Students Guide

Leaving home for the first time to go to start college or university can be a daunting prospect. There’s new tutors and friends to make, plus a place to call home to find. As the area’s leading letting agency for privately rented student accommodation, Strats are able to take at least one of these worries away.

As well as providing a friendly and welcoming on campus office, where you can call in at anytime for helpful advice and information, our simple guide below takes the mystery out of the tenancy process and makes renting your new student accommodation a more pleasurable experience.

Many of our staff have been students of University of Hertfordshire themselves and have first-hand experience and great advice to share with new students.

Our team is also active on the student social scene, so don’t forget to follow us on Social Media to find out what’s going on and look out for some great offers and freebies.

International Student Advice

Prior to coming to the UK, Strats recommend that international students logon to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA). Their website is packed with helpful information for international students including a large section on accommodation.

What to think about when choosing your accommodation

Don’t sign anything until you are 100% happy. Once signed, a tenancy agreement is a legally binding document.

Read the tenancy agreement and deposit scheme information thoroughly and make sure you understand them completely. Ask us about anything you don’t understand, as we’re always happy to explain anything you’re unsure about.

Before you commit to a property, it’s a good idea to ask current tenants about their experiences at the property or even talk to neighbours.

Consider your budget and make sure you are not over stretching your finances. We want you to be able to make the most of your time at university, so worry about making ends meet is not a great place to start from.

Tenancy Deposit Schemes

Residential landlords require a financial deposit from prospective tenants to protect against breaches of the tenancy agreement. These breaches could be for things like cleaning, damage/loss of property, unpaid rent or bills.

The deposit remains the property of the tenant at all times and is held by the landlord or his agent in a TDS until the end of the tenancy. The deposit should not be used to subsidise the outgoings or expenditure of the landlord or his agent unless the parties specifically agree to this or the tenancy agreement allows it.

At end of the tenancy, this deposit is returned to the tenant if they have honoured the terms of the tenancy agreement.

It is a legal requirement that deposits for Assured Shorthold Tenancies in England and Wales must be protected by an authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme.

If the tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy agreement, the tenant and landlord should agree on the return of the deposit and any deductions from it. If the tenant is unhappy with the amount the landlord wishes to deduct from the deposit or the landlord/agent refuses to engage in the deposit return process, the tenant is entitled to raise their dispute with the relevant tenancy deposit protection scheme.

Your agent or landlord is obliged by law to provide you with information regarding which TDS scheme your deposit is registered with within 30 days of reciept of your deposit.

For further information go to: https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection

Tenancy Agreements

Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements are for a minimum of 6 months and Student AST’s are normally 10-12 months. These give tenants exclusive possession and the right to live there peacefully and without harassment from landlords or letting agents. Landlords and agents are required to give 24 hours notice to gain access for repairs or maintenance work.

Joint Tenancy Agreements are fixed term agreements and all tenants living in the property are required to sign the agreement. This type of contract can not be used for separately rented rooms. This kind of tenancy leaves co-tenants liable for other tenants rent and damage so make sure you are confident in your co-tenants. Should one tenant sign the agreement and fail to move in, the other tenants are required to cover their share of the rent so choose wisely who you rent with. .

Do not sign anything until you are 100% happy with all aspects of the tenancy agreement.

Guarantors

Guarantors are required to cover your tenancy financial commitments. This normally falls on parents shoulders but could be anyone close to you. It is advisable to check that your tenancy agreement limits guarantors liability to rent and damages.

Council Tax Exemption

All full time students are exempt from council tax. If there is a person in your household who is not in full time study or only part time, the property is liable for 75% council tax.

Student exemption runs for the full academic year until your graduation. After graduation, if your tenancy is still running, you will be liable for the remaining period.

Apply online for your exemption at studentnet, then swipe your student ID card at your college on university registration day and they will send your certificate to your local council.

For further information: https://www.gov.uk/council-tax/full-time-students

Housemates

Choose your housemates carefully as you will have to spend a whole year under the same roof. Getting on in halls may not cross over to living in the same house where shared cleaning duties and bills are involved.

A well balanced mixed male/female groups tend to work better. However, we don’t recommend a single female lives in an all male house.

Finding a new housemate can prove difficult mid-term and you may find that one of your fellow tenants introduces someone else to the house you don’t get along with. Always consider your fellow housemates when bringing new people into your shared house.

Many landlords and agents like to appoint a lead tenant who will be their first point of contact and responsible for collecting rent and money for bills, plus passing on information to other tenants.

At Strats, we have a team dedicated to helping match housemates, so if you want help finding the right roomies, don’t worry that you haven’t met or don’t know anyone already. We might know of just the right people and property for you already.

What to check for when moving into your new home

Although you are all very excited to be moving into your new home, there are a few important things to check before you get too comfortable.

General

  1. Name your stuff. It sounds trivial but could save a lot of problems later on.

  2. Have you got a copy of your signed contract?

  3. Have you got your landlord’s details? You are entitled to these even if you rent through an agent.

  4. Have you got an emergency contact number?

     

Cleanliness

  1. Was the house clean on arrival? Your house should have been deep cleaned prior to your arrival but if it wasn’t, take photos and report it to your landlord or agent immediately.

  2. Don’t forget to check things like drains and gutters.

 

Escape Routes & Safety

  1. Familiarise yourself with the layout of the house and escape routes in an emergency.

  2. Also familiarise yourself with any safety equipment like a fire extinguisher or fire blanket.

  3. Check smoke alarms are functioning.

 

Repairs

  1. Check for any repairs that are required.

  2. If there are, take photos and inform the landlord or agent.

 

Decorating

  1. Is the property in good decorative order.

  2. If not take photos and inform landlord or agent.

 

Utilities

  1. Read gas and electric meters and register yourselves with the gas and electricity companies.

  2. Failure to do so could leave you liable for previous tenants bills.

  3. Locate the water, gas and electric stop taps.

  4. Check the gas safety certificate is with the boiler and in date.

 

Contact Details

  1. Make sure the university or your place of study have your new address by updating your details on Accelerate.

 

Insurance

  1. Think about taking out contents insurance.

 

Council Tax

Have you completed your council tax exemption registration?

 

Inventories

  • Check your inventory carefully.

  • Note any missing, damaged or worn items.

  • Make 2 copies, sign and date them and send 1 copy to your landlord or agent.

     

What to do when issues arise

We work to ensure that our tenancies run smoothly and our tenants are happy with how we look after them, but if you are unhappy with our services for any reason we recommend you follow the procedures below.

Always put complaints in writing, be it by email or written and inform your landlord and us as soon as an issue arises. Keep a copy of all correspondence. If you do not get a response, write again and inform them/us that you will take advice in 48 hours if your complaint isn’t dealt with.

Your place of study will be able to offer help in resolving issues and studynet have a selection of template letters for you to use.

Should an issue remain unresolved with us, we are members of The Property Ombusmen Service and you can contact them HERE.

If your issue is out of our juristicition or with your landlord directly, we recommend you seek professional advice from the appropriate authority.

Citizens Advice

You can download our Student  Guidelines Booklet HERE

 
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