There is no set date for you to start looking for your next tenancy. We would advise you to only start looking when you feel ready to, but do bear in mind that the earlier you sign up for somewhere the more likely you are to encounter problems later down the line – you are also potentially missing out on some of the best quality and value properties if you sign up to somewhere before the Unipol housing list release date at the end of January. Please bear in mind that there is plenty of good quality affordable housing available in the city, so don’t worry about leaving finding somewhere until quite late – you could end up bagging yourself a bargain!
Once you have decided that you are ready to start looking we would advise you to check out Unipol’s website to start evaluating what your price range is and what areas you might want to live in.
Unipol are a housing charity that was set up by the higher education institutions in Leeds, and as well as acting as a landlord they also run a Landlord Accreditation Scheme and advertise properties for Unipol Code member landlords and letting agents. This year Unipol’s housing list goes live on 19 January 2019.
Taking on a new tenancy is an important decision so it’s crucial that you are happy with the people you are going to be living with (particularly if you sign a joint tenancy) and that you have considered all of the practicalities of where you want to live – i.e. price, length of tenancy, cost of bills, distance from Uni and work, local amenities, parking etc.
As boring as it might sound there is no substitute for thoroughly reading the tenancy agreement yourself. If there are any clauses or terms within the agreement that you are unsure about, don’t understand or want advice about then then please get in touch with the Leeds Beckett Students’ Union Advice Service, as an adviser will be happy to check your agreement and make sure you are happy with what you are signing up to.
LBSU's Contract Checking Competition will be running from 19 January - 8 April 2019 and will give you the chance to be entered into a draw to win a £50 Amazon voucher!
Ask around – Have you already got friends in private accommodation? – If so ask about who they signed with and what their experience has been like.
If you view a property you like the look of, see if you can speak to the current tenants to find out how living in the property has been, why they are moving out, how the landlord is, if they’ve had any problems and if so how quickly any problems have been resolved.
We would advise that you research any landlord or agent you are arranging viewings with – are they a member of the Unipol Code or the Leeds City Council’s Landlord Accreditation Scheme?
Also how professional is the landlord or letting agent in their dealings with you? Can you get in touch with them easily? Are they courteous? Are they putting you under pressure to sign up when you’re not ready? Are they charging ridiculous fees compared with other landlords or agents? All of this may give an indication of what they might be like when you have moved into your new place.
The key thing is to take your time. You should never feel pressurised into signing a tenancy agreement before you fully understand what you are signing up to, and remember - generally speaking if something seems too good to be true it often is!
Be sure to keep up to date for your chance to rate your landlord in 2019!
No. There is no cooling off period and once you have signed the tenancy agreement it becomes legally binding. If you find yourself in a position where you (or anyone else in a joint agreement) become unable to take on the tenancy then we would advise you to seek advice from the Student Union Advice Service as soon as possible.
You should not be expected to sign on the day. Any decent landlord or letting agent should give you at least 24 hours to take the tenancy agreement away so that you have enough time to thoroughly read through the agreement and get advice about it if you require it. As tempting as it may be to sign up there and then – beware – particularly if you are waiting on other people to also sign the contract. It’s also important that any guarantors also have time to read through it and get any advice prior to signing.
Unfortunately we can’t provide you with a comprehensive list of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ landlords. It’s down to you to do your research. Check out which landlords and letting agents are Unipol Code members as these landlords and letting agents have signed up to a voluntary code meaning that their properties comply with certain standards and you have a mechanism to complain about them should you encounter any problems.
You can also check out review sites like Rate Your Landlord when looking.
A ‘joint’ tenancy is where more than one tenant signs the same tenancy agreement (usually for a shared house or apartment). Under a ‘joint’ tenancy agreement all tenants are jointly liable to fulfil the obligations set out in the tenancy agreement (i.e. pay their proportion of the rent on the agreed dates, not cause a nuisance etc). This is why it is very important that you have carefully considered whether you can trust the other people you will be living with before you sign as you could end up becoming liable to pay their rent if they don’t!
If you ever have any issues with a joint tenancy agreement then please get in touch with the advice service for specific advice.
Not all landlords or letting agents charge admin fees. If a landlord or letting agent has clearly stipulated what their fees are then you have the option to either agree to pay their charges, or take your custom elsewhere to an agent or landlord who doesn’t charge fees. Remember once you have signed the tenancy agreement you are agreeing to pay any fees or charges listed within the contract. If you are not happy with the charges, but still want to sign for the property, see if you can negotiate on the fees with your landlord or agent before you sign up for the tenancy (and get any agreed amendments in writing).
Sometimes landlords or letting agents charge a ‘holding fee’. This fee is usually for keeping the property free for you while you decide whether or not you want to sign up for it (normally for a stated period), and is usually non-refundable. Again as with admin fees, as long as the terms of this fee are made clear to you it is up to you to decide whether you are willing to pay this in order to secure the tenancy.
‘A guarantor’ is a person who signs an agreement to pay the rent owed to the landlord or agent just in case the tenant defaults on paying their rent. Guarantors are normally your parent or guardian, and are sometimes expected to have a credit check as part of the tenancy agreement. If you sign a tenancy agreement where you are expected to provide a guarantor it is important that the guarantor also has time to read through the terms of the tenancy agreement and the wording of their guarantee and are able to seek their own advice before signing.
On signing for a tenancy a deposit is normally taken as security for the landlord against any damage or loss incurred due to the tenant’s actions during the tenancy. A landlord can make deductions from your deposit at the end of the tenancy for things like rent arrears, damage to their property and cleaning if you do not return the property to them in the same state as it was let to you. If your landlord or letting agent takes a deposit from you then they are legally required to protect the money in one of three government approved deposit protection schemes, and let you know which scheme it is being held in within 30 days of taking the deposit from you. This is to safeguard the money until the end of the tenancy. If your landlord then wants to make any deductions and if you disagree with those you then have an option to use the alternative dispute resolution service of the scheme to come to a final decision on how much should be deducted.
More detailed information about tenancy deposits can be found here.
If you sign a written tenancy agreement then it is advisable to get a copy of this at the time of signing. If you are not issued with a copy straight away then we would advise you to request this as soon as possible, because it is helpful to have a copy if you need advice during your tenancy.
The tenancy agreement should be signed by both you and your landlord. Each tenant, if there are joint tenants, should receive a copy of the agreement.
Your landlord is obliged by law to give you their name and address, regardless of whether or not you have a written tenancy agreement.
It is good practice for a written tenancy agreement to include the following details:-
Don’t just look at how nicely the place has been decorated (or not!) when you go on viewings. Have a good look at the bedroom sizes (are they big enough? – is someone going to have to go in the tiny box room?) , the size of the living spaces (is there enough workspace in the kitchen etc), whether there are any patches of damp on the walls or ceilings. Are there enough bathrooms/toilets for all of the tenants?
Also ask the person showing you around what furniture and furnishings are included (as you won’t be inheriting the previous tenant’s personal stuff or furniture). Does the property look like it’s in a good state of repair (Internally and externally – look at the guttering and drains, the garden and the roof etc as well as the internal rooms). And remember you can always ask to go back for a second viewing if you need this, particularly if you are trying to decide between more than one property.
Make sure you know what comes with the property and what doesn’t. You should be issued with an inventory when you move in but there is no harm in asking to see this before you sign.
Do you know who will be responsible for paying the bills? Also make sure you know who you will need to contact if there are any problems. Sometimes a letting agent will manage a property for a landlord – sometimes they are only responsible for advertising the property and signing up tenants. If you are expected to contact the landlord direct if you have any problems then make sure you get their full details.
Remember to make a note and ask them about anything that is particularly important to you. I.e. if it’s important that you are able to park your car outside or near the property ask about this (some areas have restricted parking).
Shop around and don’t start looking too early. It’s helpful to view several properties before deciding on one. Also make sure that you have worked out what you can afford before you start looking. Remember that there is a surplus of quality affordable accommodation in Leeds. It is in a Landlords best interests to get tenants to sign up for a property as early as possible. Try and negotiate a better deal before you sign. For example you could ask for discounted summer rent or a shorter tenancy if you are not going to be around during the summer months etc.
Your legal responsibilities as a tenant are set out in your tenancy agreement. Your tenancy agreement will usually include clauses that expect you to pay your rent on the agreed dates, let the landlord know about any disrepair issues in a timely manner so that they can resolve them before they become too problematic, and not cause a nuisance to your neighbours etc.
Please also remember that your tenancy agreement is a legally binding document. If you find yourself in a position where you can no longer fulfil your obligations under the agreement we would advise you to seek advice as soon as possible.
If you have any concerns or questions about house-hunting or finding somewhere to live please feel free to contact the Leeds Beckett SU Advice Service. Unipol can also provide you with practical information about what you need to think about and what you need to look for in a property.