Top ten Tenancy Facts you need to know!

Top ten Tenancy Facts you need to know!

18th July 2018

Want to move into a student house but unsure of the things you need to look out for? In this blog, we are going to be giving you the top ten tenancy facts and rights in student housing.

It’s worth first clarifying the difference between a private rental and an HMO. An HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) is a larger property that houses three or more unrelated people in it. Unrelated being the keyword. All bedrooms are usually let separately within the contract rather than the house as a whole.

This means that most student flats will qualify as HMOs, and landlords are expected to follow extra procedures when renting their property out like this. We shall look to cover some of the rules which they have to follow in order to comply with legislation.

1.Fire and general safety

There are a few things that the law requires your landlord to do in terms of safety for the tenants.

For one thing, there should be adequate means of fire escape in your property, and at least one smoke alarm per floor of the building.

Any room that has a fireplace (that’s in use) needs to also have a carbon monoxide detector. If your place classifies as an HMO, then your landlord is also legally required to fit fire alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets on every floor. You can find this out in your tenancy agreement.

Make sure you check who’s in charge of maintaining these alarms. If it’s you, you’ll have to make sure they are maintained to an appropriate standard. This will be detailed in your contract.

2. Landlord visits

The landlord (or people acting on their behalf) cannot just walk into the property whenever they feel like it.

If they want access to the property to give a viewing or carry out repairs, they legally need to give you at least 24 hours before showing up.

If you can’t make it, then you can nominate a trusted person to be in the house at that time while the landlord visits.

3. Appliance checks

Any gas appliances in the property must be checked yearly by a Gas Safe registered engineer, and there should be a record of every check kept at the property to prove it. The engineer, if they come round while you are in should have a Gas Safe card, and you can cross check it with the Gas Safe website.

Ask to see this before signing your contract, and make sure your landlord keeps on top of things whilst you’re living there. You can and should report any repairs to your letting agent or landlord.

If they’re providing you with portable appliances (such as kettles or toasters), these should be checked every five years by an electrician. This is called a PAT test.

4. Infestations or Pests

When it comes to infestations of mice, rats, bedbugs and bats (yes, bats), you’ll be glad to know that it’s your landlord’s responsibility to sort them out (as long as it’s not your fault they’re there in the first place). Be careful with your bins and where you put or keep rubbish.

If you have mice, contact your landlord immediately and they should make plans to get rid of them ASAP.  If you discover you’ve got rats, inform both your landlord and the local health authority, which will make plans for a team of experts to come and deal with them as rats are a massive health and safety risk.

With bedbugs, it depends on who bought the offending piece of furniture. If you did then, unfortunately, it’s your own responsibility to deal with it, but you should let your landlord know. If it was a piece of furniture that’s already there then it’s their responsibility to dispose of it.

If you aren’t happy you can talk to an ombudsman, leave the property or request for it to be cleaned. If you leave or request to leave you must make sure that you have read all the legal info before. You don’t want it to be turned around on you.

5. Guests and Sleepovers

Most tenancy agreements won’t mention too much about having guests to stay, so it’s normally more about coming to an understanding with your housemates than anything else.

SO, do be mindful of those you’re sharing with, especially if your guest will be sleeping in a communal area like a sofa. If your guests cause any damage, remember that you’ll be liable for it!

If you or a housemate accepts money from a guest for staying over, or if you choose to rent out any of your rooms temporarily on Airbnb or something similar, this is considered sub-letting. We strongly suggest you don’t do this, as this will breach your agreement.

Sub-letting is pretty much always going to be against your tenancy agreement, so if you get caught, you could even be evicted.

6. Decorating

Before you start painting any walls or doing any major decorating, you’ll need to get written permission from your landlord.

However, as you are a student, it’s not worth painting walls etc, because if you damage any other walls or appliances you will have to pay for them. The landlord usually has walls already painted and will charge your deposit if they are damaged.

Sprucing up your room with photos or framed pictures is always nice, but make sure you’re not causing any damage to the walls. If you start hammering nails in or using blu-tack, you’ll probably find yourself footed with a bill when the time comes to move out.

As a general rule, the property should look the same when you move out as it did when you first moved in.

7. Repairs

If there are any issues with the property that could result in an accident, make sure you report it to your landlord straight away.

Most landlords will be reasonable and make the necessary changes as soon as possible, but if you’re having a bit of trouble to get the ball rolling, here’s a repairs request template to get it in writing (which should do the trick!).

In fact, if the repairs are considered an ’emergency’, your landlord is legally obliged to have it repaired within 24 hours; if it’s ‘urgent’ but not an emergency, they need to repair it within four days.

This law is part of the Right to Repair scheme, which requires that any urgent and emergency repairs costing under £250 are done within this timescale. If your landlord doesn’t abide by this rule, contact Citizens Advice and they will be able to advise you.

8. Evictions

There are a number of reasons why a landlord could legally evict you. (Make sure you don’t do these) These include the following:

  • being at least two months late on rent payments.
  • having been regularly late with your payments.
  • breaching any of the terms of your tenancy agreement.
  • letting the property fall into an unacceptable state.
  • causing a nuisance to the neighbours.
  • being involved in illegal activities.

If you receive a threat of eviction, seek legal advice immediately. However, if there’s no court order included in your eviction notice, this is illegal.

Note that it’s also considered a crime for your landlord to use any harassment tactics to get you out of the property. These include:

  • cutting electricity or gas supplies.
  • threats and physical violence.
  • refusing to carry out repairs.
  • withholding keys.

9. Notice to leave

If your landlord wants you to move out, they need to provide you with adequate notice. The law states that you must be given at least two months’ notice before you have to vacate the property. If they’re not abiding by this, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you want to leave before your contract has officially ended, you’ll only be able to do so under certain circumstances such as your landlord breaching their responsibilities from the tenancy agreement. Otherwise, you’ll still have to pay for your rent until the end of the lease.

10. Housing deposit

Every landlord is legally obliged to place your housing deposit within a government-owned deposit scheme called a TDP scheme (Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme). If they are part of such a scheme they usually let you know, plus you will be able to cross-reference this in their website.

This ensures that both sides are equally protected in case of any disputes. If your landlord fails to put your deposit in a TDP within 30 days of receiving it from you, you could be due compensation.

If all else fails…

As you may have noticed, the recurring theme here is that if in doubt, contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or your university accommodation office and student union.

“Top ten Tenancy Facts you need to know!” was written by Housing Hand partners Student IT, for more information on finding student accommodation across the UK contact Student IT by emailing [email protected].