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The Ultimate Legal Guide for Students Becoming Tenants

Student-House

Beyond studying and meeting copious deadlines, flat hunting is another responsibility many students face. The task of securing and thereafter living in a flat can introduce numerous concerns for students, particularly international ones unfamiliar with the laws and regulations governing tenancy in Scotland.

 This guide provides a comprehensive and digestible overview of what issues students should be aware of, and their rights and obligations as tenants. Hopefully this legal guidance can alleviate students’ vexing concerns, and thus improve their flat hunting and living experiences

Preparing

The preparation phase is a critical step for students knowing what they need for an effective flat search. The main issues to consider include:

  • Money – When creating a budget for yourself, keep in mind that rent may not be all-inclusive. Utilities including gas, electricity, and water could be additional monthly costs, as could internet. You may need to buy a TV license and household items may not be included either. On the plus side, students who live alone or share the rent with other students, may be exempt from paying council tax. If you're a student, but are sharing with someone who is not a student, you may be able to apply for council tax reduction.
  • People – Knowing who you are living with can be important in the long-term. It helps you narrow your search to a set number of rooms and having the right company will make your tenancy and its obligations easier to fulfil.
  • Guarantor – If you share accommodation with other students under one tenancy agreement (a joint tenancy), then it may be the case that the guarantee extends to the entirety of the rent, and not just your share. Each person requires a guarantor. The guarantor would usually be a parent or guardian – who will also sign the lease, proving you are financially backed for paying the rent. For international students, this can be difficult because some landlords/agencies want guarantors based in the UK. You will need to clarify this detail for each property and you should have someone ready to act as a guarantor for you. References may also be required, but not always.

Hunting

The next phase is the search itself. During this process, you will be in contact with agencies and landlords and it is paramount you remain vigilant and patient. Here is a rundown of the where, who, what, and how for flat hunting:

  • Where and who– There are a variety of letting agencies and renting sites to search through. You can specify your needs with advanced searches and you will be able to narrow your search with your desired location. Do not forget to keep tabs on social media where groups/pages exist for renting – and for exchanging household items!
  • What – If you are three or more students, it is important to identify properties that are HMO (houses in multiple occupancy). These are properties that are licensed for three or more people who are non-family members. Double-check that properties have all the necessary safety features – items like smoke alarms, fire extinguishers are required for HMO properties.
  • How – Once you have found a property, you will apply and hopefully be chosen based on your application and the competition. You will be provided with a tenancy agreement which you must review. Here are some items to keep an eye open for:
    1. The basics: accurate details of tenants, landlord, and property
    2. Rent: ensure it is the right amount and when you need to pay. If anything is wrong or does not look right, do not hesitate to get in touch with the agency or landlord for amendments.
    3. Length of lease: know when to move in and out.
    4. Type of tenancy: private residential property
    5. What are your responsibilities within the flat (repairs and decorations).
    6. Processes for payment, ending lease, and subletting.
    7. Miscellaneous features (garden, pets, etc.)

Deposits are another crucial piece to securing a flat and are used to cover any damages the property incurs. You will pay a depositand will get back at the end of your lease, provided you have taken care of the flat. Verify the deposit is safely secured in a tenancy deposit scheme (TDS) for the duration of the tenancy. You may have to pay part of the deposit when initially securing the property. It is illegal for your landlord or agency to charge you any additional fees or premiums besides deposit and rent.

Living

The last stage is the longest and most significant. At this point, you are a tenant with rights and obligations. Issues may arise as a tenant and you need to know your position for resolving them. The typical issues causing most concern include:

  • Landlord visits – Your landlord must provide you with at least 24 hours notice before visiting, unless it is an emergency.
  • Rent increases – Rent can only be increased once every 12 months with 3 months’ notice.
  • Pests – Your flat may invite pests, most commonly mice. Contact your landlord or agency to request assistance; if you did not cause the infestation, it is not your responsibility to deal with the pests – but make sure to take out your rubbish!
  • Repairs and maintenance – Major issues with pipes, appliances, and the flat/building’s overall structure are not your responsibility. Any malfunctions or faults will be covered by the landlord who you must alert. More minor repairs, like lightbulbs are the tenants’ responsibility, as is any damage you cause.
  • Evictions and ending tenancies – There are various grounds for evictions,such as an extended period of unpaid rent or anti-social behaviour. When ending a tenancy, you have to provide 28 days’ notice unless another period is agreed with your landlord/agency.

The basics of this guide should make students mindful of their position and what is expected of them as they embark on finding the right flat for them. Further information can be found on our landlord and tennant dispute page.So prepare, hunt, and live happily as a student this academic year, good luck!

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