Stories of students queuing outside lettings agents to secure a home outside of halls for their second year only creates unnecessary panic and could mean you choose the wrong home. Don’t let your friends pressure you into signing a contract for the first property you see, and you shouldn’t feel pressured into handing money over straight away either.
Firstly decide who you are going to live with – this is probably the difficult part as you still only in early friendship groups but your current housemates will be a good starting point and anyone you’ve particularly gelled with on your course. A general rule of thumb is less is more. While living a group of nine seems like fun, think of all the irritations – messy kitchens, loud parties and cleaning up times nine. Suddenly a gang of four looks good.
You probably won’t have dealt with a letting agent before, and your rent will be your largest expense each term. Universities often offer services to help students with their property search, but ARLA (Association of Registered Lettings Agents) has come up with some pointers.
Work out what you can afford
Look at your outgoings every term, and work out how much of your student loan you can allocate towards rent. This will help you determine the type of property you can afford, and the area you can rent in. Don’t forget to factor in bills including the internet, your TV package and licence, energy and water. You won’t be required to pay council tax but if you’re living with any non-students they will be responsible for their share. If you’re renting a large house with friends, the bedrooms may vary in cost depending on size, so make sure you’re clear on your budget before you start shot-gunning the biggest bedroom.
Finding a property
As a starting point, approach a reputable agent to help you with your search. Use the ARLA Propertymark to find an expert for peace of mind that you’re in good hands. When you find a property that you like, try to speak to the existing tenants about their experience of living in the property.
Know where your deposit is going
Before you move in, you’ll be required to pay a security deposit against damage, which is usually around six week’s rent. This must be held in one of the three government-authorised tenancy deposit protection schemes, and your letting agent must show you evidence of this. If you don’t receive the details, ask for them as soon as possible. You will also be given a copy of the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide and will be asked to provide ID to show you have the right to live in the UK.
Moving in and the inventory
When you move in, your letting agent or landlord will organise an inventory. This will state exactly what condition the property is in, and list all the furniture and fixtures, so there’s a record of what belongs to the landlord and, more importantly, what condition everything is in. This will help you to avoid any disputes at the end of your tenancy, so it’s important it’s carried out to a professional standard. Take photos of your room especially if there is any existing damage and check the cooker and bathroom areas. These should be spotless. Take photos and report straight away if they are not up to scratch.
During your tenancy…
The number one rule when renting any property is that when you leave it, it must be in a good condition and one that you’d like to find it in. Keep it clean throughout the year, and maintain the garden so it doesn’t become overgrown. Don’t be scared to report any repair issues and if anything breaks in the property tell your agent as soon as possible. It may be worth clubbing together and getting a cleaner – if you’ve done the unicookandclean workshop you’ll be one step ahead of your flatmates!
Use the support available to you
Ask your letting agent for the ARLA Propertymark Student Guide, which has tips and guides to help you through the whole process from the start of tenancy to the end.