1. Know who your Landlord (or Landlady) is! Your landlord must give you an address for correspondence in England or Wales, or they’re breaking the law. If your landlord won’t give you an address (or the address of the Estate Agent / Lettings Agent that’s managing the property for them), don’t agree to rent from them. Get advice. Your liability to pay rent is suspended until you have a legitimate address for correspondence.
2. Tenancy agreements. Housing law is complex. If you’re not 100% certain what your contract means, contact your Students’ Union Adviser to check it’s legal and to explain it. Don’t sign anything you haven’t read or don’t understand! Good landlords will give you the time you need to get advice first.
3. If you need to pay a deposit, has your landlord properly protected it? See https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection/overview . If your landlord hasn’t, get advice. You could be entitled to damages worth up to 3 times the value of the deposit you have paid (AND your landlord may have difficulty evicting you until this is done).
4. Agree an inventory with the landlord when you move in. The inventory lists everything that’s provided for you at the flat, and its condition. Then when you leave, there should be no argument about who’s responsible for any damage to the flat or the landlord’s belongings. Keep a copy until you’ve left and have got your deposit back.
5. If you’re struggling to pay the rent, don’t just leave. You may still be liable for the rent anyway, and if the landlord wants to evict you, there’s a legal procedure that gives you time to find somewhere else in most cases. Check with your Students’ Union Adviser: we may be able to help you negotiate to stay with your landlord. If you’ve got a fixed term contract (eg for 9 months), you’re liable for rent for that whole period unless the landlord chooses to let you leave early or they evict you. And your guarantor may be liable for any unpaid rent. Speak to us first about other options.
6. Living with other people . If Charles Dickens was a student, he might have said that student life can be the best of times, but sometimes feel like the worst of times. Avoid problems by agreeing rotas for cooking, cleaning, washing up. Agree how you’ll split the bills (there are a lot of apps available to help), and be a decent neighbour if you want your flatmates to treat you well! And if you’ve got noisy neighbours, contact your local Council Environmental Health Service (or your Students’ Union adviser if the Council won’t take action).
7. If you’ve got broken taps, the heating’s faulty, the shower leaks etc: tell your landlord. They are not usually responsible for fixing things until they have been notified. And if they take a long time to carry out repairs, they may be liable to pay compensation. Get advice, and see the Shelter website for more information on your rights to get repairs done.
8. Does your property have a Gas Safety Certificate issued within the last 12 months? Ask your landlord if you don’t have a copy of it. Your landlord may be committing a criminal offence. Protect yourself from gas leaks by making sure the property has been checked, and get advice if needed.
9. Don’t leave your flat just because your landlord has told you to. In most situations where the landlord doesn’t currently live with you, your landlord has to go to Court to evict you. Check your rights first with us. If you’ve been evicted without a Court order, your landlord may have committed a criminal offence. It might be possible to get you back in through legal action.
If things go wrong…
Don’t suffer in silence! Get advice. The SU Advice Services are free, independent and confidential. We can advise on your rights and on action you can take, and if you need specialist legal advice on your housing rights, we can refer you to local services.