Posted on Fri 18 Dec 2015 at 12:23 by Luke Pilot
Every year, thousands of students hunt for properties to rent for when they eventually step out of the comfort of cosy, campus halls and into the world of bills and disputes over whose turn it is to take the bins out. While the SU can’t necessarily help you settle that age-old argument, we can certainly help you when it comes to bills for utilities, finding a place to live and dealing with difficult landlords, which is why every year we run our Housing Day in Term 1. Housing Day has been and gone, but if you missed it, and have some concerns about moving off-campus, then look no further.
Your first stop should be the SU Advice Centre (or website) to pick up a handy ‘Guide to Student House-Hunting’, a wonderful leaflet with all our house-hunting secrets that is essential if you want to avoid making easy mistakes or need clueing up on the pitfalls you can encounter when finding somewhere to live.
My second piece of advice is DO NOT RUSH. While it may seem like everyone else you know has sorted their accommodation, I promise not everyone has and there really is no need to hurry and likely make mistakes. It is important you do not rush into a group of friends who several months down the line, you’re not comfortable living with and that you don’t rush into signing a contract with a nasty landlord or a bad property. There are more properties than there are groups of students looking for properties, so you won’t be left without.
You need to make sure you have the basics decided: who are you going to live with? Where would you like to live? How much are you willing to pay in rent? Would you prefer a property managed by Warwick Accommodation or a privately rented property? If you are struggling to find a group of students to live with, you can check the SU’s Housemates Wanted Forum to look for potential flatmates.
Key points to remember when you are house hunting are not to agree to renting the first property you see, make sure you see a range of properties (and use the handy SU Advice Centre checklist when looking around properties to make sure you spot any issues with the property). ALWAYS ensure you have seen the property before you even think about signing a contract – do not let your opinion of a property be based purely on what the landlord has told you over the phone or the photos you have seen online. If there are currently tenants living there, get their honest opinion separate from the landlord too. PLEASE be cautious about properties you are seeking through websites like Rightmove or spareroom.com, as scammers often operate on websites like these, waiting for unsuspecting first-time student renters or International students to find their poor-quality, or sometimes even non-existent, properties. Please check the SU’s list of friendly landlords and letting agents.
Once you have decided on a property and would like to agree to rent it, make sure you read over your contract and arrange for someone in the Advice Centre to check it too. When it comes to paying any money, including a deposit, make sure you know exactly what it is you are paying money for, and challenge it if it seems unreasonable.
A new aspect about house hunting for students, which is causing us great concern at the SU, is the introduction of new ‘Right to Rent Checks’ legislation which will come into effect in February. If you are an International student, with time-limited right to remain in the UK, landlords will now be required to check your residency. This opens up International students to discrimination through costs for these checks and through the checks on their passports or documents proving their residency in the UK. You have every right to question and challenge all the checks being conducted and the process by which they are being conducted. DO NOT hand over your passport or documents to be taken out of your possession. If you have concerns about your landlord, speak to the Advice Centre and wait before you cooperate with them. We will not tolerate discrimination against our students; neither should you.
All this information and advice comes from the SU Advice Centre and their guidance on house-hunting. All these resources can be found on the Advice Centre housing webpages with all the helpful documents ready for viewing.
Please remember, the Welfare Advisors in the Advice Centre have a lot of expertise about housing and if you experience any difficulties while house hunting, or when you are living in your rented property, please let us know, and we will do what we can to help. Do not let yourselves be duped by unscrupulous landlords and don’t feel you have to put up with appalling conditions – you don’t. Know your rights and house-hunt happy. :)