8 ways to avoid getting stung by a greedy landlord
By Alexandra King
So, here you are, in your second or third year and you've just moved in to private accommodation, and most likely have parted with a rather hefty £200-£300 deposit. If you’re (very!) lucky, you'll have an extremely attentive landlord whose so helpful that you'll make it through the year without any problems. Or you could find yourself with the home from hell: mould on the walls, broken boilers and mice…
....And you thought just securing yourself a house was a challenge.
If your place isn't the palace you'd hoped for, be sure to follow the below to make sure you don't get stung by your landlord.
1. Fully inspect everything on arrival
Funnily enough, your house will probably look very different now to when you first looked around it, given the previous residents have left. This is the perfect time to fully inspect the house - don’t forget the places you may not have thought of:
- Underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks
- Behind cupboards
- Underneath fridges
- ANY Damp areas
- Around windows
- Shower/bath grouting
2. Take photos of everything as you found it.
No, literally everything.
This is extremely important. This is your evidence in case your landlord should try to blame you for holes in the wall, stains and so forth, that may have been there before you arrived. If you find any issues, report these to your landlord straight away, then follow this up with an email, attaching the photos as documentation of the action you have taken.
It is likely your landlord will give you an itinerary to fill out. Full this out as extensively if you can - it may sound boring, but it will ensure you get your full deposit back.
3. Don't leave problems until they get worse
Don’t bury your head in the sand. Ask yourself: 'is this a hazard?' Even something as small as a flashing light on your boiler could be a problem, and you have rights as a tenant to get it fixed. It may feel like a hassle, but your landlord isn't a mindreader. Report it them and they'll get it fixed.
4. Tidy throughout the year
Yup, that means NOT JUST ONCE in a panic at the end of the year, or before your mum comes to visit.
The last thing you want is to have to fully clean your house as you move out at the end of the year, particularly if you have exams on at the same time. Make sure the roles are equally distributed between your housemates - it's unfair to leave it to the last person going. Besides, if the house is left in an 'unfit state', usually every tenant will be charged. Landlords can be very, very picky: even a broken lightbulb can lose you some of your deposit, so ensure you keep on every little detail during the year.
5. Read your contract and keep a copy in the house
Do not skim read, repeat: do not skim read! You have signed a legally binding document. It is important to understand it fully as possible (rope in the one decent law student you know, perhaps?) as it may protect you and ensure your landlord behaves in a certain way and delivers on their promises. However, it also obliges you to do things too: if you breach your contract - ie by not complying with what you have agreed to in it - you may be subject to eviction, fines or even court action. It's rare that court action ever happens, by the way, but behave as you're meant to and the threat won't ever be there.
6. Ask for advice
Contact NUS England http://www.nus.org.uk/en/advice/housing-advice/ or the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB – http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ – to find info online or your nearest centre) for any guidance, including legal advice. They deal with this kind of thing all the time and can help you know your rights.
7. Always sign with a reputable landlord where possible
You want your student home to be a happy and safe place. Your Student Union services should be able to advise you on registered landlords and student housing associations that are local to your Uni. Also ask friends, those on your the course or those in the year above you who they rented with and how they found it. Do your research and ask advice before it’s too late!
8. Make sure your deposit is protected