Rent SMART

 
We know renting can be tough, so we’ve put together a simple checklist to help you Rent Smart
It is important to remember that as soon as you sign a tenancy agreement or a licence to occupy, you are entering into a legally binding agreement with your landlord/lady or agency, so bear the following in mind:

1. Make sure that you fully understand the terms of the agreement. Do NOT sign it until you are completely happy.

2. Ask for time to read and check the contract before you sign it.

3. Our Advice Centre can read through your agreement before you sign it.

4. Know your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

What type of tenancy is mine likely to be?

The majority of tenancies held by students in non-UWE managed accommodation will be Assured Shorthold Tenancies.

Will I be asked for a guarantor?

You may be asked for a UK based guarantor (usually a parent/guardian) to underwrite the cost of your tenancy and be contacted for payment if you do not pay the rent or bills that you owe. International students who cannot provide a guarantor may be asked to pay some or all of their rent in advance. There are schemes that act as a guarantor for students who are unable to provide their own guarantor; two such schemes are UK Guarantor and Housing Hand.

Can they ask me to leave the property before the contract ends?

If you have a fixed term of more than 6 months your rights and obligations continue up until the end of the agreed period of time. You cannot leave the property or be asked to leave until that time has expired, UNLESS you have broken the terms of the agreement.

You can be given written notice to quit two months before the end of the fixed term. This means that you will have to vacate the property once the fixed term is up.

Your property cannot be repossessed within a fixed term agreement, UNLESS you have broken the terms of the agreement and a court order has been obtained.

Can my landlord/lady increase the rent during my contract?

Your rent cannot be increased during your fixed term tenancy unless your agreement has a clause that enables the increase.

What happens to my contract after the fixed term has ended?

At the end of the fixed term, the Assured Shorthold Tenancy will automatically become a ‘periodic tenancy’ if you continue to rent the property.

Below we have a range of letters you may need for different scenarios during your tenancy. We would however highly recommend visiting our Advice Centre to discuss any issues you may be having.

Asking your landlord to protect your tenancy deposit (while you're still a tenant)

Letter asking your landlord if your tenancy deposit is protected

Letter asking your landlord to protect your tenancy deposit

Letter before action - Failure to protect a tenancy deposit with a deposit protection scheme

Getting your deposit back (for protected tenancy deposits) after your tenancy has ended

Letter asking for a tenancy deposit to be refunded

Letter before action - failure to return deposit

Getting your deposit back (for unprotected tenancy deposits)

First letter asking for return of deposit

Second letter asking for return of the balance of your deposit

Letter disputing deductions

Letter before action

Repairs in private rented homes

Reporting repairs to a private landlord

Reminding a landlord about repairs

Warning your landlord that you're contacting the council

Contacting the council about repairs

Why does my landlord/lady want a deposit?

A deposit is a returnable sum of money taken by a landlord/lady or agency when you move in to a new property. It is used to cover:

  • Damage to the property or its fittings in excess of fair wear and tear.
  • The cost of necessary cleaning to return the property to a lettable condition.
  • Damage to décor.
  • The cost of removing large amounts of waste from the property.
  • The cost of replacing locks or keys if keys are not promptly returned.
  • Anything else agreed between you and the landlord/lady or agency that is stated in the contract.
Is there anything I should do on moving in day?

On the day that the contract or licence starts it is worthwhile filling in an inventory. This may be provided by the landlord/lady or agency but if not then it is important that you devise your own. Our Advice Centre have copies you can use. An inventory is a document which details exactly what furniture is in the property when you move in, the condition it is in and the general condition of the house. You should be very precise when writing the inventory, including stains on carpets, cigarette burns on the sofa and even if there is mould on the walls. This should then be signed and dated, a copy kept for your records, and one given to the landlord/lady or agency. It might seem like a hassle but it’ll be worth it if disputes arise when you don’t receive all of your deposit back.

It is also advisable to take photographs of particular areas of the property. These should be taken on the day you move in to the property and with a camera which displays the date or have a copy of that day’s newspaper in the photo too! These will be a good source of evidence if there are disputes over matters regarding the condition of certain parts of the accommodation.

What is my landlord/lady obliged to do?

They are required to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling (including drains, gutters and external pipes, keep in repair and proper working order installations for the supply of water, gas and electricity and keep in repair and proper working order installations for sanitation, central heating and water heating. You can find out more about this by referring to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

I have an issue and need something repaired in my property, what are the main things I should know?
  1. A repair cannot be remedied if the landlord/lady is not aware of the situation so inform them in writing of the problem, you can check out our template letters if you need help writing one.
  2. Keep copies of all correspondence.
  3. Suggest a convenient date for the disrepair to be inspected.
  4. Give the landlord/lady a reasonable amount of time to complete the repair; hours if there is a risk to health, days for urgent repairs and days for non-urgent repairs.
  5. Failure to carry out the repairs as mentioned above may be a breach of contract; if this happens we recommend you contact our Advice Centre.
  6. Local authorities can also be informed of the disrepair and have the power to require the landlord/lady to carry out the repairs.
  7. If the disrepair is a danger to health, you should email the Private Housing Team at Bristol City Council or South Gloucestershire Council.
  8. It is not advisable to withhold rent because of failure to carry out repairs; you will be in breach of contract and the landlord/lady can take you to court for rent arrears.
  9. If you do not know who your landlord/lady is because an agency is acting on behalf of them, you have the right to the name and address of the owner within days of requesting this information, in writing.
What is my landlord/lady obliged to do to keep me safe?
  1. It is a legal requirement that all gas appliances and flues are checked for safety every months by a Gas Safe registered engineer (check the Gas Safety certificate for your property)
  2. Carbon Monoxide has no smell, taste or colour making it difficult to detect but can leak and Carbon Monoxide poising can be fatal
  3. Look for the following on gas appliances: sooting or staining on or around the appliance, a yellow or orange lazy flame (not crisp and blue), condensation in the room where the appliance is installed.
  4. All furniture and fittings should comply with the Furniture and Furnishings Regulations and should therefore have a permanent label attached
  5. The house should have some sort of fire detection equipment e.g. fire extinguisher, fire blanket, smoke detector.
What is a tenancy deposit?

Most private landlords ask new tenants to pay a tenancy deposit to cover damage or unpaid rent.

Why do you pay a tenancy deposit?

A tenancy deposit gives your landlord protection against you leaving without paying the rent or for any damage you cause.

Your landlord should confirm in writing what the deposit covers. This may be set out in your tenancy agreement or your landlord may give you a separate document that should be signed by you and your landlord.

Your deposit is your money. If you've paid all the rent due and caused no damage, the full amount of your tenancy deposit should be returned at the end of your tenancy.

Your landlord can make reasonable deductions from your deposit to cover certain losses.

How can an inventory help me?

An inventory can prevent disputes about how much of your deposit you should get back when you move out.

Don't hand over a deposit until you have checked the inventory.

Note down anything wrong with the property or with the fixtures and fittings. This is to make sure you don't get charged for something that was damaged when you moved in. You can also take photos showing the condition of the property.

Should my deposit be protected?

All tenancy deposits paid by an assured shorthold tenant have to be protected by the landlord in a government-backed scheme.

Not all tenancy deposits have to be protected. If you live in the same house as your landlord or stay in student halls of residence your deposit does not have to be protected in a tenancy deposit protection scheme.

What are my landlord/lady’s tenancy deposit responsibilities?

Your landlord/lady must:

  • protect your deposit with a government-backed scheme
  • provide you with information about the scheme used
  • They must do this within 30 days of receiving your deposit.
How is my deposit protected?

Tenancy deposit protection schemes make sure that your deposit is kept safe and you get back what you are entitled to at the end of your tenancy.

You do not have to pay any money to have your deposit protected.

Your landlord can choose which of the following schemes to use:

  1. Deposit Protection Service (DPS)
  2. MyDeposits
  3. The Dispute Service (TDS)
Is my landlord entitled to keep my deposit?

Your landlord may be justified in withholding some or all of your deposit if you failed to pay your rent or caused damage to the property.

Any deductions your landlord makes from your deposit should be reasonable.

Find out about deductions a landlord can make from your deposit .
 

What is the process to follow if my deposit isn’t returned?
  1. Check if your deposit is protected

    Your landlord should have protected your deposit in a government-backed scheme if you are an assured shorthold tenant. Most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy.
    Each of the tenancy deposit protection schemes allows you to check online to see if your deposit is protected.

  2. Ask for your deposit back

    Write to your landlord and ask for your deposit back.

    Use a template letter on the Rent Smart website or visit our Advice Centre for any help.

  3. Ask for the return of the rest of your deposit

    If your landlord only returns part of your deposit, write and ask for an explanation of the deductions they've made.

  4. Use your tenancy deposit protection scheme

    You may be able to use the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service of the scheme that protected your deposit. Both you and your landlord must agree to use the ADR service.

    The service is free and their decision is final.

    You can make a tenancy deposit compensation claim if your tenancy deposit should have been protected but wasn't.

We have found a house and the landlord wants us to pay a £300 deposit each and sign the contract by tomorrow to guarantee the house is ours. Is this normal practice?

You should not pay a deposit until a tenancy agreement has been signed and we would recommend that you always get your contract checked prior to signing. Remember – as soon as you sign a tenancy or licence agreement you are entering into a legally binding document and therefore you should make sure you fully understand the terms of the agreement. If the landlord won’t let you take the contract away or give you time to get it checked then you should think twice. A good landlord should be happy for you to seek advice before signing anything. Our Advice Centre offers a free contract checking service to all students so please bring your tenancy agreement to them and they will take a copy for you and read it!

My landlord has said that I need to show him my passport before I sign a tenancy, is this ok?

Yes! From 1st Feb 2016 all prospective tenants will be required to provide evidence to show that they are legally entitled to live in the UK. All students will be asked to show their passport/residence permit, which the landlord/agent will take a copy of while you are there. You should not leave your documents with a landlord/agent.

We have lots of disrepair in our house and have rung the landlord but he is not doing anything about it. What would you recommend?

As a general guide, we advise all students to communicate with their landlord in writing as this gives you a paper-trail of evidence, clearly showing when requests were made. By law, your landlord has a duty to repair certain things, regardless of whether these are expressly stated in your contract or not. You can download one of our template letters or alternatively come and visit our Advice Centre for more help.

Do I need to pay council tax?

As a full-time student you will be exempt from council tax payments for the period of your course. The University sends a list of all full time registered students to the council, so you shouldn't get a bill, but sometimes mistakes happen. You might have to prove to the council that you are a full time student and that you don't have to pay - to do this you all the full time students in the property need to get a letter confirming their student status from your faculty/school reception. This needs to be sent to the Council Tax department of Bristol City Council.

Students living in UWE managed Halls of Residence are automatically exempt from Council Tax.

The rules for part-time students are different so we recommend you come and see us if you are part-time so that we can advise on your specific situation.

If you live with non-students but are a full-time student yourself, you will not be liable for council tax but your housemates are likely to be, but don’t panic, the council will only pursue the non-students for the council tax liability, not the students.

Can my landlord come to the house when I am a tenant?

Landlords may need access to the property to inspect it and do repairs but they must let you live in your home without unnecessary interference.

Your landlord can't come into your home whenever they want. They should always give you reasonable notice and arrange a suitable time if they need to visit, unless there's an emergency.

The amount of notice they have to give might be set out in your agreement.

Get advice from our Advice Centre if you're worried about your landlord coming into your home without permission.

Your landlord must not harass you

Your landlord, or anyone employed by them, should not harass you in your home or make it difficult for you to stay there. They could do this by:

  • entering your home without your permission
  • visiting at unsuitable times
  • stopping you from using all the rooms
  • stopping you from using the water or electricity.