Several years ago Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln University, Lincolnshire Police, Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue and Lincolnshire County Council launched the City of Lincoln Student Accommodation Accreditation Scheme. With the aim to filter out the Landlords who do not successfully operate a Student-Let and to help in promoting good Landlords and their properties.
The City of Lincoln Student Accommodation Accreditation Scheme sets out mandatory safety standards that Landlords must comply with in order to have a property accredited through the University. A list of our accredited Landlords and their available properties can be found at www.bgcstudentpad.co.uk. This page is password protected and is only available to Bishop Grosseteste students. The current password is ‘connies’.
The minimum standard mentioned above only applies to properties accredited by the University, therefore the following hints and tips in this guide should help you make the best and safest choice, even if the property is not accredited by the University.
Things to bear in mind when looking for accommodation
Always look at more than one house … check out a few before deciding.
Ignore any advice that tells you there’s a shortage. Always check with the Accommodation Officer about availability.
Don’t rush into a decision.
What is the rent and how/when is it to be paid. (Rent variations depend on facilities, standard, area and whether bills are included in the rent or not).
Is the rent inclusive of bills and if so, which ones. If your rent is exclusive of bills remember to allow for these payments (gas, electricity, water, phone and internet) and ask to see any previous utility bills as this can give you a rough idea of future expenditure.
Does the Landlord/Agent require a deposit, how much is this and what scheme does the Landlord use to protect the deposit (See – Your deposit and Keeping This Safe)
Always inspect the premises fully and in particular check:
- Any signs of damp (both inside and out – stains on walls, mold growing (especially in kitchens and bathrooms), salting brickwork etc. State of doors and windows shut properly.
- That the gas appliances had been serviced and a Gas Safety Check has been issued in the last 12 months.
- That the electrical appliances, particularly cooker, fridge and microwave work properly and that there are sufficient power points.
- Water supply – check taps and the means of water heating.
- What form of heating does the house have.
- Smoke alarms and in larger properties, fire alarms and fire doors.
- What furniture and fittings come with the house and what belongs to the existing tenants.
- How secure are the outside door locks and windows?
Ensure that you see a copy (or the original) document for the Landlords Gas Safety Record and NICIEC Electrical Periodic Report.
Your deposit and keeping this safe
Most student Landlords and private Landlords ask new Tenants to pay a deposit which is intended to give Landlords some security against any financial loss they may suffer as a result of any damages a tenants may cause to a property or for unpaid rent/bills.
The issue of deposits and in particular, their non return by the Landlords at the end of the agreement saw a new Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme being introduced from 6 April 2007. Landlords are now required to put any deposit monies they receive from you into a Government authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. (The scheme only applies to Assured Shorthold Tenancies).
- The Tenancy Deposit Scheme – www.tds.gb.com; 0845 226 7837
- The Deposit Protection Service – www.depositprotection.com; 0870 707 1707
Within 14 days of you signing a new Tenancy Agreement and paying a deposit, the Landlord or Agent is required to give you details about how your deposit is being protected including:
- The contact details of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme
- The contact details of the Landlord or Agent
- How to apply to release the deposit
- Information on explaining the purpose of the deposit
- What to do if there is a dispute about the deposit
If you don’t get this information ask your Landlord/Agent – how is my deposit protected.
At the end of the tenancy, providing that there is no dispute about the amount to be returned, you should receive your deposit back within 10 days.
In view of you paying a deposit, try to ensure that the Landlord gives you an inventory (a list of contents and condition of the property) before moving in.
Inventory of contents and schedule of condition
In view of you paying a deposit (or not) try to ensure that the Landlord gives you an inventory (a list of contents and condition of the property) before moving in. Check the inventory carefully to make sure it is accurate and that everything is in working order. If possible agree and jointly sign the inventory with the Landlord.
If you don’t receive an inventory, you should write one with an independent witness (such as a friend) and send a copy to the Landlord/Agent. Ask the witness to sign and date the inventory is a true record of the condition of the property. This also applies if the Landlord isn’t present when checking the inventory s/he has given you.
Other key points:
- Take photos of the property to record the condition of the property when you move in and date this. A good idea is to place a newspaper (dated the day you move in) in the photograph.
- Make a careful note of the state of decoration in the property and the condition of any furniture and appliances supplied. If anything is worn, broken or damaged you should report this in writing to the Landlord and keep a copy.
- Check who is responsible for maintaining the gardens/grounds.
A good idea before moving out is to arrange a visit by the Landlord/Agent 2 weeks before the end of tenancy. Make sure that everything is how it was when you moved in and give the property a good clean. This will give the Landlord/Agent the opportunity to discuss any matters that need attention and you will have the opportunity to carry out any necessary cleaning or other small jobs without the Landlord/Agent employing professionals to do the work.
Check that you have paid your rent and any other expenses, if not this will be deducted from your deposit.
On the last day of tenancy arrange for the Landlord/Agent to re-visit the property to go through the Inventory and Schedule of Condition. Once you have agreed any differences between the moving in and checking out Inventory and Schedule of Condition, get the Landlord/Agent to confirm in writing, and sign and date the inventory.
If the Landlord/Agent is not co-operative and does not visit the property either 2 weeks before the end of tenancy or to carry out the inventory check out, you should make your own record of the condition of the property on the day you leave. You can do this by taking photographs (again with a newspaper in the picture).
Before signing any agreement you should be aware of what you are committing yourself to before signing. The below is a brief guide to contracts. If you need any further information or would like someone to check over a contact; the Accommodation Officer and the Student Support Team are happy to check this, to make sure they’re above board and don’t contain any unfair terms.
All contracts are legally binding – make sure you know what you are committing to before signing. If unsure, please speak to Student Support or Accommodation.
Most Landlords/Agents in Lincoln use a fixed term Assured Shorthold Tenancy which may run for 46 – 50 weeks. The tenancy will detail the start and end date. During this period you are obliged to pay rent to the Landlord for the duration of the tenancy.
It is highly important that you understand the terms and conditions of the tenancy, including handbooks and additional contract appendixes.
Joint and Several Liability Agreements
You may be asked to sign a joint tenancy i.e. all your names and addresses appear on the contract and you are all asked to sign the same agreement. This is perfectly legal, but you should be aware of the implications before signing.
Although a joint tenancy will give a group of tenants equal rights is also means that you have to share responsibilities i.e. covering the rent if someone leaves before the end of the tenancy and damage to the property.
If possible ask your Landlord for an individual tenancy. This means that you cannot be held liable for anyone else’s rent and your contract should be individual to you and your room. You will, however, share responsibilities with other tenants for the communal areas of the property.
DO NOT SIGN A CONTRACT IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH ANY OF THE CLAUSES OR IF THERE IS ANYTHING YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND – THE STUDENT SUPPORT TEAM AND THE ACCOMMODATION OFFICER ARE AVAILABLE TO READ THROUGH YOUR CONTRACTS BEFORE SIGNING SHOULD YOU BE UNSURE.
A Guarantor is someone who agrees to cover a tenant against non-payment of rent or other liability, such as damage to the property. It is not always necessary to have a guarantor when you you rent a property, but some Landlords may ask for one. It is important that whoever agrees to be Guarantor is clear about what it is they are agreeing to. If you enter into a Joint and Several Liability Agreement the Guarantor will also be joint and serverally liable which means they could be liable for the rent of anyone and everyone in the property.
Therefore it is best to have an agreement that each Guarantor is only responsible for an individuals rent.
Health & Safety
Carbon Monoxide from gas appliances can kill and it is essential that you ensure that your Landlord/Agent can provide a valid Gas Safety Certificate if there are gas appliances in the property.
Ensure that you see a copy (or the original) document for the Landlords Gas Safety Record.
All appliances must be inspected annually, (even if there is no gas heating in a room let to a student, the fact that there is a gas boiler in the property still requires a Landlord/Agent to provide a Gas Safety Certificate.
Gas Safe Register™ is the hallmark for gas safety in Great Britain and Isle of Man. From April 1st 2009, Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI gas registration as the official gas safety body. From this date it came law that only Gas Safe registered engineers should carry out work on gas appliances and installations in your property.
All upholstered furniture must comply with the current Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended 1989 and 1993). The only exception is for furniture made before 1950.
A wide range of items intended for private use in a property are caught by these requirements, including:
- 3 piece suites, settees, stools, sofa beds and other items with upholstered seating.
- Bed and divans including bases and headboards.
Accidents with electricity are rare, but when viewing a property it is worth checking for the following:
- Flexes/cables – look out for wear, damage, loose connections.
- Overloading – ideally there should be one socket for every appliance.
- Sockets – ensure there are enough for your appliance.
- Electrical appliances – check that all are in good working order.
- Electrics – ask the Landlord if he has the electrics PAT tested.
Ensure that you see a copy (or the original) document for the NICIEC Electrical Periodic Report.
Make sure that smoke detectors are fitted and they are in working order.
When viewing properties, it is of utmost importance that you ensure there is adequate means of escape from a fire. Ensure the landlord provides keys for all lockable windows and doors, and any means of escape are clear.
Personal & Home Security
The patterns and habits of students are quite predictable, therefore it makes sense to be extra vigilant when it comes to crime prevention in student properties.
Crime Prevention Tips:
- Lock your bedroom door when you go out;
- Check doors and windows are locked at night or when going out – don’t assume someone else will do it;
- Join your local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme;
- Make a list of your personal property, including the serial number and descriptions. You can use ultra violet pen to mark electrical and other items with your post code ot other unique identification;
- Think ahead! Don’t walk home alone late at night – arrange in advance to stay with a trusted friend or pre-book a taxi;
- Don’t show off you cash, mobile phone or laptop etc. Don’t leave them lying around for people to see and take. Don’t keep your cards and cheque books together;
- Always lock doors, windows, the book and sunroof, when leaving you car, even if it’s only for a few minutes;
- Never leave belongings in your card – even an old coat could tempt a thief if they think there might be something of value in the pockets. If you have to leave anything, lock it in the boot.
To find your who your Neighbourhood Policing Team is, visit: www.lincs.police.uk or phone Lincolnshre Police on: 01522 532222
HAPPY HOUSE HUNTING…AND REMEMBER TO IGNORE ANY ADVICE THAT TELLS YOU THERE’S A HOUSING SHORTAGE.