We’ve put together a short guide to help you avoid rogue landlords and enjoy a happy home.

A NUS study revealed students in rented accommodation aren’t experiencing the standards they’re entitled to and are paying top dollar of their student loan budget for the pleasure. With 61% complaining of damp, one-quarter living with infestations, and far too many homes lacking carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, we’ve put together a short guide to help you avoid rogue landlords and enjoy a happy home.

Before you sign anything

Put the pen down and step away from the contract. Make sure you’ve followed this advice before you commit.

  • Visit uni-approved properties first. We know competition is tough and things move fast, but this is the safest route for you.
  • Talk to other students. Can they recommend their previous landlord, or do they have horror stories that should warn you away?
  • Don’t believe everything the letting agent says, or feel pressure to move faster than you’re comfortable with. Many students find themselves rushed into putting down large deposits on properties they haven’t even seen.
  • Check if there are additional fees. While landlords and letting agents in Scotland are banned from charging tenants fees for “services” like putting names on a contract or postage, for the rest of the UK, beware. Instances of individual tenants handing over an extra £300 to £400 are far from rare. It’s difficult to negotiate these fees down when you’re trying to beat other students to it, however, here’s one tip: you could be asked to pay up to £100 per person for referencing. Let the estate agent know you’re aware the real cost is £20 and you might just see this cost cut.
  • Check your contract, and if you’re not happy, ask the letting agent or landlord to amend it. Does your rent cover bills? How much notice must you give when you’re ready to move out? Make sure your landlord’s obligation to carry out repairs is written into the contract. And watch out for unfair clauses. Examples include, ‘The landlord can change the terms of the agreement whenever he/she likes’ and ‘The tenant must pay for structural repairs’.

The day you move in

We know you’re busy getting settled in, but arm yourself with the following knowledge and you can sleep easy later on.

  • Ask for an inventory. If the letting agent or landlord doesn’t provide one, draw up your own. Include everything, from kitchen utensils to carpets and light fittings. Take photos with a time stamp of every room, particularly areas with damage so you can’t be held liable for it when you come to move out.
  • Get the details of your Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Every landlord is legally obliged to register deposits. The system was implemented in April 2006 to prevent landlords from holding onto deposits unfairly. If they don’t provide you with this information within 14 days, report them and they’ll face a fine.
  • Get a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate. Landlords must obtain a new certificate every year and provide tenants with a copy when they move in. On the subject of gas, if it’s used in your property, the landlord must fit carbon monoxide detectors. Check for smoke detectors, too.

During your tenancy

Hopefully you’ll be basking in domestic bliss. But just in case things go wrong…

  • Keep records of all payments and correspondents. If a dispute arises, these could prove invaluable. If you have discussions over the phone or in person, it’s good practice to follow-up with an email confirming what’s been said.
  • Find help if you’re having problems with your landlord. Your accommodation officer should be your first port of call. You may also be able to get support from your local council, which can step in to resolve issues and even take rogue landlords to court.

When you move out

Know your rights and get back what you’re owed. Get your deposit back. After you’ve agreed the amount, your landlord has 10 days to return it. You can’t be held liable for general wear and tear, and the onus is on the landlord to prove he or she is entitled to retain any of your deposit.

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