Frequently asked questions about student housing

I need to find a place to rent. What do I do first?
Before you start searching for your student accommodation it’s a good idea to write down a budget. What are your current outgoings and what money do you have left each month to spend on rent? Take into account that, when you first move in, you will need to front a security deposit as well as the first month’s rent and a refundable holding deposit.
I’ve found a place I want to rent. Now what?
If you haven’t already, make sure you go and view the property. If it’s a house-share, meet all the people you’ll be moving in with. The letting agent will ask you to sign a Tenancy Fee Declaration form which lists the services they will provide and the Permitted Payments expected from you, in line with the Tenant Fees Act 2019. The agent will then begin the referencing process to ensure you’re in a position to rent the property.
Why do I need to be referenced?
The landlord needs to be sure that that their tenant won’t have any problems paying the rent on a monthly basis and that the tenant will take good care of their property. Referencing is nothing to worry about. Tenants applying to rent need to give details of their employer and income, their previous address, and some bank account details. These will be checked to ensure they are able to commit to monthly rental payments.
As part of the referencing process we need to be sure a tenant is who they say they are. We will require a proof of residency (such as a utility or council tax bill from the last 3 months) and proof of ID (such as a passport or driving licence).
What if there are problems with my reference?
In some circumstances, a tenant may not be approved immediately via referencing. Obvious examples are students without a regular income, or someone leaving their family home for the first time with no renting history. This is not uncommon, and there are still options for tenants in this position. They could pay the rent for the full term up front, or seek out a guarantor.
As part of the referencing process we need to be sure a tenant is who they say they are. We will require a proof of residency (such as a utility or council tax bill from the last 3 months) and proof of ID (such as a passport or driving licence).
Can I rent a non-student house?
Yes, although some have restrictions, it’s not ruled out by any means! Most universities will presume/recommend that you’ll go through them though, and with good reason too; they can sometimes match up the leases more effectively with terms, offer subsidies and so on, and if anything goes wrong it’s much easier to go through accommodation departments/student support than one single person. Equally, not all tenants need to be students if living in a “student house” from a private landlord.
Can I stay at my accommodation over summer?
This depends on your contract. Many Student Landlords offer 12 month contracts to enable students to stay over summer, if you’re unsure it’s best to check with your Landlord.
Why do I have to pay a deposit?
The landlord trusts the tenant to keep the property in a good condition and in good order. The deposit is held to ensure that any damages (over and above fair wear and tear) can be corrected at the end of the tenancy. Landlords and letting agents are required to register your deposit with an approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme. A Tenancy Deposit Scheme will protect the money for you and can offer assistance should there be a dispute about the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
What is a tenancy agreement?
A tenancy agreement is a contract signed by both the tenant and the landlord. It outlines all the rules to which both parties must comply.
Do I need to pay Council Tax?
No, Students are exempt from Council Tax.
Who is responsible for repairs?
The landlord is responsible for maintaining the property in a good state of repair. They will either take care of this directly, or do so via a letting agent – make sure you know who to go to when there’s a fault at the beginning of the tenancy. Check your ‘Welcome letter’ to find out what service level your landlord has. If it is Tenant Find or Rent Collect, then you will need to talk to your landlord directly. If it is Fully Managed then the agent will help. If you do damage to the property you are expected to cover the cost of putting this right.
Can I decorate or make changes to the property?
In most cases, a tenant can only decorate or make changes to the property with the express permission of the landlord. We recommend receiving this permission in writing.
What if I accidentally cause damage to the property?
Don’t worry – accidents happen. Tell whoever is responsible for the property maintenance (either the landlord or letting agent) as soon as possible. You will be expected to cover the cost of putting it right. Don’t try to ignore or hide damage because it could get worse, and it will only come out of your deposit at the end of the tenancy.
What if the landlord isn’t keeping to their side of the agreement?
If a tenant believes the landlord is not keeping to their side of the agreement – for instance, not maintaining the property in a fit state of repair – then the first thing the tenant should do is speak to their letting agent. The letting agent has a duty of care to the tenant, and may be able to help to resolve issues depending on the service type the landlord has with the agent. Look at your ‘Welcome letter’ to find out the service level of your landlord. Alternatively, a tenant can find independent advice from The Citizens Advice Bureau.
When can my landlord enter the property?
A landlord has to give the tenant notice before entering the property, unless it’s an emergency.
What if I want to end the tenancy?
If you are tied into a fixed term contract, you will be liable for the rent until the fixed term is finished. If you are no longer in a fixed term contract (ie. a rolling contract) your tenancy agreement will define the notice you need to give.
What if I can’t pay my rent?
It is always your responsibility to pay the rent, but circumstances change. What happens if you become unemployed or are unable to work due to sickness? The most important thing is not to let arrears pile up until they’re unmanageable. Speak to your landlord or letting agent and see if you can reschedule your payments. And don’t forget, you can get insured against sickness and unemployment to keep yourself protected. Find out more about Tenant Income Protection.
What do I need to bring with me?
This depends on the property you have chosen. Many student houses come fully furnished meaning you will not have to bring any household items with you. Some properties may only be part furnished meaning you may need to bring some of the basics such as; cutlery and cookware, bedding, TVs and any additional furnishings.

A guide to student accommodation

Student accommodation in Durham

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