With fresher’s week approaching, Southampton student housing will be on the ‘to do’ lists of many parents & students about to attend Southampton University in September.
With this in mind, our Location Property Services local letting agents have put together this 10-point guide to what to look out for and think about when looking for a student property.
1. Inspect the house properly
It is easy to get carried away in the momentum of branching out alone and living with your mates but try not to take the first shared house you see, unless of course it is definitely the perfect house for you.
Ensure that you take enough time to inspect the rental property properly. A well cared for rental property is a good indication of an accessible and conscientious landlord.
Check location. It may seem like fun right now to be living right in the centre of all the parties, but this may well get tired after a while and being accessible to your day to day amenities is much more important, especially if you are not able to afford a house to let right next door to Southampton University itself. Look for bus routes, a local shop, coffee house, pub……all the essentials.
Take the time to check that all facilities work well. Nobody wants to be living in a shared house where the toilet is always backed up or the water tank doesn’t hold enough water for more than two showers.
Look behind wardrobes and cupboards as well as in the corners of rooms to ensure that there are no hidden areas of damp. This is not just a matter of aesthetics, damp and mould can cause serious health problems.
Check insulation. A well-insulated property will save you a great deal in energy bills over the course of a year. Check for double glazed windows and doors, drafts, missing roof tiles and types of heating system.
While checking insulation, also check for unwelcome pests. Birds, flies, mice can often appear in shared houses if the previous tenants were not so great at keeping on top of cleaning.
If any of these items are not up to scratch, then bring them up with the letting agent or landlord prior to agreeing on a tenancy and get it in writing that any problems will be rectified before you move in.
Remember to take pictures as you go. This will give you something to reflect back on when deciding on which property to go for and will also be a reference when checking that problems have been rectified.
Choose a local property agent such as Location to help you find the ideal Southampton property to let. A local Southampton estate agent will have a better idea of location, current prices and be able to answer any questions you have with confidence.
Insist on a concise inventory from the landlord or letting agent before moving in. This should verify the condition of the rental property in detail and everything provided. Make sure that you photograph anything not as specified or dirty. Insist on confirmation that faulty items or unsatisfactory conditions are rectified within two weeks.
It often seems very appealing to have bills included in the rental price and of course it makes things much easier when it is a shared student house and nobody is used to paying household bills.. It does often however, make things more expensive in the long run as landlords will always over estimate to ensure that potential bills are covered completely.
Make sure that when renting shared student accommodation that each tenant’s fair share of the household bills is written down. If you have one person who is rarely there and another who leaves their lights on all of the time, showers two or three times a day and has guests to stay using utilities constantly then one of you will be paying for the other tenants usage. Try to talk these things out in advance and put agreements in writing.
Pay rent via a standing order or direct debit at the beginning of each month or term. Sometimes there is an option to pay for the full term in advance. This could give you peace of mind.
4. Contracts/Tenancy Agreements
Be aware that joint tenancy agreements can leave you liable for any breakages, damage or default on rent payment from the other tenants. If this is the case then make sure that you have full details of the other housemates guarantors and parents so that you can track them down should they leave you in the lurch.
5. Meter readings
Make sure that you take meter readings on the day that you move in. Nobody wants to be paying for services used by the previous tenants and it will make things easier when registering with the utility companies yourself.
If bills are inclusive of the rental price then it could still be an idea to take readings so that you can check that the landlord is not vastly overcharging you for utilities. It’s also environmentally friendly to ensure that you are not over using water and electricity.
Make up a cleaning rota before you move in and put it in writing. Nobody wants to be living in a mess and nobody wants to be cleaning up behind everyone else.
There are likely to be regular visits from either the landlord or the managing letting agent during the tenancy to make sure that the property is being maintained as per the lettings agreement and an exit clean will need to be done before you receive deposits back when moving on.
Best to ensure that every person in the household is aware of their part in keeping the house clean and well maintained on a weekly basis beforehand to avoid issues later on.
7. Security and safety
Security is something that everyone should take seriously when choosing a property to rent. Look for burglar alarms, check doors and speak to the existing tenants as well as researching the local area.
Quiet residential areas may seem appealing but houses on well-lit main roads are often less of a target for crime.
Remember to check for working fire alarms and co2 detectors.
According to HMO regulations (Houses of Multiple Occupancy) …if you are living in a house with 6 or more occupants, emergency exits should be clearly marked.
8. Furnishings & appliances
Check which appliances the landlord will supply and that they are all in working order.
Electrical items should be PAT tested yearly and there should be a current gas certificate for any gas appliances or boilers.
It might seem like a strange thing to check, but make sure that there are enough appliances for the number of people living there. A two-slice toaster and a small fridge freezer are not going to cater for 6 plus people living under the same roof with separate needs.
Make sure that there is a clear inventory of all furniture and furnishings and the condition that they are in. Check mattresses for cleanliness and broken springs as nobody wants to sleep in a filthy stained bed or in discomfort for the duration of their rental agreement.
Landlords are required by law to provide a suitable desk and chair to each tenant by law in a student house.
9. Talk to existing tenants
There is no better advocate or critic than the current tenants who live there. They will be able to give you an honest and frank opinion of the house, local area, neighbours and landlord. Try to speak to more than one to get a broad insight.
You will often be required to provide guarantors for your property rental contract. This means that should you cause any damage or default on the rent, then the person listed as guarantor will be liable for the rent or damage.
Try to have your parents or a responsible adult as guarantors. They will then have a right to negotiate any potential problems or queries which arise during the tenancy on your behalf should you require it or need help.
1. Take a camera.
2. Ask questions.
3. Take your time.
4. Make sure that everything is clearly put in writing.
Once you have decided that you have covered your checklist and are all in agreement on both the house and the property rental details, act quickly!
If you have found a great student house, then there is a likelihood that there will be plenty of other people who think the same. If you wait around, then you are likely to lose out. Contact the letting agency who will get the relevant references, paperwork and checks done.
If you require any further information or guidance on student properties to rent in Southampton, then please feel free to contact one of our team of dedicated, approachable and professional local Southampton letting agents at Location Property Services who will be happy to help in any way that they can.