It's extremely important to view a property before you commit to it, whether or not you're part of a group. Arrange a viewing when your whole group can visit together. Later, if you've viewed a number of properties, feel free to ask for a second viewing on your first choice to make sure you or everyone is happy.
Never sign anything or pay any money before viewing and do not be pressured into making a decision. If you have any doubts, walk away.
If you meet current tenants ask about their experiences with the property, the landlord/managing company, the area and the utility costs.
If you or everyone is happy with the property, ask if it's possible to see a copy of the contract – usually an assured shorthold tenancy (PDF) – to take away to read thoroughly before you sign and pay the deposit.
If the viewing is conducted by a private landlord ask them for proof of ownership and identification.
It is a good idea to check the ownership of the property before you sign the contract. For the price of £4, a credit card payment can be made online at the Land Registry website to check ownership of the property.
If you have any concerns over an arrangement made with a private landlord or agent, please contact the accommodation team for advice.
Many problems that students run into with their housing could be avoided if they knew to check the property for potential defects before committing to a tenancy agreement. This section is designed to alert you to checking for the most obvious potential problems. Running through the following checklist will give you a reasonably thorough survey of any house you are thinking of renting.
In addition, most students will find their housing over the summer. It is important that you consider what the property will be like when it is cold, dark, and raining. How insulated is the property from the elements?
For guidance when viewing please use the Viewing Information Sheet (PDF).
Landlords must ensure that Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which have three or more storeys and five or more tenants are licensed with the local authority and that they have a licence certificate. To receive a licence the landlord has to be a fit and proper person and meet a number of minimum legal standards. These legal requirements mainly apply to the physical condition of the property and the amount of amenity and space available and can be found easily on local authority websites by searching for 'HMO licensing'.
The local authority will first require that the landlord, or whoever is managing the property, apply for a licence to manage an HMO and pay a fee which varies according to the size of the property. Licensing will require the landlord or their agent to prove that they are a fit and proper person to be managing the property. This will involve checks on criminal records and other past behaviour.
If you are living in a property that is an HMO and you have any concerns about its safety, you will be able to check with your local authority that the landlord holds a valid licence for the property.
Energy Performance Certificates include:
As of 1 October 2008 it is mandatory to have an EPC and a recommendation report available for any new tenancy agreement. These must be made available free of charge by a landlord to a prospective tenant at the earliest opportunity and no later than either when the property is advertised, viewed or before entering into a contract to let. (An EPC isn't required with resident landlord/family home properties).
It is in your interest to view the report as a poor energy performance rating can have an effect on your heating bills during the winter months.
See an example of an Energy Performance Certificate (PDF).
Read our guide to important safety information you need to know when you're renting a house or flat.
A Gas Safe register qualified installer must test all gas appliances (including cookers, central heating, fires and water heaters) in any rented property every 12 months. By law this is the landlord's responsibility. Please check this before signing a contract. It is a legal requirement for the safety certificate to be handed to the tenant.
It is a criminal offence for the landlord/agent not to have all gas appliances serviced and checked every 12 months, or for them to use someone who is not a Gas Safe registered engineer. The service record should either be given to you when you move in or displayed in the property.
If the landlord/agent refuses to have the gas appliances serviced, or they do not act on concerns that you raise, contact the environmental health department at your local council. They will check the appliances are safe and can serve legal notices on the landlord/agent to have a full service carried out. They can also report them to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for not carrying out their legal obligations. The HSE have the power to instigate criminal proceedings against the landlord/agent.
In the case of a gas leak, contact Transco (0800 111 999). If there is a fault they may make the appliance safe by disconnecting the service but they have no power to request that the landlord/agent carries out repairs. If you smell gas or fumes:
Please visit www.hse.gov.uk/gas for further advice.
Faulty gas appliances can produce carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous lethal gas with no smell or taste. It is vital to ensure that there is adequate ventilation in any rooms that contain gas appliances. Even an appliance that has been serviced regularly can produce carbon monoxide. We highly recommended that you purchase a carbon monoxide detector (which should cost about £10). Visit www.hse.gov.uk/gas for further information.
Carbon monoxide danger signs include:
Carbon monoxide fumes result in blood being deprived of oxygen and can lead to brain damage. Sufferers may be unaware that anything is wrong. These fumes can kill within hours and you are very vulnerable when sleeping.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
When you are looking round a house or flat remember to check:
Once you have moved in, check the batteries in fire detectors regularly.
For further fire safety advice, visit www.london-fire.gov.uk.
Landlord/agents put in fire detection systems for your safety and the protection of their property. So please:
Landlords of certain buildings that are occupied by more than one household (e.g. houses split into bedsits) have extra legal obligations to provide adequate fire precautions and means of escape from fire.
Dangerous electrical appliances or damaged sockets can cause fire or serious injury. Although there is no legal requirement for the landlord/agent to carry out regular checks they are responsible for ensuring that the installations and appliances are safe to use.
What are the warning signs?
Frequently having to replace light bulbs is not necessarily a sign of problem wiring. Try a different make of light bulb (perhaps more expensive) before reporting the problem.
(as specified in Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004)
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is a system of assessing the condition of dwellings (houses and flats). Its principle is that a dwelling, including its structure, means of access, any associated outbuildings and garden, should provide a safe and healthy environment for the occupants and any visitors.
To satisfy this principle a dwelling should be free from unnecessary and avoidable hazards. Based on statistics collected nationally on the causes of accidents within the home and their outcomes, the HHSRS gives a rating to any hazards. If an accident is very likely to occur and the outcome is likely to be extreme or severe (eg death or a major or fatal injury) then its rating will be high and it may
be considered to be a category 1 hazard. If this is the case the council has a duty to take action.
Of course there are some hazards which can't be eliminated, steep staircases for example, but any risk of suffering harm by falling could be reduced by the correct positioning of banisters and handrails. There are 29 hazards that have been identified in the HHSRS and the risk of harm from some is relatively minimal. However, there are some which because of the frequency with which they occur and the severity of the potential outcome, are of major significance and could be considered to be 'key hazards'.
These are summarised as follows:
If you are a private sector tenant the local authority has a legal duty to take action where there are category 1 hazards and may also take action on finding lower categories of hazard. Your landlord will usually be responsible for the repair and maintenance of your home and the council has powers to make sure the necessary remedial work is carried out.
If, having accepted and moved into a property, you find there are problems that match the hazards listed above, it may be necessary to contact your local council and have these issues investigated if you have had no response from your landlord.
This service provides help and advice to landlords, tenants and home owners in private sector housing concerning repairs, improvements and adaptations including: