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Top 10 house-hunting tips

Thursday 30 January 2014 Student Accommodation

Still house-hunting or need to move accommodation? We've put together a handy list of 10 top tips to consider when looking for a new place.

  1. The number one rule is never to rush. Look out for when your institution and students’ union advertise the start of house-hunting and never, under any circumstances rent a property before Christmas for the next academic year. The idea that the best houses will get snapped up is one encouraged by landlords and letting agents who are scared their house won’t get rented if they leave it until later. Owners of good quality and decent value houses are likely to wait longer before trying to rent the property as they’re confident they’ll find students who are interested later on.
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  3. Always view the house where possible and try to speak to the current housemates. They’ll be able to tell you the things that you won’t find out otherwise such as whether the property suffers from damp, and whether the landlord or letting agent is easy to get in touch with if issues arise.
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  5. Be very cautious if you experience any pressure to sign a contract. If the property is so great, why do you need to sign right now? Always make sure that you’ve had the time to make a considered decision and a chance to discuss it properly with everyone you’re going to live with.
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  7. Read your contract thoroughly and if possible, get it checked by your students’ union or institution. If there is anything within it that you’re not happy with, you can go back to the landlord or letting agent and suggest changes.
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  9. Find out if the contract is going to be joint with other tenants. If it is, this means that you’re all both jointly and individually responsible for the rent. That means if one person does a runner or even if someone drops out and moves back home, they could chase any of you for the money, or your parents if they’re listed as your guarantor. Make sure you’re happy with this arrangement before you sign on the dotted line. Shelter provide some useful information on this topic for tenants in England, Scotland and Wales.
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  11. Find out if there’s an accreditation scheme in your local area. These offer a kind of ‘kitemark’ to show that any houses registered with it will meet certain standards, and offer an independent route for raising complaints if you believe the standards haven’t been met during the tenancy.
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  13. It’s not just the rent level you need to think about to make a budget. Ask to see a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate to find out how energy efficient the property is. The higher rated the property is, the cheaper it’ll be to keep warm. You should also consider the location and how much travel is likely to cost you as this can make a big difference to your budget. If you’re renting from a letting agent, ask what fees they’ll be charging as well. If you’re in Scotland, letting agents aren’t allowed to charge any fees to the tenant, so refuse to pay them if asked.
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  15. Try putting together a budget with different rent levels to see how much disposable income you’ll be left with. The Student Calculator website lets you add up all your income (e.g. student loan, wages) and subtract your expenditure (e.g. rent, bills, food) to work out what you’ll have left each month.
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  17.  Ask your new landlord or letting agent where they’ll be protecting your deposit. It is against the law to take a deposit and fail to place it within a government scheme in all parts of the United Kingdom. You should receive evidence that it is protected, and if you’re in England and aren’t sure, you can check using Shelter’s website.
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  19. Remember, safety first! Ask to see the Gas Safety Certificate, and find out if the property will be fitted with a smoke alarm and Carbon Monoxide detector.