House hunting season is approaching 🏠 We know that most students start looking for next year's accommodation in November. We are urging you, this year more than ever, to think long and hard about whether this is the right thing for you to do right now given the constant changes that are happening as a result of Covid-19. As many of you may have already experienced, it is very unlikely that landlords will release you from your tenancy agreement no matter what impact Covid-19 has on you or your income.
But if you do want to start looking for your next student home, take your time and don't rush into signing a tenancy agreement. To help you with the procress, as we know that it can be overwhelming at times, we have compiled a list of tips for you to consider:
1. Take your time to find the right place for you
Take your time when choosing the right house and the right area for you to live in. After all this will be your ‘home’ for the next year. There are thousands of student places to choose from and there’s more beds available than students to fill them. Compare prices and standards by viewing a few properties with different landlords.
2. Think carefully about who you want to live with
Remember, this is not like a holiday with your pals; you’ll be living with them for a year. It’s a good idea to wait until you are sure you know someone properly before rushing to sign-up for a house with them. Trust me, this time next year you’ll be thankful you did!
3. Rent a Unipol Code Property
Unipol is a student housing charity who are passionate about helping students find the best housing. Housing providers who adhere to the Unipol code have made a commitment to go substantially beyond their legal minimum requirements in providing good quality, safe and well managed housing. You can use Unipol’s simple property look up tool to check if a property is covered by the code. You should also check the Unipol House Hunting Checklist. Their super useful list of accredited accomodation will be live on 21 November.
4. Ask the right questions at viewings
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, most viewings this year will be digital. Therefore, it is even more important that you are prepared to ask the right questions. Good sized bedrooms, nice décor and soft furnishings are easy to spot but there are other things you need to look at – does the toilet flush, is the shower any good? Use the Unipol’s Viewing Checklist to make sure you view or remember to ask about the essential things that make up a good, safe rental property. Link in the description.
5. Check Rate Your Landlord
Check the Rate Your Landlord webpage to find out how past tenants have reviewed the houses and landlords you’re considering, including things like how responsive they are to disrepair and value for money.
6. Know what type of tenancy you are signing
Most contracts are joint tenancies. If you sign a joint tenancy this means you are jointly and severally liable for your co-tenants. So, for example if one of them doesn’t pay their rent, the landlord has the right to pursue any of you for their rent arrears or if 1 person causes damage you might all get charged.
7. Check your utilities liability
Make sure you know who is liable for sorting out the bills. Even where the Agents advertise “all inclusive bills”- there may be hidden charges or tariffs. Check the small print and see if there is a maximum usage level. If in doubt – ask our Advice Service to check the terms and conditions of the contract for you!
8. Put it in writing
If the landlord or agent agree to any improvements or repairs before or during the tenancy – make sure you get it in writing! Written communication is vital to ensure there’s a clear record of any requests made by the tenant and of any agreement made by the landlord. If you speak to a landlord over the phone or in person, follow it up with an email.
9. Get your tenancy agreement checked before you sign
Once you've decided where you'd like to live, the landlord should give you a tenancy agreement to sign. Email it to your Students’ Union Advice Service and an adviser can check it for you before you sign or pay any money. Any good landlord should give you the time to do this!
If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed about the house hunting process, contact our Advice Service: www.leedsbeckettsu.co.uk/advice.
You could win £250 this month 👏 All you have to do is to go to our Facebook page, follow us and like & share our house hunting top tips video with your friends! Prize Draw Terms and Conditions: https://bit.ly/2Ix7Fq5.
Pango Simwaka, Welfare & Community Officer at Leeds Beckett Students' Union
Lotti Morton, Community Officer at Leeds University Union