Student renting can be a nightmare and not every landlord will be as good as they should be. We often get the raw end of the deal and have to cope with some truly awful conditions. Here’s my advice for surviving off campus.
Disclaimer; I’m a lit student not a lawyer so don’t take my word as final! Do your own research if you have any issues. These are just some of the things that might come up and how you can deal with them.
Mould, damp and cold
As of March 20th the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act makes landlords more accountable and allows you to take your landlord to court if they refuse to fix damp and mould or draughts and heating. Generally speaking, damp that is structural is the responsibility of the landlord. Damp caused by not opening a window in the bathroom when you have a hot shower could turn out to be yours. If you do have any of these issues, you need to report them to your landlord immediately.
Water, gas and electricity are your landlords responsibility to maintain. However, you have to let them know of any issues as soon as they happen. They are then expected to fix the issue in a reasonable amount of time. This varies from issue to issue. Having no access to water at all is a bigger emergency than not having hot water, for example. If you feel they haven’t responded quickly enough or haven’t responded at all, contact your letting agent or the accreditation service. Your university housing team is also a good place for advice.
Landlord visits and viewings
Your landlord is legally required to give you at least 24 hours notice for entering the house to do anything other than emergency repairs such as a burst pipe. If it’s not in your tenancy agreement, ask if it can be added. Even if you’ve already signed, it’s the law, and you can refuse to let them in. If you aren’t going to be in when they ask to come round, or you are and you don’t feel comfortable alone, you can ask for a witness such as a friend to be present when they visit.
Non emergency repairs and checks
Some things, like replacing light bulbs are your responsibility, unless they’re closed fittings like light boxes. Landlords are responsible for fitting fire safety equipment like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, but you should check your smoke alarm batteries monthly. Your landlord is also responsible for getting any gas appliances checked. Ask for a copy of the Gas Safe record to keep with your tenancy agreement. All electrical appliances that they provide must be checked too- usually your landlord will get them PAT tested. You can check when they were last PAT tested by looking at the label as they write the date it was tested and the date it’s due to be tested. Let your landlord know if you think something isn’t safe.
Check your tenancy agreement for anything that you aren’t sure about, like smoke alarms or even vermin (usual vermin is your responsibility if you’ve caused it through neglect, so empty your bins!) If its not there, ask your landlord who would be responsible if something did happen. Make sure you get it in writing to prevent any possible issues in future.
If in doubt
Your first port of call should be your university accommodation team. At my university at least, they help with both on and off campus accommodation and will be knowledgeable about what you can do if you have an issue. If your university can’t help, contact citizen’s advice. The citizen’s advice website is a great resource for checking your rights on specific areas. You can also give them a call for more tailored advice. If you feel threatened or uncomfortable in any way by your landlord, contact the police on their non emergency number for advice.
If you have anything you’d like me to write about, leave a comment on the blog or on social media.