These notes have been compiled from the most common difficulties that students experience when renting accommodation in the private sector. The notes are intended for general guidance and to draw your attention to some of the problems that may arise. The information provided relates mainly to properties where the landlord is not resident. This includes shared houses, houses in multiple occupation and flats. The notes are not intended as a comprehensive guide to the legal aspects of renting property and should not be interpreted as such.
Most important of all. Do not wait until the second week in September to look for accommodation. Student Services have lists that are updated on a monthly basis and available to students on request, look carefully and do not hesitate to ask for advice.
As the standard of private accommodation in Bolton varies widely, you should devote as much time as possible to visiting accommodation addresses and comparing facilities, locations and costs. It is most unwise to attempt to make accommodation arrangements by telephone or through the efforts of a friend. Come to Bolton yourself and decide what is suitable for you and your budget.
Sources of Accommodation
You will find that the best starting point is www.boltonstudentpad.co.uk . The website comprises all the accommodation that has been offered to students by private landlords. It includes bed-sitting rooms, shared houses and house shares with resident owners. The website is intended as a source of information and a means of providing the widest possible choice of places and prices. The accommodation is not inspected by Student Services staff, so you must use your own judgement. The Bolton News, especially the Wednesday edition, and local estate agents are other sources of private rented accommodation.
Please note that the University is not affiliated with any external property website or agent.
When you find a place that is suitable for your needs, we strongly recommend that you have a written agreement with your landlord, which gives details of his responsibilities and yours. Always take time to read agreements carefully before signing. Never sign anything that you do not understand. Seek advice from a solicitor, Citizens Advice Bureau, Students Union or the Student Services Staff. Signed agreements are legally binding documents and commit you to certain obligations for the period of the agreement. If the landlord does not provide a written agreement it is good practice for you to put in writing what you believe the terms of your contract to be. These should include the amount of rent, frequency of payment, other charges that are to be paid by each party, period of notice and any other terms and conditions which you have both agreed verbally. You should then send a copy to the landlord inviting his/her acceptance by a specific date. If you receive no reply by that date, you may assume that the terms and conditions, that you have outlined, have been accepted. If the landlord takes issue with any of the points you have made, you are in a negotiating position. Do remember that you will almost certainly have some legal rights even when there is no written agreement.
The Personal Touch
Rented accommodation will not be like home and will probably provide only basic furniture and furnishings. This is your opportunity to make the room your own by adding your personal touches. A few pictures, posters and photographs with a plant and duvet can make all the difference.
Everyone concerned with student accommodation is acutely aware of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning and the importance of safe gas installations and appliances. Recent legislation has been concerned with improving the situation for tenants by placing the responsibility for gas safety on landlords, property owners and their agents. The legislation requires that all gas installations and appliances be checked annually by a qualified gas installer and a safety certificate issued to the landlord or property owner stating that all gas items are safe. Your landlord should have a Safety Certificate for your property. ASK TO SEE IT. If he/she is unable to produce one, do not take the property.
Council tax payments are based on properties and not on individuals. If all the tenants of a shared property are full time students then the property is normally exempt from the Council Tax. Student Services operates a system in the Greater Manchester area where the information is submitted directly to the council on your behalf. Please make sure that you keep your address details up to date. If the property is outside the Greater Manchester area you will need to request a Council Tax Exemption Certificate. Click here for more information.
Please note: If anyone sharing the house is not a full time student, the property may be liable for Council Tax.
Resist the temptation to bring expensive items into rented accommodation. It is better to leave them safely at home. Take only what you feel you cannot live without. Leave room for books and give yourself plenty of workspace. Make sure you take out insurance for your belongings. Not only does this cover you against theft and damage but also for negligence, ask the Student Union for advice.
Paying the Rent
If you pay your rent weekly, the landlord must provide you with a rent book. This should state clearly the amount of rent payable, rent payment intervals, landlord's name, address, contact telephone number and any charges payable. Avoid making payments in cash. If you do, make sure you get a receipt. Always keep a record of rent payment no matter which method of payment is used. If the period of your agreement includes college vacations, do not assume that your rent will be reduced during these times. Full rent will be payable throughout the year unless otherwise agreed. It will be payable whether or not you actually live in the property. Remember too if you agree to take a property for a specified period, you will be legally obliged to pay the rent for the whole of that period unless your agreement allows you to give notice and leave.
Landlords are likely to ask for a deposit. In Bolton this can vary from £50 to £200 per person. It must not however, exceed an amount equivalent to two months rent, i.e. no more than one sixth (1/6) of the annual income. You must make sure that you know what you are paying the deposit for. It may be one month's rent in advance which may mean that you have to start paying rent immediately and have your last month in the property as a rent free period. It may be a deposit held against damage, to be returned in full at the end of the agreed period if no damage has been done. Whatever it is for the deposit may not be used for any purpose other than that stated. The most important point is to ensure that you receive a receipt for any payments you make and that the receipt states the exact purpose of the payment. Keep the receipt in a safe place.
Make sure you have an inventory of all the moveable items in your accommodation. If the landlord issues one, check it carefully to ensure that all items stated are actually there. If the landlord does not provide one, make one yourself listing all moveable items in your room and in the communal areas. Make a copy and send it to the landlord. State clearly on the inventory anything that is damaged, marked or stained on your arrival. If you do not do this you may be charged later for something that was not your fault.
Inspecting the Property
Inspect your accommodation carefully. Ensure that it is basically safe, clean, warm and comfortable. Remember you may be living and working in it for nine or twelve months. Pay attention to detail. Make sure, for example, that the mattress and carpets are in a reasonable condition. Do not hesitate to pull the mattress off the base of the bed and examine both. Check that the light switches work, that doors lock properly and that electrical appliances are functioning safely. Check also that you have a safe escape route in case of fire. If anything is unacceptable, point it out to the landlord and ask him to put it right. He has a statutory responsibility to keep the property safe and sound. If you are worried about the safety aspects of the property contact Student Services.
If the landlord promises items of furniture or equipment that are not in the property when you agree to take it, be careful. These items may or may not arrive later. If you decide to take the property with the promise, sign your agreement "subject to the delivery of…" and list the items, or hand a separate letter to the landlord to this effect. Always keep a copy of any letters you send.
As a tenant, you are entitled to 'quiet enjoyment' of your rented property and to treat it as your home without interference from the landlord. The landlord however has a reasonable right of entry in order to inspect for and make good any repairs. He should give at least 24 hours written notice of his visit and a mutually convenient time should be arranged. He is not entitled to enter the premises unless a delay in entry would result in serious harm or damage to both you and other residents or to the property.
Responsibility for paying the gas, electricity and telephone bills will almost certainly be yours and you should bear these additional costs in mind when deciding the amount of rent you can afford. If you are sharing with others, it is always wise to discuss in advance how to save and pay for essential services. It may be that the water rates are also your responsibility. Sometimes but not often the water rates are included in your rent but you must check this with your landlord. Always ensure that you know exactly what your rent includes and what will involve you in additional costs.
You are strongly advised to seek individual advice from a solicitor, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, Housing Advice Services, Students Union or Student Services staff if you are in doubt about any aspects of private renting.
If you wish to speak to a member of Student Services staff please telephone 01204 903481 or 01204 903484 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students Union - 01204 906850
Housing Advice Services - 01204 335900 or www.boltonathome.org.uk
Bolton Accredited Residential Landlords Organisation - http://www.barlo.org.uk/
A Guide to Private Renting