House Hunting Tips!
Story: Freshers week (or fortnight in our case) can seem like the roughest time of your life. The alcohol and takeaways will take its toll on your body. So after the fun of freshers and to spend an evening with my housemates without it ending in a hangover, we organised a ‘Come Dine With Me’ night for the house. Each flat had a different course to be in charge of, with us all moving around the flats for each course. Cooking for a big number seems daunting but it was really fun and a perfect chance to eat some proper food!
House Hunting Tips
- Your Flatmates - When looking for houses, look at who you are looking with; if you’re house hunting now, you will be with these people until summer 2013! You are entering a legal contract, so be sure you’re sure!
- Check out your Union – They are likely to have an advice centre for issues such as housing, and can give you impartial information. Also, some Unions have their own letting agency which may not charge agency fees, saving you up to £100. They will also be less pushy and give you better viewings of the properties, as they are often conducted by current students.
- Make a checklist – Make sure you and your flatmates all agree on what you’re looking for before you start viewings. What’s important to you: location, price, size?
- Take notes –Make sure one of you (probably the ‘leader’ – take the ‘Which Housemate Are You’ Quiz) takes notes during viewings of important things, for example has the property got double glazed windows or are there any signs of damp/mould? (Take it from me – both essential questions to ask!)
- Talk to the current tenants – If they are in on your viewings, ask them questions that the agency won’t answer truthfully. Ask them about the landlord/agency and if they are any good at responding to any problems, ask them if there has been any problems with mould/damp, and ask them about any insect problems (trust me – it happens!)
- Don’t rush! Agencies may say things like “this has been really popular” and “we’ve got another group looking straight after you, and they seem really keen” – they may just be trying to pressure you into signing the contract. There are always enough houses for all the students – don’t allow yourself to be rushed into anything!
House Sharing Tips
So once you have found the perfect house with the perfect people, everything’s perfect right? Not always the case!
- The little things will get to you! The housemate who dodges the washing up; the housemate who never admits they’ve drank the last bit of your milk; the housemate who can’t cook, the housemate who claims they have no money for the bills but can still go out drinking on their socials! Put the issue into proportion, and if it is something that can be fixed then fix it. Try to raise the problem tactfully and make your friend see the problem. But remember you probably have bad habits too, and if all fails – it’s only for the rest of the year!
- Rota up – If it’s a big house, to keep on top of who does what it might be an idea to rota up. Yes, you may seem a little anal but it’s the fairest thing to do. Cleaning can be divided equally, and the buying of communal items (such as bin bags, washing up liquid and toilet paper) can be ticked off to make sure everyone buys their fair share.
- Remember bin day! There is nothing worse than having insect covered bin bags by your house because of a missed bin day. Put up a reminder poster, or some councils now offer a text reminder service which lets you know which bins to put out that week.
- Be safety savvy – Use your common sense: shut the windows and lock the door when you’re out. A thief knows a 5 bed student house will contain at least, 5 laptops available for the taking. Don’t let yourselves be an easy target.
- Protect your gadgets – Unfortunately, even the most safety conscious person can be targeted by crime or even the most sensible among us can spill a drink across our laptop or drop a phone down a toilet after a few too many. Protect your gadgets and stay connected with Endsleigh’s great value gadget bundles, with 24 hour replacement* so you’re not away from the gadgets you need for too long.
- Don’t be too heating happy – Yes its’ miserable being cold, but you will regret it when the bill comes through. Try sticking on another layer, watching TV under a blanket or if all fails, head to the library or pub!
- Share the cooking – Cooking together can be a fun way of saving money; just make sure you share the washing up too! If cooking alone, cook in batches and freeze, for meals like spaghetti bolognaise, pasta bake and soups.
*24 hours represents 1 working day from us approving your claim
Get prepared for moving out day
Thinking about moving out of your house, when you have only really just moved in might seem like a waste of time, however the time will soon come around and its worth being prepared, so you can get your deposit back as quickly as possible.
Refer back to your contract to check for any clauses about the required standard of cleaning your landlord may expect. Make sure you organise this in plenty of time and split the workload equally between all housemates, ensure you give the house a thorough clean, including behind the furniture. The property should be left free of rubbish, and only the items on the inventory should remain in the house. Move all furniture to where it was when you first moved in.
Don’t leave the responsibility of cleaning to the last person to leave – all housemates share responsibility for leaving the house in the right condition at the end of the year.
Make sure all bills are settled and that any mail is redirected to your new or home address.
Top 10 Tips for moving out.
- Allow lots of time to clear everything out.
- Check the contract for any clauses about required cleaning such as carpet cleaning.
- Get large, bulky items disposed of - some councils need up to a month's notice.
- Put furniture back in its original place.
- Thoroughly clean the property back to the condition it was in when you moved in
- Tidy garden.
- Repair damage you've caused or replace items that cannot be made good.
- Be there when the check out inventory is being done.
- Keep receipts for cleaning and any items that you have had replaced.
- If the deposit is not returned or if you feel deductions are unfair, contact the administrator of your tenancy deposit scheme.
Check your contract!
Contracts are legally binding documents – both for you and your landlord. They can protect you and ensure your landlord behaves in a certain way. However it will also oblige you to do things too. If you breach your contract - ie by not complying with what you have agreed to in it – you may be subject to eviction, fines or even court action.
Top of Form
Here are NUS’ top tips to think about when signing a contract:
1. Don’t panic
Often you will be told that there are no more houses, or that there's a queue of people waiting to sign the house you are looking at, to encourage you to sign for a house quickly.
This is why it’s important you find out about your housing market, as in many places there is actually an oversupply of rented accommodation. Even if you are studying in one of the areas where supply exceeds demand, it is still not worth being pressured into something. Take time to read over the contract, check what it means and get a third party – your students’ union, Shelter or Citizens Advice Bureaux – to look over the contract for you to make sure it’s reasonable. You might also want to check out the Office of Fair Trading’s guidance on Unfair Terms (www.oft.gov.uk).
Only once you have had some time – at least 24 hours - and thought through all the information on these pages, should you consider signing the contract.
2. Think about who’s responsible for what
In some cases, you and your housemates will all sign an individual contract. However in lots of cases all tenants will sign the same contract. This can mean that you are all ‘jointly and severally’ liable for things like paying the rent. This means that if one tenant leaves, doesn’t pay their rent or damages the property, you may be left having to pay. This is why it’s so important that you think long and hard about whom to live with, and make sure it’s someone you trust.
Lots of landlords and letting agents will also require a ‘guarantor’ – this may be a parent or other individual who will be liable to pay rent or other money should you not be able to. If you are on a joint contract, check the wording of this to ensure that your guarantor is not joint and severally liable for your other housemates.
3. Check for extra costs
Are there other fees to pay in addition to the rent? For example, does the landlord or letting agent charge a referencing, booking or admin fee? These are non-returnable fees in addition to the deposits which some people will charge. These can range from £50 to over £150. Make sure you include such charges in your estimates of how much this property will cost you.
4. Check the contract has everything it needs
Some things that you should see on a contract:
- Name and address of landlord
- Names and contact addresses of the tenants
- Address of the property – make sure this matches the address of the house you looked at.
- When the contract starts, and when it will end (if a fixed term contract)
- Reasons why the contract may end
- The amount of rent payable, when payable, how it is to be paid,
- What the rent includes, and what it doesn’t
- The amount of the deposit, where the deposit will be protected (if applicable)
- Tenant obligations (legal requirements and specific requirements to that contract) – remember to get someone to check this to ensure they are not unfair terms
- Landlord obligations
- Any work that will be completed prior to tenant moving in
Most students will be on an assured shorthold tenancy. If you are on such a contract, you have particular rights and responsibilities, including that of Tenancy Deposit Protection.
5. Check the inventory
With your contract you should also have an inventory. This is a list of everything that comes with the property, and their condition.
Read this carefully and ensure that everything is listed, and you agree with the description of it. Does everything on it match up with what you saw and felt in the property? If not, speak to the landlord and get this altered to descriptions and details you both agree with.
At the end of a tenancy, this is a hugely important document in terms of getting your deposit back.
6. Ask for other necessary documentation
Lots of students will live in properties that are legally required to be licensed. These are properties with 5 or more people who are not all a part of the same immediate family living on three or more floors.
In some areas, other rented properties also need a license. This is why it’s important that before you start house hunting you familiarise yourself with the rental market.
If your property does require a license, ask your landlord for a copy.
As part of the EU Directive 2002/91/EC tenants renting a property should receive an Energy Performance Certificate which rates the energy efficiency of your home.
Landlords are legally required to provide you with this information. It can be really useful in terms of working out how much your property will cost in real terms. For example a property rated at F or G will cost a lot more in heating and electricity bills than one rated A B or C, which may determine what property you ultimately choose.
7. Sign it
Once you have checked the contract, looked at the property, seen all the necessary paperwork and had a third party check the contract, you are ready to sign for your new house.
Remember; don’t pay any money to a landlord or agent – like fees, rent or deposits - until after you have signed the contract. No one wants to fall prey to a scam where someone runs off with your money.
8. Keep a copy
Photocopy the contract and keep it for yourself. This will come in handy if you need to check out anything during your tenancy or need to speak to an adviser in your students’ union or other local housing advice service.
You might also want to get a copy to send to a parent or someone else for safe keeping.