shop around to find the right insurance package for your requirements.
Make sure that you're covered over the vacations.
Properties where all the occupants are full-time students will be exempt. You may be asked to produce a certificate giving evidence of your student status; this certificate will be obtainable from your faculty office after you have registered on your course.
If one or more of the occupants of your house is not a student the house becomes taxable so you must clarify whether you are expected to pay anything towards the cost.
If you are unsure about your status with regard to Council Tax then seek advice from your Student Advice Centre.
If you do get a knock on the door you'll no doubt have discussed the cast iron excuse. 'I'll just say I thought that you'd got one', or 'We don't need one cos we're students' or 'We only watch ITV'. The response will, of course, be 'Oh, sorry Sir/Madam I didn't realise. I apologise for disturbing you. I'll let you get back to EastEnders'. If you want the lowdown on the real facts, they are as follows. Students are covered by the same licensing requirements as the rest of the population. A licence will be needed by a student living in halls, a bedsit or a flat. If you live in a shared house one licence is needed per house as long as you have a joint tenancy agreement. If you have separate agreements with the landlord you will need separate licences. If you want more information then contact www.tv-l.co.uk
The protection you have largely depends on your status as an occupier. However, an Assured Short Hold Tenancy Agreement (England) or Short Assured Tenancy (Scotland) are the most common. These can be made for a specific period of time, for instance, one academic year, but they will not usually be made for a period of less than 6 months. Please note that if you are staying in Home Stay or with the owner of the property then you will not be a "Tenant" and should therefore not be required to sign a contract.
If you are sharing a house then you may be asked to sign a joint tenancy or a separate tenancy. If you sign a joint tenancy then you will all be responsible for each other's debts and damages. If you have your own contract then if there are any discrepancies, the argument is between yourself and your landlord and should not involve your housemates.
Points to Note
Rents must be agreed before the contract is signed since this is a binding agreement. Remember-you can negotiate with the landlord over rents, opt out clauses etc. if you are not happy with the landlord's suggestions.
You cannot give notice during the period of the contract, if no such clause has been added to the contract. If you leave before the end of the fixed term then you (or your housemates) remain liable for the remaining rent.
Always try to get your contract checked - the Students Union Advice Centre/Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice will be able to check your contract. Remember to get a copy of your contract!
Landlords must comply with relevant legislation on Notice to Quit and Termination of Tenancies. A Notice to Quit also has to contain prescribed information. A Landlord cannot simply evict a tenant without a Court Order and this will only be granted on certain grounds. See your rights
Keeping in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling house, including drains, gutters, and external pipes.
Keeping in repair and proper working order the installations for the supply of water, gas, and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, and for heating rooms and heating water.
Providing a rent book if statute so requires (e.g. where the rent is paid weekly).
Providing you with the landlords or agents full name and address. Providing you with a copy of the valid current Gas Safety Certificate ( see Standards).
Allowing you to "peacefully enjoy" your accommodation. (unless there is an emergency).
Landlords or their agents have the right to enter the property at reasonable times to carry out the repairs for which they are responsible and to inspect the condition and the state of repair of the property. They must give at least 24 hours notice in writing of an inspection. It would be helpful to set out the arrangements for access and procedures for getting repairs done in the tenancy agreement.
You are responsible for.........
Acting in a "Tenant-like manner". This means you should perform the smaller tasks around the house such as mending the electric light when a fuse blows; unblocking the sink when clogged with waste, cleaning the windows when necessary.
Not damaging the house, if you do then you and your guests are responsible for the repairs.
Refuse collection! Remember to find out the collection day from your local council. Put the wheelie bin out - and bring it back in again - it's illegal to leave it on the street.
Securing the property when you go away - lock all the doors and windows! Being reasonable about noise and parties - weekends are better and let your neighbours know in advance.
Reporting all repairs needed to the Landlord (preferably in writing). The landlord's responsibility to repair begins only when they are aware of the problem. If the fault is not corrected within a reasonable period of time (dependant upon the nature of the disrepair) then seek advice from the Students Union Advice Centre/ Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice.
Harassment and Unlawful Eviction
If your landlord wants you to leave your house then a legal process must be complied with before you can be evicted. This will include a written notice and applying to the Court for a possession order. If you are evicted without the landlord following the correct procedure then the landlord is committing a criminal offence. In addition, if the landlord (or someone acting on their behalf) interferes with your peace or comfort either with unannounced visits, by not fulfilling his/her responsibilities for basic repairs (as listed above), disconnecting utility supplies etc. then this may amount to harassment which is a criminal offence.
If you are in danger of eviction or suffering from harassment by your landlord then contact the Student Union Advice Centre, your local Council's Housing Advice Team, or your Council's Anti-Social Behaviour Team. Citizen's Advice also produce a booklet entitled "Protection Against Harassment and Unlawful Eviction".
For your own personal safety, it is always advisable for you to view a property accompanied and try to arrange the appointment at a reasonable hour. However, there are advantages to viewing it after dark so that you can get an idea of how you will feel when walking home at night. It is important that you contact your University advice centre if you feel that you were in any way subjected to sexism or harassment during the appointment.
Here are a few pointers in checking the security of the property.
Is the property in a 'good' area?
Is the property set back from the road? Is the street lighting sufficient?
Are the front and rear doors solid?
Have the doors got five lever mortice locks?
Is there a chain on the door? If not, can the landlord fit one?
Are the curtains of your room see-through? Insist on thicker ones if they are.
The Housing Act 2004 , which was introduced in April 2006 in England and Wales was created with the intention of providing a fairer and better housing market for those renting properties. The main elements of it include ;
a) Licensing of houses in multiple occupation A house with three of more stories, occupied by 5 or more people who form 2 or more households (a household being defined as persons belonging to the same family) is classified as an HMO in England and Wales and subject to licensing. The licensing is intended to improve standards in properties where it was felt tenants where at highest risk. Any building, which is occupied by students but managed or controlled by a Higher Education Institution, is deemed not to be an HMO for licensing purposes. Local authorities have at their discretion, but subject to approval from national government, the power to designate other sizes of properties as HMO’s, which are subject to licensing.
b) Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
This is a new system, replacing the "fitness standard for houses", and decides whether a house is healthy and safe. Local council staff will randomly inspect properties and assess the likelihood of injury or ill health calculated via 29 hazards.
In Scotland the Licensing Order makes it mandatory from October 2000 for all HMOs to be licensed. To be classified as a licensable HMO the accommodation must be the only or principle residence of a specified number of people who are not members either of the same family or one or other of two families. The specified number started on 1st October 2000 at six or more and is reducing annually until it reaches its minimum level , ie three or more. Students in accommodation that is an HMO in term time are treated as being solely or principally resident there in order to calculate the number of occupiers of an HMO.
You will normally be required to pay a deposit to the Landlord as security in case you damage the property or furnishings. It can also be used to cover unpaid bills, rent or missing items. Most landlords will ask for a sum equivalent to four weeks' or a calendar month's rent but the maximum a landlord can charge by law is a sixth of the annual rent payable in England and Wales and two months rent in Scotland. The deposit should be refunded normally within 28 days after you have vacated the property, provided there are no problems with the condition of the house. In order to ensure that you get your deposit back:
Ensure that you have a written statement from the landlord explaining what is covered by the deposit. If the landlord gives a verbal explanation, write to him/her to confirm the details.
Ensure that you have a receipt for monies paid.
Ensure that you have a full inventory of furniture. Get the landlord to sign it. You may wish to take photographs.
Take reasonable care of the house and furniture during the tenancy.
Towards the end of your tenancy write to the landlord inviting him/her to inspect the property.
Settle all the bills.
When you leave return all the keys to the landlord and make a written request for the return of your deposit. Keep a copy of the letter.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
From April 2007, deposits paid by tenants who have assured shorthold tenancy agreements will be safeguarded by a government sponsored scheme , who will facilitate the resolution of any disputes that arise in connection with such deposits.
There are two types of scheme
Custodial Scheme - a tenant pays the deposit to the landlord who in turn places it into a designated scheme account. When the scheme administrator returns the deposit to either the tenant or the landlord it is done so with interest at a rate specified by the Government. If they are not in agreement, a final court order will have to be obtained specifying the proportion of the deposit to which each is entitled.
Insurance based schemes - a tenant pays the deposit to the landlord who only transfers it into a designated scheme if there is a dispute at the end of the agreement. When the landlord and tenant reach agreement or a court decides how much each party is entitled the administrator will distribute the deposit accordingly.
If a landlord fails to pay the deposit to the scheme then a scheme will have adequate insurance cover to compensate the tenant in the event they are owed monies
Within 14 days of receiving your deposit your landlord must give you the relevant information regarding the scheme safeguarding your deposit. You should always check that the scheme has received your deposit.
These are paid to the landlord by prospective tenants. The retainer period forms part of the contract (typically July to August) when the student is unlikely to want to occupy and the landlord may wish to carry out certain maintenance works to the property. The normal retainer payment is 50% of the per calendar month rent.
Protect your deposit with the new tenancy deposit law
Please note: England and Wales only
You usually have to pay a deposit if you want to rent somewhere, but as you probably know, it’s not always easy to get it back when you leave. At the moment, the only way to try and get a deposit back if you have a disagreement with your landlord is to go to court. But this can be costly, time-consuming and there is no guarantee that you'll get anything back at all. However, from 6 April 2007, your landlord will have to use a new tenancy deposit protection scheme if they want to take a deposit from you. This means that:
• you will get your deposit back if you're entitled to it.
• there will be a way of settling any disagreement about your deposit without going to court.
What if my landlord does not protect my deposit?
If your landlord doesn’t protect your deposit, or refuses to tell you which scheme they are using, you can take them to court. The court will either order your landlord to pay you back the deposit or to pay it into one of the schemes available. It will also order your landlord to pay you three times the amount of the deposit as a fine.
What if I paid a deposit before April 2007
Unfortunately, landlords don't have to use a tenancy deposit protection scheme if you paid your deposit to them before 6 April 2007. If you have a disagreement with them about returning your deposit, try to come to an agreement. If that doesn’t work, you may have to take legal action. But remember, before you take your landlord to court, you should get some expert advice.
If you’d like to find out more about the new Tenancy Deposit Law, select this link.
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) gives home owners, tenants and buyers information on the energy efficiency of their property. It gives the building a standard energy and carbon emission efficiency grade from ‘A’ to ‘G’, where ‘A’ is the most efficient and with the average to date being D.
In addition to the rating for your buildings current energy performance, part of the EPC report will list the potential rating that the building could achieve (using the same ‘A’ to ‘G’ scale), if the recommendations that are provided within the report were to be made. It is not mandatory for anyone to act on the report’s recommendations. However, doing so may cut your energy bills and reduce your carbon emissions.
Who needs an EPC?
As a tenant moving into a property, or as a buyer looking to purchase, it is the legal requirement of the existing owner to provide you with a full Energy Performance Certificate, free of charge. This law comes into effect after 1st October 2008.
Landlords and owners are only required to produce an EPC for a property that is self-contained, and the certificate is then valid for 10 years. However, an EPC isn’t required when a tenant rents a room and shares facilities.
A group of friends rent a property and there is a single contract between the landlord and the group as the contract is for the rental of a whole dwelling. An EPC is required for the whole dwelling.
For further information, please visit the government EPC website here..
It is not uncommon for tenants not to receive a copy of inventory from their landlords when first moving into their new house.
An inventory can be extremely useful evidence of the condition of the property when you first move in. It provides a full inspection of the property’s contents and their condition.
If you aren’t supplied with an inventory by your Landlord or Letting Agent, don't hesitate to ask for one. If you still don’t receive one, provide them with your own. You do this by making a list of the contents room by room, and then take photos or use video evidence to record the property contents and condition as back up.
The Landlord/Agent and tenant(s) should both sign the Inventory and initial every page to indicate that you agree to the condition of the property contents and condition.
If at all possible, the final inventory check should be done on move out day and checked against the original inventory. This should ensure that there aren't any disputes about the extent of any damage, should there be some, as the landlord may need to take monies out of the deposit to pay for these.
When compiling an inventory it is essential that you:
Describe the condition of every item within the property.
Back it up with photographic/video evidence.
Take a note of the gas and electric meter readings.
Get the landlord/agent to agree to, and sign the inventory.
Keep a safe copy of the signed inventory to check against when moving out.