Finding the perfect private accommodation doesn’t have to be a chore. But it’s important to remember that there is more to consider than just the size of your bedroom and how close you’ll be to the nearest pub! Our Housing Guide will help you avoid all the common mistakes thousands of tenants make each year when moving into their new private house.
Visit our dedicated website for more valuable housing advice you can’t afford to be without when choosing your future accommodation -
- What to look for
- Safety Issues
- Household Costs
- Your Rights
- Advice for women
- Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
1) What to look for
- The roof looks sound, there aren't any tiles missing.
- The gutters and pipes aren't broken or leaking.
- The window frames aren't rotten.
- The windows aren't broken or cracked.
- No signs of damp - e.g. dark patches, peeling wallpaper or flaking paint.
- Few signs of condensation such as mould on the walls.
- There aren't any signs of pests, like slug trails and mouse droppings.
Gas & Electricity
- The plugs don't get hot when switched on. There are plenty of sockets.
- The wiring doesn't look old, there aren't any frayed cables.
- The gas fire heats up properly and isn't heat stained (if it is it may be dangerous).
- Last serviced and have been shown the valid Gas Safety Certificate.
- The cooker works!
- There is hot water.
- The taps all work properly.
- The bath and basins aren't cracked, and the toilet flushes properly.
- The external doors are solid with five-bar mortice locks.
- The internal doors all have locks.
- The windows all have locks.
- Does it have a burglar alarm? Use your bargaining powers to get one. It is in the agent's/landlord's interest as well as your own.
- Does it have a smoke detector?
Print out Check List:
2) Safety Issues
Gas Safety Certificates
From 1st April 2009, the law requires all agents/landlords to ensure all gas appliances in a property are safe and checked annually by a person registered with the Gas Safe Register and provide each tenant with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate. If you are a new tenant, then you should be issued with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate before you move in. Any gas safety record given to you after 1st April 2009 will only be valid if the engineer is registered with Gas Safe Register.
Click on the Gas Safe logo link for more info!
The Health & Safety Executive has a Gas Safety Advice line on
In the event of an emergency call
Many agents/landlords may hold a NICEIC certificate which proves that the property has had an electrical check within the last five years. Although this is recommended, it is not a legal requirement.
Fire Safety - Furniture and Furnishings
On 1 January 1997 the final phase of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 came into force. This means that furniture and furnishings supplied in let accommodation must comply with the fire and safety requirements in the Regulations. All residential premises including flats, bedsits and houses where furniture is supplied as part of the let are covered by these regulations. The type of furniture covered by the regulations are: any upholstered furniture including chairs, sofas, children's furniture, beds, head boards (if upholstered), mattresses, scatter cushions, seat pads, pillows and even garden furniture if it is upholstered and can be used in the dwelling. Carpets, curtains and duvets are not covered by the regulations.
If you have gas appliances in your house, Carbon Monoxide is a possible danger. It's invisible and odourless, but it can kill.
Watch out for.....
- Gas flames that burn orange or yellow rather than blue.
- Sooty stains on or around your appliances.
- Solid fuels that burn slowly or go out.
Know the symptoms....
- Unexplained drowsiness.
- Giddiness when standing up.
- Sickness and Diarrhoea.
- Chest pains.
- Unexplained stomach pains.
Carbon Monoxide? Be Alarmed! Campaign
In October 2008, the Carbon Monoxide Consumer Awareness Alliance launched a new national campaign aimed at cutting the number of deaths and injuries caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Click here for more information on the Carbon Monoxide? Be Alarmed! Campaign
3) Household Costs
- Clarify what is included in your rent. For instance, some agents/landlords include water rates, others don't.
- If possible, ask the previous tenants the rough cost of gas, electricity and water.
- Take readings of the relevant meters as soon as you can once the last tenants have left.
- Change the bills to your name with the relevant suppliers from the time you move in.....decide whether joint names will be put on the bills or if the responsibility will be divided.
- Don't think of doing without it - the number of burglaries and thefts in rented houses is rising!
- Shop around to find the right insurance package for your requirements.
- Make sure that you're covered over the vacations.
- Properties where all the occupants are full-time students will be exempt. You may be asked to produce a certificate giving evidence of your student status; this certificate will be obtainable from your faculty office after you have registered on your course.
- If one or more of the occupants of your house is not a student the house becomes taxable so you must clarify whether you are expected to pay anything towards the cost.
- If you are unsure about your status with regard to Council Tax then seek advice from your Council Advice Centre.
If you do get a knock on the door you'll no doubt have discussed the fait accompli. 'I'll just say I thought that you'd got one', or 'We don't need one cos we're students' or 'We only watch ITV'. The response will, of course, be 'Oh, sorry Sir/Madam I didn't realise. I apologise for disturbing you. I'll let you get back to EastEnders'. If you want the lowdown on the real facts, they are as follows. Students are covered by the same licensing requirements as the rest of the population. A licence will be needed by a student living in halls, a bedsit or a flat. If you live in a shared house one licence is needed per house as long as you have a joint tenancy agreement. If you have separate agreements with the agent/landlord you will need separate licences. If you want more information then contact www.tv-l.co.uk.
The protection you have largely depends on your status as an occupier. However, an Assured Short Hold Tenancy Agreement (England) or Short Assured Tenancy (Scotland) are the most common. These can be made for a specific period of time, for instance, one academic year, but they will not usually be made for a period of less than 6 months. Please note that if you are staying in Home Stay or with the owner of the property then you will not be a "Tenant" and should therefore not be required to sign a contract.
If you are sharing a house then you may be asked to sign a joint tenancy or a separate tenancy. If you sign a joint tenancy then you will all be responsible for each other's debts and damages. If you have your own contract then if there are any discrepancies, the argument is between yourself and your agent/landlord and should not involve your housemates.
Points to Note
5) Your Rights
- Rents must be agreed before the contract is signed since this is a binding agreement. Remember-you can negotiate with the agent/landlord over rents, opt out clauses etc. if you are not happy with the agent's/landlord's suggestions.
- You cannot give notice during the period of the contract, if no such clause has been added to the contract. If you leave before the end of the fixed term then you (or your housemates) remain liable for the remaining rent.
- Always try to get your contract checked - the Students Union Advice Centre/Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice will be able to check your contract.
Remember to get a copy of your contract!
- Agents/Landlords must comply with relevant legislation on Notice to Quit and Termination of Tenancies. A Notice to Quit also has to contain prescribed information. An agent/landlord cannot simply evict a tenant without a Court Order and this will only be granted on certain grounds. See your rights
Your Agent/Landlord is responsible for........
- Keeping in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling house, including drains, gutters, and external pipes.
- Keeping in repair and proper working order the installations for the supply of water, gas, and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, and for heating rooms and heating water.
- Providing a rent book if statute so requires (e.g. where the rent is paid weekly).
- Providing you with the agents/landlords full name and address.
- Providing you with a copy of the valid current Gas Safety Certificate (see Standards).
- Allowing you to "peacefully enjoy" your accommodation (unless there is an emergency).
- Agents/Landlords have the right to enter the property at reasonable times to carry out the repairs for which they are responsible and to inspect the condition and the state of repair of the property. They must give at least 24 hours notice in writing of an inspection. It would be helpful to set out the arrangements for access and procedures for getting repairs done in the tenancy agreement.
- Providing you with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
You are responsible for.........
- Acting in a "Tenant-like manner". This means you should perform the smaller tasks around the house such as mending the electric light when a fuse blows; unblocking the sink when clogged with waste, cleaning the windows when necessary.
- Not damaging the house, if you do then you and your guests are responsible for the repairs.
- Refuse collection! Remember to find out the collection day from your local council. Put the wheelie bin out - and bring it back in again - it's illegal to leave it on the street.
- Securing the property when you go away - lock all the doors and windows!
- Being reasonable about noise and parties - weekends are better and let your neighbours know in advance.
- Reporting all repairs needed to the agent/landlord (preferably in writing). The agent's/landlord's responsibility to repair begins only when they are aware of the problem. If the fault is not corrected within a reasonable period of time (dependant upon the nature of the disrepair) then seek advice from the Students Union Advice Centre/ Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice.
Harassment and Unlawful Eviction
If your agent/landlord wants you to leave your house then a legal process must be complied with before you can be evicted. This will include a written notice and applying to the Court for a possession order. If you are evicted without the Agent/Landlord following the correct procedure then the agent/landlord is committing a criminal offence. In addition, if the agent/landlord (or someone acting on their behalf) interferes with your peace or comfort either with unannounced visits, by not fulfilling his/her responsibilities for basic repairs (as listed above), disconnecting utility supplies etc. then this may amount to harassment which is a criminal offence.
If you are in danger of eviction or suffering from harassment by your agent/landlord then contact the Student Union Advice Centre, your local Council's Housing Advice Team, or your Council's Anti-Social Behaviour Team. Citizen's Advice also produce a booklet entitled "Protection Against Harassment and Unlawful Eviction".
6) Advice for women
For your own personal safety, it is always advisable for you to view a property accompanied and try to arrange the appointment at a reasonable hour. However, there are advantages to viewing it after dark so that you can get an idea of how you will feel when walking home at night. It is important that you contact your University advice centre if you feel that you were in any way subjected to sexism or harassment during the appointment.
Here are a few pointers in checking the security of the property.
7) Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- Is the property in a 'good' area?
- Is the property set back from the road? Is the street lighting sufficient?
- Are the front and rear doors solid?
- Have the doors got five lever mortice locks?
- Is there a chain on the door? If not, can the agent/landlord fit one?
- Are the curtains of your room see-through? Insist on thicker ones if they are.
What is an EPC?
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) gives home owners, tenants and buyers information on the energy efficiency of their property. It gives the building a standard energy and carbon emission efficiency grade from ‘A’ to ‘G’, where ‘A’ is the most efficient and with the average to date being D.
In addition to the rating for your buildings current energy performance, part of the EPC report will list the potential rating that the building could achieve (using the same ‘A’ to ‘G’ scale), if the recommendations that are provided within the report were to be made. It is not mandatory for anyone to act on the report’s recommendations. However, doing so may cut your energy bills and reduce your carbon emissions.
Who needs an EPC?
As a tenant moving into a property, or as a buyer looking to purchase, it is the legal requirement of the existing owner to provide you with a full Energy Performance Certificate, free of charge. This law comes into effect after 1st October 2008.
Agents/Landlords and owners are only required to produce an EPC for a property that is self-contained, and the certificate is then valid for 10 years. However, an EPC isn’t required when a tenant rents a room and shares facilities.
A group of friends rent a property and there is a single contract between the agent/landlord and the group as the contract is for the rental of a whole dwelling. An EPC is required for the whole dwelling.
For further information, please visit the government EPC website here.
What is an inventory?
It is not uncommon for tenants not to receive a copy of inventory from their
landlords when first moving into their new house.
An inventory can be extremely useful evidence of the condition of the property when you first move in. It provides a full inspection of the property’s contents and their condition.
If you aren’t supplied with an inventory by your Landlord or Letting Agent, don't hesitate to ask for one. If you still don’t receive one, provide them with your own. You do this by making a list of the contents room by room, and then take photos or use video evidence to record the property contents and condition as back up.
The Landlord/Agent and tenant(s) should both sign the Inventory and initial every page to indicate that you agree to the condition of the property contents and condition.
If at all possible, the final inventory check should be done on move out day and checked against the original inventory. This should ensure that there aren't any disputes about the extent of any damage, should there be some, as the landlord may need to take monies out of the deposit to pay for these.
When compiling an inventory it is essential that you:
9) Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
- Describe the condition of every item within the property.
- Back it up with photographic/video evidence.
- Take a note of the gas and electric meter readings.
- Get the landlord/agent to agree to, and sign the inventory.
- Keep a safe copy of the signed inventory to check against when moving out.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
The Housing Act 2004, which was introduced in April 2006 in England and Wales was created with the intention of providing a fairer and better housing market for those renting properties. The main elements of it include;
a) Licensing of houses in multiple occupation
A house with three of more stories, occupied by 5 or more people who form 2 or more households (a household being defined as persons belonging to the same family) is classified as an HMO in England and Wales and subject to licensing. The licensing is intended to improve standards in properties where it was felt tenants where at highest risk. Any building, which is occupied by students but managed or controlled by a Higher Education Institution, is deemed not to be an HMO for licensing purposes. Local authorities have at their discretion, but subject to approval from national government, the power to designate other sizes of properties as HMO’s, which are subject to licensing.
More information can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/licensinghousestenants
b) Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
This is a new system, replacing the "fitness standard for houses", and decides whether a house is healthy and safe. Local council staff will randomly inspect properties and assess the likelihood of injury or ill health calculated via 29 hazards.
More information can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/housinghealth
In Scotland the Licensing Order makes it mandatory from October 2000 for all HMOs to be licensed. To be classified as a licensable HMO the accommodation must be the only or principle residence of a specified number of people who are not members either of the same family or one or other of two families. The specified number started on 1st October 2000 at six or more and is reducing annually until it reaches its minimum level, i.e. three or more. Students in accommodation that is an HMO in term time are treated as being solely or principally resident there in order to calculate the number of occupiers of an HMO.