Make sure you Rent Right this year!

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We’ve all heard horror stories from student housing – whether it’s nightmare landlords, houses with damage and disrepair or housemates you’d rather not be living with. But if you take time to choose your house carefully it can be a great experience! All this week we’re bringing you our advice and top tips on how to Rent Right this year.

Research Letting Agencies

You only need to ask a few friends and at least one will mention an agency that they have had issues with (perhaps one name will crop up more than once!) so it’s important to research who you will be renting through and what service they will be providing. Check Google for reviews, and don’t be sucked in by agencies saying they have no record of a tenant when they have received a bad review (take a look, you’ll see what we mean!). You’ll be spending most of your money on your rental property; you are entitled to the same standard as everyone else.

There are loads of agents in Southampton, we even have our own in-house agency: SUSU Lettings. Ideally, you want an agency with an office you can visit so if there are any issues you can speak to somebody face-to-face. It can become incredibly frustrating trying to get through on the phone with agencies, so it’s far easier to visit them in person. During Covid there are potential safety issues here so make sure if you do need to visit them you are following government guidelines and keeping yourself safe.

If you are unsure about an agent, ask The Advice Centre. We see students who complain about agents and even if we cannot recommend any agency, we can highlight if there have been any complaints coming from students.

Is the Letting Agent part of an approved scheme and membership?

Letting agents should be registered with one of 2 Redress Schemes: The Property Ombudsman (TPO) or The Property Redress Scheme.

Both redress schemes have codes of practice for their members, and agents who are not members of a Redress Scheme are breaking the law! They are good reference points for the standards you should expect from your agent. You can contact them if you’re not happy with how the letting agent has been dealing with your complaints. A local authority can fine an agent up to £5,000 if they do not join a scheme.

Some of the better letting agencies also belong to professional membership bodies, who have standards of conduct, which the agents must comply with, for example:

  • National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS)
  • Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
  • UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)
  • National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)

Searching for the right house

We all know how adverts work, the picture looks incredible, perfect, immaculate but what you see might not be what you get. Looking at photos alone is not enough. Similarly, you may attend a viewing and the place looks very messy (we all know someone untidy) but the house might be sound.

When you start looking for properties try to think about more than what is presented. Think about location, local amenities, if you can afford the rent, local transport, local crime stats and what’s included in the house like white goods and furniture.

Viewing a property

It isn’t enough to quickly glance around a potential house. As well as having researched the property, prepare yourself to be inquisitive when you go. We have an excellent Housing View Checklist which you can take with you to make sure that you are prepared for your viewing. This includes questions to ask your agent, previous tenants and yourself at the viewing. It’s far easier to get answers to your questions while you’re there than after you’ve left.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic both you and the agent should comply with the government safety guidelines. You can read more about it here: www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Remember, you cannot be charged to view a property. Please be aware that there are some rogue agencies that do not follow the code of practice of the National Association of Estate Agents. Agents cannot lawfully charge to view property address information.

Agency fees

From 01 June 2019 most fees for tenants have been banned. If you sign or renew a tenancy you can no longer be asked to pay for referencing, credit and immigration checks, administration or renewing your contract. If your agency is asking to pay any of these fees, abandon that agency. Have a look at The Advice Centre guide on Fees on SUSU website for more details.

Signing a contract

There are several things you can do to make sure that the contract you are signing is fair – the first is to contact The Advice Centre via advice@susu.org to request a contract check. This service is free and our team will be able to go through the clauses with you and highlight anything that is concerning. If this isn’t an option, we have a Contract Checklist on our website.

Your landlord or agent should also be giving you a copy of the How to rent guide, energy performance certificates, a gas safety certificate, electrical safety certificate and a certificate for your deposit along with information about the deposit protection scheme (this is called “prescribed information”).

Please make sure that you check your contract carefully because once you have made that agreement to live in the property, you are pretty much locked in for the duration.

Find out how else you can Rent Right with all our great advice in one place here: Rent Right.

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