Looking for a student flat? Here are the things you need to know, the questions you should be asking, and the answers you should expect!
Questions to ask
Q 1. Does it have an EPC Rating on the advert?
A 1. Yes! (if ‘No’, don’t let it!)
Q 2. Are there any Agency Fees or Referencing Fees?
A 2. No! (if ‘Yes’, its illegal since Oct 2012!)
Q 3. Which TDS Scheme will my deposit be sent to?
A 3. There is a choice of three (LPS, SDS, MDS – see below. You can sue the landlord for 3 x deposit amount if they don’t send it to the TDS within 30 working days!)
Q 4. Do I get a full check-in and check-out, with me being present?
A 4. Yes!
All properties must have an EPC Rating (ENERGY PERFORMANCE RATING) on the advert (not needed on ‘To Let’ boards). The EPC tells you how good/bad it is at energy efficiency. ‘A’ is good, ‘H’ is bad. If it hasn’t got a rating on the advert then don’t even view the property!
AGENCY OR REFERENCING FEES
These were abolished at the end of 2012. From then on you should only pay Rent and Deposit money before moving in. If the landlord or agent asks for any other money, then it’s illegal!
TDS (TENANCY DEPOSIT SCHEMES)
Your landlord or agent must put your deposit money into a TDS scheme within 30 working days of your lease starting and send you a certificate to confirm it. This means that they actually send the cash to the TDS which is a Government-backed scheme designed to protect your deposit.
Basic information you should know before booking the viewing
- How many bedrooms?
- How much is the rent per month?
- Availability (when would your lease start)?
Top Ten Tips for Students
1. Decide who’s in your group. Make sure that you know each other and can get along with one another.You are committing to living with each other for a whole year so better to know before you sign a lease!
- If someone is not sure whether they’ll be staying in Edinburgh, or uncertain whether they can join your group or not, or simply messing you around, then form a group without them. You can’t start searching for flats if you’re not sure how many bedrooms you’ll need.
- Find out when the Student Union Accommodation Fair is and go to it (come and see us at the EUSA ACCOMMODATION FAIR, TUES 10thFEB 2015, POTTEROW). This is where you’ll be able to see flats that are available to you to let and ask any questions. It also gives you a good understanding of what you can get for your money.
- Makes sure you prepare a ‘wish list’ of what you want/need (number of bedrooms, start date of lease, rent per month, which agents you’re happy to be with, location, ground/top/other floors, number of wet rooms, separate living room and kitchen or combined etc.)
- Book to view the property as soon aspossible. Many agents will hold group viewings and operate a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
- Remember that most of the better flats or those in popular areas will have gone within a few days of them going on the market…so be ready!
- If it’s a multiple group viewing then try and make sure the whole group can attend. If one person in the group can’t go then they should delegate the decision on taking the property to the rest of the group. If someone who can’t go insists on seeing it before committing then it may be a waste of time for the others to go to the initial viewing.
- Arrive at the viewing in good time and try and be first in the queue. That way you’ll be the first in the door and have more time to look around.
- Check the flat against your ‘wish list’. You’ll already know some of the details before the viewing (rent, availability date, number of bedrooms, location etc.) so the viewing is all about seeing the layout, room sizes and the general condition of it.
- Remember that it will probably have current tenants still living there when you see it, and they may well be less clean and tidy than you will be! It’s important to see past other people’s clutter to the things that won’t have changed if you move in (like room sizes, number of wet rooms, age of the kitchen etc.). In general, it will be cleaner and tidier when the current tenants leave.
- Be fast. If you know exactly what you’re looking for then you don’t need to be at the viewing for more than a few minutes. And remember that you’re not buying it, so don’t spend time worrying if the décor in the bathroom is quite to your taste!
- Know what the process is for taking the flat before you go to the viewing. If you’ve got to go to the agent’s office to sign up for it after the viewing then check out where it is and how you’ll get there from the viewing. It can be quite competitive so prepare as much as you can in advance.
- Most agents will ask you to complete an application form so have everyone’s details (and their guarantors) already written down.
- Once you’ve got the flat there’ll be various paperwork to complete so check with the agent what you’ll be expected to fill in, sign or pay. In nearly all cases all of the flatmates will need to have completed everything before you’re allowed to move in.
- At the check-in ensure that you go through the inventory and note down any defects or damages at the time. You should also take the meter readings. Good agents and landlords will do this with you, and explain how everything works in the flat as well.