Trying to find a flat to rent for University? We know it can seem like a daunting task, particularly if you don't know the area/town you're moving to?
Trying to find a flat to rent for University?
At Belvoir Lettings of Dundee we know it can seem like a daunting task, particularly if you don’t know the area/town you’re moving to?
To try to help we have produced a brief guide with advice that should help you to at least avoid the major pitfalls and maximise the likelihood of a ‘positive lettings experience’.
First rule…..DON’T PANIC, e.g. grab the first thing you see especially if you haven’t actually viewed it. There is plenty of accommodation out there and it’s not all rubbish with bad agents or landlords.
Second Rule…. Never, Never, NEVER EVER part with any money for a flat you haven’t seen, or have viewed just on a web site. Before parting with your hard earned beer vouchers (OK, possibly your parents hard earned beer vouchers) visit the property or at least have a friend do so for you. Ideally view it more than once and take someone else with you for a second opinion. There are plenty of scam artists out there (not to mention just bad flats/landlords/agents) so be sure before you proceed.
Don't just sign up for a property because the landlord is offering a year’s supply of pot noodles and a dozen beers or because it is next door to your mates.
Remember that the rent is a massive drain on your funding and you will be spending lots of time at the flat. If you can’t actually speak to the current/ex tenants of a property see if there are any online reviews (to be taken with a pinch of salt, positive or negative), speak to the University Admin Office, Students Union and others in the Student body who have been in the area longer. Some Student Unions conduct surveys of their members about good/bad letting agents in the area
Is the house in a convenient location for beer, pizza and the uni, possibly in that order? Are there good public transport links? Can you get home safely?
Does the property need a House in Multiple Occupancy license (e.g. in Scotland it’s generally where three or more people who aren’t a family unit of some kind reside together) if so does it have a current HMO Licence for the number of people seeking to share property?
Ask the landlord or letting agent for a copy of the licence and if in any doubt seek advice from your Local Authority.
All agents and private landlords in Scotland are required to be registered with the local authority. If they can’t tell you their registration number then don’t touch them (and consider reporting them to the council)
Does the condition of the property look OK, not just the flat (or house) itself but the entrance, garden, guttering, roof? I know you’re not going to put your spider man outfit on and clamber over the rooftops but you will be surprised what you can see from street level (e.g. small trees growing out of gutters), signs of water running down the outside of the building etc.
Are there any signs of vermin, basically does the property appear to be clean, tidy and serviceable? If you identify an issue it’s not the end of the world as long as the agent/landlord is happy to provide you with something by email at least to say it will be put right or if not then why not.
Gas, Electricity, Safety
Is ‘Gas Safe’ safety certificate for the gas appliance and service dated within the last year and does it have CO2 detectors?
What sort of heating is installed (electric heating is more expensive)?
Has the property had a wiring survey in the last 5 years.
Have all the ‘free standing’ e.g. not hard wired into the wall, electrical items had a Portable Appliance Test within the last year?
Does it have the required number of "mains powered" fire sensors?
If it’s an HMO property have the fire alarms, extinguishers etc been serviced within the last year and the former tested regularly?
Basic stuff, do all the sinks drain, does the toilet flush , try the taps, are there any obvious signs of leaks?
Is the heating in the house adequate, what that means will depend on you, remember gas is ‘generally’ cheaper to run than electric but in some areas or types of block you will find predominantly electric.
Can the agent provide you with an Energy Performance Certificate? Frankly they are a bit of waste of time but the agent/landlord should publish it on the web site.
Fire extinguishers are only mandatory in HMO properties.
Do you feel secure, does the block have secure entry, sufficient lighting, do the windows/doors have locks etc (particularly on the ground floor) or are they inherently secure?
Remember as far as the local burglar community goes you’re an easy target.
Is there enough furniture for your needs (make sure it doesn’t belong to the current tenants), does any furniture conform to the fire safety regulations?
Are all the white goods in the kitchen staying and basically does everything work?
What are you paying for in your rent and is it clear from the tenancy?
How much is the security deposit, where is it being held (should be with one of the Tenant Deposit Scheme organisations in Scotland) and under what conditions can deductions be made from it (should be in the tenancy agreement, the agent should be happy to give you a draft copy of this prior to you moving in)?
Always get a receipt for any monies paid, even if it’s just a print out from a card machine.
Are you or the owner responsible for water charges/other bills?
The landlord will have buildings insurance and possibly contents insurance but you should really have tenants insurance. Lots of companies out there so shop around.
When you take up a tenancy you should get at least the following:
Statutory Notice for Tenants
Tenant Information Pack
Remember you have to pay the gas/electric bills and even though you’re exempt from council tax you do have to register with the council to tell them you’re living in the property.
If you’re not happy about things in the property when you move in or when going through the inventory then for your own protection take photos of the issues and keep any emails sent.
This document isn’t exhaustive but should at least point you in the right direction. The landlord/agent isn’t your enemy (contrary to popular belief) and frankly if you think they are then either you’ve had a bad one or you’ve been a bad tenant. With any decent agent/landlord all you should have to do is pay the rent, keep the place clean/tidy (and yes we do mean properly e.g. like your mum would do, not just chucking the pizza boxes out once a month), don’t annoy the neighbours and report any repairs that are needed.
If you need to call your agent/landlord for a repair then keep a record of it, but also check the obvious first, e.g. if the hoover isnt working check the fuse, bag etc.
In return if you’re doing the above then the agent/landlord should get any repairs done as quickly as reasonably possible and generally not hassle you. Remember you have legal safeguards as do they.
Hopefully you will have a great (and successful) time at university and having a pleasant, relaxing place you can call home with the minimum of hassles is a good step in that direction.