Welcome to the first edition of our monthly advice column from Citizens Advice Bury and Bolton. Each month, we’ll be tackling an advice query about a specific issue, sharing information and letting you know where to go for support. Remember, if you need any advice you can contact our team: phone 0808 278 7804 or visit www.cabb.org.uk to find out more about our advice by video service or to self-refer.
I’m going back to university and moving into a shared house with friends for the first time. Although I’m excited, I’m also a bit nervous as I’ve never rented from a private landlord before. The house looked fine when we viewed it, but that was months ago now and I’ve heard horror stories about dodgy landlords for student houses. What should I look out for when I move in?
Renting a house with friends is usually an exciting time. Most landlords are reasonable people who look after their properties and tenants well, but it’s always a good idea to know your rights.
Here’s a checklist of things to do when you first move in:
- Make sure you have your landlord’s contact details. Your landlord is responsible for keeping your home in good condition and arranging repairs when they’re needed. They should be your first point of contact if anything goes wrong.
- Make sure your deposit is protected. Check that your landlord has given you information about the scheme used to protect your deposit.
- Take photos on the day you move in. It’s also worth asking your landlord or letting agent for an inventory, to check everything is in order. Use this to note down any problems and the condition of the furniture, kitchen, carpets, bathroom etc.
- Check if you’re in a ‘house in multiple occupation’. If you’re living with two or more people who aren’t part of your family, and share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen with you, this is considered an HMO. This means your landlord must make sure your home meets certain safety standards. This includes making sure smoke alarms are installed and there’s a safe fire exit. The landlord must also ensure shared areas such as staircases and corridors are clean and in good repair. Some HMOs need to be licensed by the council – if you’re unsure whether this applies to your home, check with your local council.
- Make sure your landlord gives you: a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate and a How to Rent leaflet.
- Understand your tenancy agreement. It’s important to know who’s responsible for paying bills and what to do if there are any changes, like if someone wants to move out. The Citizens Advice website explains the different ways shared accommodation can be organised.
If you encounter a problem with the property, contact your landlord. They might not already be aware as they shouldn’t come in without your permission. If it relates to disrepair, for example if your heating system fails or there’s damp in the property, it’s best to put this in writing so that you have evidence if you need it later.
If your landlord is unresponsive or refuses to help, contact your student services or 0808 278 7804 for support. In serious cases, for example if your health or safety is at risk, you may be advised to contact the council.
If you need help with student housing or are worried about your situation, we can help. Get in touch with us free on 0808 278 7804, view our drop-in information or visit cabb.org.uk for more ways to access support.