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Tuesday 03rd September 2013'I'm still waiting for my deposit after two months': Your first lesson as a student - how to avoid a renting rip-off
More than a million students heading for university this month will be moving into private rented accommodation – many for the first time. But before moving into a flat or house-share it is important to know your rights as a tenant. The Mail on Sunday explains how to ensure your tenancy goes without a hitch. 





Most students who rent their accommodation do so through an assured shorthold tenancy. This gives tenants the legal right to live in the home, either for a fixed term or on a rolling contract, without being disturbed by the landlord, who must seek permission to visit – typically at least 24 hours beforehand.





A dispute over the return of a deposit is one of the most common problems students face when renting. Deposits are often not returned at the end of a letting because of alleged damage done to the property.

Sociology and criminology student Harry Davies, 20, is still waiting to get his money back after moving out of his shared house at the end of June. 

Last year, Harry, who is about to start his final year at the University of Kent, decided to live with four friends after spending the first year in halls of residence on the campus in Canterbury. But what was a great experience has turned sour financially after he failed to get back his £325 deposit.

Harry, of New Malden, South-West London, says: ‘We’re still waiting, despite moving out two months ago. ‘There was some minor damage done to the house, including a broken blind and a cigarette burn in the sofa, but nothing we thought was too serious. We left it with the landlord to value the damage, but since then we’ve heard nothing.’ 

He is now about to move into a new house-share but says: ‘It’s difficult getting together a new deposit when you’re still waiting to get the old one back.’


‘I managed to do so, but only because I work part time as a kitchen assistant in term, which let me save a bit of a war chest. Many of my friends have had to borrow from their parents.’


The law requires all deposits to be kept in one of four Government-backed deposit schemes – Mydeposits, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, the Deposit Protection Service or Capita Tenancy Deposit Protection. This is to make sure deposits are secure and returned if tenants have kept a property in good condition. All four provide a free dispute resolution service.


Landlords or letting agents are required to protect deposits within 14 days of receiving the money and tell tenants which scheme they used. But a recent report by the Office of Fair Trading found tenants were still confused about where their deposits were held. 

Solicitor Nick Owens of Manches, a national law firm, says: ‘The deposit must be held with one of the tenancy deposit schemes. Landlords who fail to do that can face fines of up to three times the amount of the deposit.’


At the end of the tenancy the letting agent or landlord will check the property is in the same condition and order it was at the beginning of the lease. They should then return the agreed deposit, normally within 10 working days.


Tenants are advised to take photographs of any cracks, stains or damaged items when they first move in to protect themselves against any dispute later on. 





Deciding who is responsible for repairs can cause arguments between tenants and landlords. Harry says his landlord was not bad at looking after the property, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. ‘The house had two toilets but one was broken nearly the whole time and no one bothered to come and fix it,’ he says. This is not uncommon.


The OFT report says many tenants’ complaints are to do with damage and upkeep of the property. Landlords have a legal duty to undertake essential repairs. This includes repairs to the exterior of the property, keeping gas, electricity, heating and water equipment up to scratch and making sure furniture is fire resistant.


By law they are required to ensure gas boilers and appliances are checked annually by a Gas Safe Registered professional. In return, tenants are responsible for day-to-day upkeep, such as changing light bulbs and keeping the garden tidy.


Owens says: ‘You have to apply a bit of common sense. If you break a light fitting during a party it is your responsibility to fix it.’


Contacts: Mydeposits, Tenancy Deposit Scheme, Deposit Protection Service, Capita Tenancy Deposit Protection. To make a complaint, speak to your local trading standards service .





Renting can be a minefield, particularly if you have to share the space – and responsibility – with other students. It is important to choose your flatmates carefully. Typically, most tenancy contracts state that all tenants are ‘jointly and severally’ liable for covering the rent. This means that if one cannot pay their share, the other tenants will have to pay it.


Nick Owens of national law firm Manches says: ‘The landlord could sue everyone or any individual for any arrears in rent.’ Depending on how many people live in the household, it might be difficult to put down all names on utility bills. If that is the case, it is best for flatmates to put down in writing what share of any bills they are individually responsible for.


Insurance is worth considering. The average student takes between £2,000 and £6,000 worth of belongings with them to university. Most students think that they are covered under their parents’ home insurance policy, but this would typically only cover them if they live in halls of residence.

For adequate cover they need to get insurance that includes cover for house shares. Many insurers offer this type of cover, including student specialist Endsleigh.


If you are moving into a shared house, it can be a bit of a shock to the system when you have to shell out for internet, energy and phone bills on top of your rent and food costs.

But, if you are clever about it, you can keep your bills low by shopping around for the best deal.

It is likely that the previous tenants in the house you move into will have already signed up with a utilities or broadband provider.


It might seem easier to stick with the same company but you could find that switching could save you money.


You should also consider using a website such as Quidco or Top Cashback which will pay you cash for buying your contract or energy tariff through them.

Posted on September 03rd 2013 on 12:44pm
Labels: housing, student
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