AS some thousands of A Level students open their long-awaited results soon, which university and where to live next year will be the next item on their agenda.
Problems in student accommodation have been well documented recently, with landlord and student rights brought to the fore in the media.
SU Lets is an ethical letting agency which has been established by Queen’s University Students Union in a bid to address and eradicate many of the issues students and landlords have with private sector accommodation within the University area.
A guide has been put together by both students and the agency in an attempt to help Belfast students make the right choice when renting next term.
Sign up with an agency
A lettings agency will save you a world of headaches, from a logistical point of view, through to the health and safety of your home. They will be your trusted ally when searching for a house and for the duration of you living there. Not only will they ensure that all contracts are above board and legally binding, but they will advise you of your rights throughout the process. By signing up early with an agent such as SU Lets, you will be in a stronger position and given preferences over other students for property searches. With regards to safety, approval certificates will be in place for houses with multiple occupants, (HMO) with gas safety certificates essential where appropriate.
What to look for when viewing houses
Upon viewing houses, look at the general condition of the house. Is it clean and tidy? If not, ask why. Dos the house have good cooking and cleaning facilities? Is there enough furniture for the number of people living in the house?
Ask is the gas and electricity checked and tested. Find out about the area. Is it all students, all fulltime residents or a mix? Find out about the kind of heating used; oil or gas. Is it double glazed? It may be warm in July or September, but try and imagine it in January. Look out for any cracks on the walls or signs of damp (blotched or discoloured walls) these could be signs of bigger problems. Ask the landlord/agent if the locks will be changed before you move in.
A tenancy agreement (also known as a contract or a lease) is a legal agreement between landlords and tenants. Both parties have rights and responsibilities. A tenancy agreement is a legally binding document, you will need to sign one before you move into the property. It is important that you read the entire contract in order to understand your rights and responsibilities, as well as the landlords. Your agent will guide you through the terminology and check for any errors.
What is a student charter and accommodation code?
A charter and accommodation code is something which SU Lets has introduced in a bid to stop problems arising for both students and landlords. It is an agreement (on top of the tenancy agreement) which it is aimed will lead to better communication and goodwill throughout the process. E.g. The landlord will always give 24hours notice before arriving at the property. The student will respect the property of the landlord and notify him/her of any breakages.
Who to Live with?
It is important to choose your housemates carefully. Do they smoke? Are they untidy? Are they reliable? Think very carefully about living in the same house as your partner. Remember that seeing someone you like for a few hours a day is different to living with someone. To avoid disputes, make sure that all decisions (like who is getting what room) are made openly and involving everyone.
What to do when problems arise
First and foremost you should contact the letting agent or the landlord (whoever you are dealing directly with) and inform them of the problem.
Phone them to get a quick response. It is helpful to follow this up in writing, as this keeps things official. It also means that they are likely to reply in writing, and you have a written record of their response. If the problem is not resolved, depending on the problem, you may want to seek advice as to what your options are to solve the problem.
SU Lets plan to have a 24/7 emergency procedure policy in place, whereby students will be directed to a specific telephone number for any incident or emergency related to their accommodation.
For further information on renting student accommodation in Belfast please contact SU Lets on 028 90231 000 or visit: http://www.sulets.net or text ‘landlords’ to 80011 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.