Renting for the first time can and should be fun, but it can also be complicated if you don’t know how the process works. Read our 2019 student's guide to renting before you start searching for a roof over your head for the next academic year. It always helps to get tips from the professionals!
DO sort out your documentation
Basically you need to sort out your finances and references.
To secure a property, student tenants need to:
- Sign a tenancy agreement
- Pay a five week deposit* and the first rental instalment, which is often a month’s rent**
- Provide a minimum of three months’ worth of bank statements
- Provide confirmation of their course enrolment and both their term time and home addresses
- Provide a current landlord reference from their university IF they are living in halls of accommodation
- Provide a character reference from a professional (e.g. doctor, lawyer, accountant) IF not in university accommodation and not having rented before
- Provide a UK resident guarantor
*Deposits for Assured Shorthold Tenancies or Licences to Occupy in England are capped at x5 week’s rent where the annual rent is under £50,000 or capped at x6 week’s rent if the annual rent is between £50,000 to £100,000.
**Overseas students may be asked to pay more rent upfront if they do not have a UK guarantor. Some agents will also conduct credit checks or third party referencing, which may involve additional costs.
A guarantor is a person who agrees to be responsible for another's debt (i.e. rent) under a contract, if the tenant fails to pay. The guarantor will have to provide proof of ID, proof of address and three months’ of bank statements, as well as signing a letter of guarantee. Students usually have to provide a UK guarantor, who should be a person, not a company, and is a permanent UK resident.
DO think carefully about who you are going to live with
When signing an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (the most common type of letting agreement) it will usually state that all tenants will be jointly and severally named as “the Tenant” on a contract. This means that anything your flatmates do, or fail to do, can have an impact on you. Your deposit is treated as a single fund, so if your friends aren’t too keen on housework, then bear in mind this will have an impact not only on you, but on the entire deposit.
DO check when your passport expires
All adult occupants in a rental property in England have to prove they have a Right to Rent, which is a check landlords/agents have to do in person prior to granting a tenancy. This means you will need to show valid passport ID or an EEA ID card in person to be checked, copied and recorded. Non-EEA citizens will also have to show a UK visa that will be valid for the tenancy start date. Check if your passport/visa needs renewing and get this sorted now as it can take a few weeks.
DO use an accredited agent
Use a lettings agent with the ARLA, NALS and/or SAFEagent logos. The ARLA or NALS logos means the agent meets certain standards of practice, and the SAFEagent logo means they have client money protection in place – which means your deposit is safe if the agent ceases trading.
DO read the tenancy agreement
This is a legally binding contract between landlord and tenant and sets out the basics plus any specifically negotiated terms. Contracts do not automatically include a break clause, so make sure you understand the potential costs of leaving early. Once you have signed and paid you are committed to the tenancy so it’s important to be sure you understand what you are signing.
DON’T wait until just before term starts to find a property
Start looking for accommodation a minimum 6-8 weeks ahead of your move date. Online property portals are a great place to start to get an idea of prices and areas, but many properties are snapped up before they even reach a website.
Get in touch with a reputable multi-site agent as they can alert you to a new property worth viewing before it goes online.
DON’T focus on a single location
Try to be flexible on areas and focus more on transport links – a stop or two further down your required tube/rail line could make your budget stretch a little further. Foxtons currently has over 60 branches across London and Surrey, so when you look for rental properties with us you aren’t restricted to just one location or postcode.
DON’T forget to budget
There will be other costs in addition to rent such as utility bills, TV licence, media & broadband, contents insurance, council tax (though students are often exempt – check with the local council to be sure) and of course food, travel and general living expenses.
Agents are obliged to put forward all offers to their client for consideration – the worst the landlord can do is say no. Sometimes if a tenant can commit to a particularly long term tenancy then a landlord will be more open to accepting an offer.
Don’t assume all tenancies are for 12 months as well – we are increasingly seeing contract terms of eighteen months to two years being requested by student tenants (to match their course length) and accepted by landlords.
DON’T panic about setting up utility accounts when moving in
It’s actually really straightforward, particularly when renting with Foxtons as we work with Tenant Shop, an award-winning company which provides a utility set up and switching service. This means they can compare the market options to give new tenants the best available choices for both energy suppliers and media services like broadband and satellite or cable TV.
You will need to supply opening meter readings, but this can often be done online or over the phone if you take a picture of the meter reading and serial number.
DON’T be naïve - if a deal seems too good, then it probably is
If a property is being advertised privately at a price that seems too good to be true, or they want a cash holding deposit from you on the viewing, then don’t be tempted. There are plenty of scams out there so renting through a reputable, accredited agent is the safest route to take.
So, in summary, get all your references together now and have your money in an accessible UK account so that you can secure your favourite property straight away. Start thinking about the practicalities of where you want to live and who you want to live with, and then get searching!