What are your tenancy rights as a student?
If this is your first time renting, there is a lot that you need to know. We will help you understand your rights as a student tenant if you’re renting and walk you through the basics of living away from home.
Embarking on the university journey is an exhilarating chapter in a student's life, filled with new experiences, learning, and, of course, the crucial decision of where to live. Student accommodation comes in various forms, each with its own set of perks and considerations. From the bustling university halls of residence to the independence of private rentals, the choice of accommodation should align with your personal needs, lifestyle, and budget.
University halls of residence
For many, the university halls of residence are the first port of call. These are typically managed by the university and offer a communal living experience with individual bedrooms. They're a great way to meet new people and immerse yourself in campus life. Some halls even provide catering, which can be a boon for those adjusting to their new academic responsibilities.
Private halls of residence
Private halls are akin to their university-managed counterparts but are owned by private companies. They often come with a higher price tag but can also offer additional amenities such as en-suite bathrooms and on-site gyms.
For those craving more independence, private rentals offer a home away from home. These properties are not affiliated with the university and can range from studio apartments to shared houses. This option gives you the freedom to choose your housemates and live by your own rules, albeit with the added responsibility of managing bills and maintenance.
Living with family
An often overlooked but economically savvy option is living at home or with relatives. This can significantly cut costs and provide a stable environment, particularly beneficial for those attending a local university.
Understanding your tenancy rights
As a student tenant, you're entitled to the same rights as any other tenant, with a few nuances. For instance, full-time students can enjoy council tax exemption. Those in university halls are often classified as 'licensees', which may mean fewer tenant rights, such as the possibility of easier eviction without a possession order.
Safety and repairs
Landlords are legally obliged to ensure the property is safe and well-maintained. This includes conducting annual gas safety checks and ensuring that all electrical installations are inspected every five years.
Eviction and harassment
Eviction processes must follow legal protocols, and tenants are protected from harassment by their landlords. A court possession order is typically required for eviction, and landlords must give 24-hour notice before visiting the property, barring emergencies.
Even if you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement, your landlord needs to give you notice if they want you to leave before the end of the term. The amount of notice they need to give you will depend on their reason for evicting you. If you are based in England, you can find a list of the different notice periods on GOV.uk.
If they fail to provide you with a Gas Safety certificate, you can make a complaint to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). If you are concerned that your landlord hasn’t carried out the necessary inspections or maintenance of your electrical system, you should contact your local council for assistance.
If your front door opens into a common area in your property, it should be a fire door, which is a door that is capable of withstanding high temperatures without warping or allowing smoke to pass it. Unless you are a leasehold tenant, your landlord should be responsible for this. For more information about fire doors and fire safety, a good source of information is the London Fire Brigade.
The role of student letting agents
Letting agents bridge the gap between landlords and tenants. They manage the administrative side of renting, from handling paperwork to conducting property inspections. They also ensure that the property complies with fire safety regulations, a critical aspect of student accommodation.
Tenancy agreement essentials
When signing a tenancy agreement, pay close attention to:
Start and end date: The duration of your tenancy.
Tenant responsibilities: Your obligations regarding upkeep and repairs.
DIY and decorations: Rules about making changes to the property.
Notice period: How much notice you need to give before moving out.
Joint or individual contract: How responsibilities are shared among tenants.
Inventory: A detailed list of items and any existing damage in the property.
Guest clause: Guidelines on having guests over.
Where to seek housing advice
The UK government and local Citizens Advice are valuable resources for understanding your rights and responsibilities when renting.
The UK government has provided guidelines on how to rent and how to rent a safe home that are useful to refer to if you are new to renting. You can also refer to your local local Citizens Advice Bureau if you have a specific problem that you need help with.
Additional costs in student renting
Beyond the rent, students need to consider:
Deposits and tenancy agreements: Initial financial commitments.
Bills/utilities: These are often separate from rent and can include heating, electricity, and even a TV licence.
Parking permits: Necessary for both university and residential parking in some areas.
Reducing rental costs
You can reduce the cost of renting by sharing your accommodation with other people, and having more people normally means cheaper rent per person. It also means that you can save money on student broadband and household subscriptions, like streaming services.
Insurance for students
While not mandatory, insurance can provide peace of mind. Student contents insurance is a subset of home insurance that protects your belongings in student accommodation against incidents like fire, burglary, or floods.
For those focused on safeguarding their gadgets, gadget insurance is a tailored option covering laptops, phones, and other devices against theft, loss, or damage.
Car owners must have car insurance, and for those who drive infrequently, temporary car insurance can be a cost-effective alternative. Remember to update your car insurance provider with your new address to avoid invalidating your policy.
As you embark on this exciting phase of life, remember that your student accommodation is more than just a place to sleep; it's your home base for the adventures ahead. Make it your own, stay informed, and enjoy the journey.