The 411 on Student Housing
May 28, 2012
By: Emma Armitage
Searching for accommodation can seem a daunting task. If you’re going into your second year, it is likely that this will be the first time you have had to consider housing and the responsibility that comes with it. Here’s some advice on things to look out for when considering student housing.
Money, Money, Money!
In most situations, you will be expected to pay a deposit, a holding fee or admin fee and of course, the rent. Deposits are usually paid either at the time of agreement on the house or with the first month’s rent. Deposits should be around the price of a month’s rent, potentially a little bit more. If the deposit is substantially more than this, speak to your landlord and find out why. It may be that the house has expensive furnishing or fittings. At the agreement, find out when you will be receiving the deposit back and how much. You should receive the entire amount back; usually a month after the tenancy has ended.
However, you may not receive the full amount if an admin fee is taken from the deposit. A lot of students are unaware of admin fees, but they are in fact very common in rented accommodation. An admin fee simply pays the letting agents for their time in showing you the accommodation and fixing up contractual agreements. This should usually be paid at the contract signing. As well as this, you may have to pay a holding fee. This is to reserve the house for an agreed amount of time until the full admin fee or deposit can be raised. The holding fee and admin fee should be no more than £150 and can be as little as £50.
Finally, rent. Rent is usually taken out monthly. Some contracts will request rent every three months or even every two weeks. If this is a problem, it is usually worth speaking to the landlord to ask to change the rent dates. If a good reason is provided and it is suitable to the landlord, contracts can be changed. The price of rent changes over the country and in different areas in towns and cities. It is worth looking around various websites and letting agents to find an average rent price for each area. Universities will often have an accommodation office. Use this facility to find out prices and recommended landlords to avoid being ripped off. Be careful of cheap rent as well as expensive rent. If the rent is unusually cheap, there is usually a good reason why, which you may not find out about until it is too late.
Looking at a contract for the first time can be daunting. It is worth getting your university and your parents to look at the contract before signing. As people of experience, they will often pick up on any unusual or suspect points. A contract can be pages and pages long, but do read it. Look out for banned items
from the property, which although usually include pets, can also be musical instruments – not very good for a music student. Check for car allowance on driveways and parking permits to avoid fines. Find out what maintenance is the landlords concern and what is your concern. Check to see if bills are included and if not, which ones you need to worry about. Finally, see if the property has any insurance.
What should I expect in a property?
Properties are not always furnished, but for student accommodation, furnishing is usually provided. When you view the property, check with previous tenants what items were already in the property on their arrival.
Although walls and ceilings may not be expected to have a fresh lick of paint on them, check for mould and cracks throughout the house. It is likely you will only be entering a twelve month agreement and it is not useful to have the living room out of use or no water due to maintenance for a period of this time.
Check the security on the house. All outside doors and windows should lock. Any gates leading to the rear of the property should also lock. See if the house has alarms and find out how they work, however, it is not necessary for the house to be alarmed.
Expect to receive a guarantor form. As students with little income, it is the landlord’s responsibility to cover themselves by asking for your parents or guardians details in case you cannot make rent.
Don’t forget to get in contact with us if you have any tips, advice or stories on renting student accommodation.
Emma Armitage, MyUni Editor