After a year of living in halls of residence, many students are itching for freedom and their own space by second year. Moving into your own place with your best friends is undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects of going to university. Unfortunately, there are landlords hell-bent on using your goodwill and naivety against you.
From withholding deposits to showing up at the house unannounced, nightmare landlords seem to be everywhere these days. Sometimes all they need is a quick reminder that you're aware of your rights and they'll stop trying to mess you around. So whether you just signed the contract or if you're already halfway through your tenancy, it's never too late to get clued up on your rights.
Health and Safety
Make sure your property has a smoke detector on each floor of your house, and one in every room if each bedroom door has a lock on it. If your home is classed as an HMO (house of multiple occupancies) they will also have to provide fire extinguishers and fire blankets in the communal areas. You might also want to invest in a carbon monoxide detector if you have a gas stove or boiler. Your landlord is responsible for all safety features in your home and the maintenance. If you have gas appliances, they will have to be checked by a certified gas technician every year. Before you move in, ask to see the gas safety certificate.
Your deposit is usually equal to around two months rent, but this might be more if you are an international student and you can't provide a UK-based guarantor. It might seem unfair, but this is common practice among student landlords. Your landlord has to place your deposit into a government-recognised deposit protection scheme and give you a certificate confirming this. At the end of the tenancy, your deposit should be returned in full, minus any deductions for damage or cleaning. If you believe the deductions are unfair, you can dispute the claim.
Dealing with pests
Student houses are notorious for attracting unwanted creepy crawlies. If you discover an infestation of insects, mice, or rats, you need to let your landlord know immediately. Who deals with the problem will depend on who is to blame – if you frequently let the bins pile up or rarely clean the kitchen, your landlord might ask you to take care of it. However, if the infestation is a widespread problem in the area your landlord will have to take care of it. If you're dealing with rats, they can be particularly nasty so you will also need to let your local authority know so they can send in the specialists. And finally, if you have bats roosting in your roof, there isn't much you can do. Bats are a protected species, and it is an offence to kill, remove or make changes to a roost.
Your landlord isn't allowed to just show up whenever they like. If you find yourself opening the door to your landlord on a regular basis, you are well within your rights to ask them to give you 24 hours' notice before showing up. Some people don't mind, but it can quickly become a nuisance if your landlord starts to take advantage. Your landlord isn't allowed to let themselves into your property without your consent unless it is an emergency, such as a burst water pipe. Usually, a quick reminder that you'd like 24 hours' notice before they come round is enough to nip this one in the bud. If your landlord can't seem to take the hint, you should contact a dispute resolution solicitors to help resolve the situation.
Hopefully, you will never have to face the threat of eviction, but it's worth being prepared. While your landlord has a lot of responsibilities, you also have to hold up your side of the deal by paying rent on time and keeping the property in good condition. If you are a few months late paying rent, or are frequently late paying your rent, you may face eviction. Causing damage to the property or being a nuisance to your neighbours is also a valid reason for eviction. Some landlords will try to evict tenants if they ask for pricey repairs, but this isn't a valid reason and you will be able to argue against it. To evict you, your landlord will have to provide a court order that states when you need to vacate the property and the reason for evicting you. Your university or a local solicitor should be able to provide legal advice if you think you are being wrongfully evicted. Although these situations may sound scary, the majority of students will have no trouble with their private rented accommodation. That said, it's still important to be clued up about your rights so no rogue landlords can try to mess you around.
Veronica Pembleton is a freelance writer and research journalist, who specializes in a number of core areas, including freelancing, law and business. Through studying journalism at university, Veronica was introduced to a number of contacts in different industries, where she was able to build her portfolio of feature articles. She spent time out working for various different law firms, in particular, dispute resolution solicitors , where she was able to develop her knowledge on legal issues regarding property, business and family disputes.