What Do Students Need to Know About Their Legal Rights as Tenants?

Even as adults, half of us still don’t know our rights as tenants, our landlords skirt the law, and we end up out of pocket or unjustly evicted. So how are younger generations supposed to fare? Here Leon Ifayemi, CEO and Founder of SPCE, explains the student rental market and the essentials students need to be aware of.

Ask anybody about their university experience and amidst stories of eccentric lecturers, infamous nights on the town and class romances, you’ll no doubt hear a few horror stories about the trials and tribulations faced when looking for and living in private accommodation. For first year students living in residential halls, the transition from university accommodation to the rental market can often be a trying experience.

No longer able to rely on the services readily on offer from on-campus support, students are flung into an alien environment where they must navigate landlords, agencies, mountains of paperwork and, perhaps most importantly, find a house whose location, amenities and charm make it a fitting place to live.

The student rental market is a complicated beast which is why it is extremely important for you to understand your rights as tenants. According to a recent survey of more than 400 landlords across the UK, only 1% say students are their favoured tenants. This is a shame given that university students are often misrepresented in the press – portrayed as loud and inconsiderate tenants more interested in indulging in life’s pleasures than bedding down and studying.

In reality, it is wrong to stereotype students as party animals; in fact, almost all students are backed by their parents as guarantors, meaning they are far less likely to be unable to meet their rent or pay for any damages during their tenancy.

Students should no longer been seen as a last resort for a landlord, but instead must be recognised as a demographic of renter requiring greater support. Living away from home, they are often unaware of what to look out for, and ignorant of the rights they possess as a tenant. Looking back to my days as a student ambassador, one of my duties was to connect students with landlords and rental accommodation.

Almost immediately, you would see groups of students hastily signing leases in the fear that they could lose out on a property, without properly assessing the conditions of the house or reading the fine print of the contract. The worst thing you could possibly imagine is to move into a house in September only to discover soon after that is has damp, a faulty boiler and poor insulation.

It’s important for students to realise that their rights as tenants can vary according to which part of the UK they reside in, with some variation between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, protection laws exist across each jurisdiction to ensure that landlords must deliver accommodation that satisfies certain conditions.

Before moving into a house, it’s wise to put a few hours aside to properly review the state of the property. Check for signs of dampness, make note of any previous damage to the property such as marks on the wall and stains on the carpet, and test that the locks are in good shape. There’s no harm in being thorough, particularly if you want to receive your full deposit back at the end of the tenancy.

Students must also be aware of the laws governing the return of their deposit. The landlord must return your deposit within ten days once the amount refunded has been agreed upon. If the landlord refuses to send the full deposit back, or seeks to make deductions to compensate for damage to the house, students are in a position to dispute by using the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service. Through an independent review of the case, the ADR ensures students can resolve any problems without having to go to court.

The student letting market has been traditionally marred by issues of communication between landlords, letting agencies and students. Thankfully, innovations in the digital space are having a positive impact on the student rental market, with new apps enhancing accessibility and streamlining the process so that there is greater transparency. By embracing such proptech solutions, both landlords and tenants will benefit from a superior rental experience.

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