29 Jul 2016

The complete student guide to renting property

The complete student guide to renting property

Here's our complete guide for students looking to rent property ahead of the new university term.

Finding a property can be a stressful time for students, most of whom probably haven’t had much dealings with a landlord or a letting agent before. 

Aberdein Considine is a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) who have prepared guidance notes specifically for students renting in Scotland.

Here are some of the most important things to be aware of. 

1) What can you afford?

Decide what you can afford before you start house hunting. Remember you will have to budget for gas, electricity, water, phone, internet and a TV licence, as well as food and general household items.  

One of the bonuses of being a student is that you don’t have to pay council tax for your house. However, bear in mind that should you decide to live with a non-student you will be required to pay council tax with a 25% discount.

2) Choosing your housemates

This is very important, as one of the main problems in shared houses is disagreements between housemates.

Conflicting lifestyles, recreational habits and personality clashes can cause misery and often come to a head during exam time.

Remember you are signing a legally binding contract and will not be able to simply walk away. Have a think about your own lifestyle and what you would like in a housemate, for example reliability with money.

If you are an early riser who prefers a quiet and tidy house, don’t choose to live with a messy party animal – a fun friend is not necessarily a good housemate. 

3) When to start looking

This varies from area to area, generally however the team at Aberdein Considine start getting enquiries from students in June reaching a peak in late August. Our advice is to start your search as soon as you possibly can.   

4) Picking an agent/landlord

Look for an agent who is ARLA Licensed. This means that they are expected to maintain standards throughout their properties, and the way that they treat deposit and rent payments is regularly monitored by the association. 

Not all letting agents are regulated and rogue agents can cause students stress and loss of money. As a firm of solicitors, Aberdein Considine is also regulated by the Law Society Scotland.  Also check that your agent offers out of hours support for any emergencies. 

If letting from a private landlord make sure they are registered.  You can do this via this linkAlso find out what arrangements they have in place for reporting any issues during your tenancy.

5) Viewing a property

When viewing a property you need to make sure it is suitable for your requirements.  Is the layout suitable, are there enough facilities for the number of housemates.  Is there broadband?  What is the condition of the property like. 

Most common may be signs of damp, try and look behind large items of furniture near windows – are they trying to hide something?  If landlords are letting to three more unrelated people, they will require a valid House in Multiple Occupancy Licence (HMO) from the local authority. 

6) Health and Safety

All landlords must comply with the following if letting their property

  • Energy Efficiency – ask to see the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • Electrical Safety – a Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)
  • Gas Safety – all gas installations and appliances required to be checked by a ‘Gas Safe’ engineer.
  • Carbon Monoxide Alarms – long life battery or mains wired detectors must be fitted in any space containing a carbon based fuel appliance.
  • Smoke Alarms – battery smoke alarms are no longer acceptable in let properties.  All must have mains wired and interlinked smoke alarms (heat detector in kitchen) in the property.  The number and position of alarms will depend on the and layout of the house.
  • Legionnaires’ Disease – a risk assessment for legionella must be carried out.

Letting agents and landlords must be able to provide evidence of compliance upon request. 

7) Signing the lease contract

Read the contract carefully before signing. If you have any doubts, your Student Union will go through it with you.

The contract will include the address of the property, the landlord and tenants’ names, relevant contact details, rental amount and date on which it is due. You might agree with a landlord that they will repair something before you move in – make sure this is added to the contract before you sign. 

The most common type of contract for students is a Short Assured Tenancy (SAT), including the names of all tenants which will be held “jointly and severally liable”. This means that if one housemate leaves the house, the others are still responsible for paying that person’s rent; you are all legally responsible for all of the rent, not just your own.

8) Guarantors

You will also be asked to provide someone to act as a guarantor (usually a family member) who is willing to accept legal and financial responsibility should you fail to pay your rent or damage the property. 

The guarantor needs to be aware that they will be required to go through a referencing process, including credit checks before they will be accepted.  They will also have to sign a contract.

9) What happens to your deposit

The letting agent or the landlord must pass your deposit to a government approved scheme within 30 days of the start of the lease.  They must also give you details of where the money is being held.  Full details of the tenancy deposit scheme can be found here.

10) Inventory of furnishings

Be prepared to make notes on the inventory, from small carpet holes to marks on walls. Get these amendments agreed and keep a dated copy signed by the agent. If you don’t, expect to lose your deposit

11) Gas & electric, TV licence, insurance etc

Read your gas and electricity meters when you first move in, notify the utility companies of the change - give them the meter readings, your move in date and the names of all the tenants.

This ensures that you share responsibility for the payments.  If you have a television in your house then you need to buy a TV licence, more information can be found here

The landlord's insurance will not cover your possessions.  Make sure you have sufficient cover in place for your own possessions.  Most agents will be able to refer you to specialist providers of tenants insurance.

12) During the tenancy

Report any problems/damage as they happen and keep copies to prove that you reported it.  If you go on holidays, or returning home for a break you need to check the terms of your lease to ensure you do not become liable for any burst pipes etc whilst the property is empty. 

13) Moving out

Make sure you check your lease for when and how to serve notice to terminate your lease.

Many leases will continually automatically so failure to do so may result in you remaining liable for the rent beyond your original end day.

Make sure you leave the property in the same condition as the day you arrived. 

Club together to pay for a cleaner especially if you don’t have time to do this yourselves. 

An end of tenancy inventory recheck will take place and any deductions a landlords wants to make will have to be submitted to the tenancy deposit scheme.  Full details of how you get your money back can be found here

Scotland's property experts

If you are looking to buy, sell or lease property, Aberdein Considine can offer you the support of some of the most experienced property professionals in the country.

Our leasing and property management team act for more than 2,000 landlords across Scotland.

We are also an independent broker of buy-to-let mortgages and can offer home loans without any hidden fees.

If you would like to speak to a member of our team, call 0333 0066 333 or click here

* Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.


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