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Your Questions Answered

Watch your Students' Union President and Advice Centre Manager covering some common questions regarding student housing.

Hello, everyone, my name is Victoria and I'm your Students Union President
We're here today to talk to you a little bit about housing week. 
Now, housing week is something that we do at [your Students'] Union to talk about issues that students face with housing as well as any housing experiences or questions that you might have around accommodation. 
Now, from your first year to the end of your university experience, our Advice Centre is here to ensure that you're getting the most out of your housing experience, and a fun fact that you should know is that, according to the NUS homes fit for study survey, more than half of renters are spending more than 75% of their monthly income on housing costs. What a fact.
Now I'm here with Liam, who is the manager of our Advice Centre, to ask those big questions that we're all thinking. Hi Liam thank you for coming today.

Hi Vic. Hello everyone.

So my first question to you is, when, realistically, should students start looking for accommodation for next year?

Well I think we'd say don't rush so we think that um starting to look now is too early but, realistically, we know that landlords and agents will start asking, they'll start advertising their properties for next year so that's why we think it's important to get the information out there in terms of what students should look for and sorts of things, pitfalls they should look out for and that sort of thing.
 But, I think the reason why we say don't rush is because um there is plenty of accommodation, people start, once they hear that maybe a friend has got somewhere to live they start, thinking 'oh the best places will go, I won't have much choice left' that's not true um there's more than enough housing in Birmingham and um we would say take your time choose your housemates wisely, particularly for first years you've probably only known them at a very short period so do you really know what they'd like to live with um you know hopefully you won't but you know if there's a chance you might fall out with them, it's a long long way off um next September so uh and the other thing is that once you've signed up to a contract it's legally binding it's very difficult to get out of so yeah take your time don't rush.

Brilliant advice there um and now my next question is, where would you say would be the best place to look?

Okay I might be a bit biased but I would say and start with the Student Union's own letting agency, Birmingham City Student Homes, um they've got you know a range of different accommodation in different areas and probably importantly for different budgets as well so um so yes start with them but also have a look we we signed up um to the midland landlord accreditation scheme so both the university and the students' union would only recommend that you go with accredited landlords and agents um the best place is to look on their website so it's midland landlord expectations, and there's a list on there of accredited landlords and accredited agents uh it just means that it's a way of maybe picking out um the ones that have um signed up to sort of protect your rights and also there's a really good sort of complaints process if anything does go wrong so yeah try that um other than that I'd say ask around current tenants are will give you the best recommendation they'll give you an honest appraisal of of what a property is like what landlords like what agents like so that is sort of the best um the best information you can get is current tenants um and then finally yeah have a look online so um there are reviews of various agents online as well so yeah there's lots of stuff out there. 

Yeah I found reviews very useful uh I've stayed clear of many uh just through reviews so that's really good and also our Birmingham City Students Homes is is one of the best places to go to I've seeked them for support as well unbiasedly when I was a student.
So the next question would be what should students consider before they start doing their search?

Okay so in order to you know to avoid wasting their time and yet there's some things which they really need to seriously think about so one's really obvious which is the number so how many is going to be in that group because um yeah obviously you know you need to really nailed it down so it you might have a loose group of three four five whatever but you know are those people all really really serious about it? Have they got the other things in place in terms of have they got guarantors? Have they got can they afford it so yeah the number that you're looking for is going to determine you know what sort of places you're looking for so make sure you're really confident about what size of property is that you're looking for and not another obvious one is obviously the type so do you want us you want to stay in halls type accommodation? Obviously there's lots of private providers or do you want a sort of traditional house share again which there's lots out there or something like maybe a flat apartment for just yourself or maybe for two of you? That does tend to work out more expensive so just bear that in mind the other thing is budget so do a budget we can we can help with that but really make sure I mean obviously you quoted before that fact about how much accommodation costs it's a massive part of a student's budget so you need to make sure you can afford it we do get lots of students who sign up to contracts and then later on come back to us and say oh you know I didn't realise that it was going to be quite so difficult to afford it particularly at the moment with part-time work more difficult to get and stuff like that so yeah do your budget um also um the costs like you will be asked for to pay money like rent in advance deposit up from those sorts of things there's lots of things to consider um in terms of money-wise um and then I suppose the other thing is again an obvious one what areas do you want to live in so do you know Birmingham that well um there are some traditional student areas but yeah the more you can narrow it down beforehand it will probably save you a lot of a lot of time yeah.

And what would you say is the situation on guarantors? Because I know for different students it can be very different.

It can do I mean not everyone asks for a guarantor but if they do that will normally be sort of a friend or relative they'll want to you to get them to sign a guarantor agreement so if anything happened in terms of you not being able to afford the rent they can then ask that guarantor for the rent but there are some students who find it more difficult like international students to get um to get a guarantor because quite often it needs to be someone who's in the UK um but there are guarantor schemes there's one off top of the head called helping hand that can help out if you need a guarantor and you can't find someone to do that but if you get stuck again just contact the advice centre and we'll we'll sort that out for you.

Brilliant yeah that's really good and I think also one other thing that um I would personally recommend in that front would be uh your commute because I've lived in areas of Birmingham and the commute is always very different um so my penultimate question is um do you have any other house hunting tips?

I'm glad you asked me that because I do so one of them is it's about getting promises in writing. I think that um landlords and agents can be very charming when you're looking for somewhere and they can promise all sorts about oh this will be decorated there'll be new furniture. If those sorts of things are going to be the difficult the difference between you accepting a property or not, then get it in writing you know landlords and agents insist on you signing up to things contracts and things like that so yeah don't be scared of asking for some for them to put something in writing to make sure it's it's more watertight and the other thing it's on a similar note really is about getting receipts so you're going to have to pay out lots of money for lots of different things always make sure you've got a receipt understand your contract so I've mentioned before it's legally binding very difficult to get out of so um you know you well I don't expect most students to have sort of read um through tenancy agreements so and understand all the clauses they can be quite complicated so if there's anything um you want us to check in a contract or just read the whole thing for you again get in contact with the advice and we'll read through it for you another tip is about going to see in the evening so um obviously mainly people go during the day and an area can feel very different when it's sort of light in summer or whatever but go at night and get a feel you know how does what does that street feel like what does the area feel like um it's gonna feel quite different of an evening I suppose the final one is make sure your deposit is protected that is the law so if you pay over a deposit it needs to go into a deposit protection scheme so make sure that's been done they have to give you details of the scheme that has been put in. 

Yeah these are all really really great tips and I think actually as a student I didn't do that visit at night and I ended up living in an area that wasn't so great at night so definitely something that on the back of that do you um [have any advice] actually when students are moving in to the property?

Okay yeah so for most that will be a long way down the line but just I suppose a couple of things um are taking photos when you move in so you've got proof as to the condition of the property and any furniture um and also there's something called an inventory which is basically a list of again all the belongings and the condition of the property um not all landlords and agents do an inventory but a lot do it can be very easy you feel pressured you just sign it but no go through that really carefully if if the condition of anything any part of the property or any furniture is not as listed on the inventory make sure that that's noted saying all those things because that that will really help you when you come to the end to get your deposit back a deposit is a big chunk of money landlords and agents um quite often find reasons to keep bits of that money so the more proof you've got with the condition when you moved in the more chance you've got of getting your deposit back so yeah think about that.

Those are all really really great uh tips for when moving in uh taking the photos is such an important one really important.

Yeah there are lots more tips but I don't I you know I don't want to go too over the board with with stuff about moving in because it's so far away but there is stuff on our website and also in the housing magazine which we'll send out to students which goes into more detail about moving in.

That's really good and then just lastly actually is my last question for you what other housing issues can the advice centre help with?

Okay so it's really the whole journey so we've talked about sort of stuff been moving in but also once you're in your accommodation if you have any sort of disputes with the landlord um repairs is quite a common one um so it might be that something breaks and the landlord is really slow or says that they don't need to you know repair it or replace it that's probably not true come to us and we'll give you advice on that um hopefully everything will go smoothly in terms of the other people you choose to live with but occasionally tenants drop out and leave the property and depending on the type of agreement you've got so it's common to have what's called a joint agreement then um you or the individual tenant might need to find a replacement we can advise you on that the places where to um where to advertise and hopefully secure another tenant and not have to pay additional rent and then finally as already mentioned deposit refund hopefully that'll go smoothly and you'll get the deposit back but if you find you don't come to us and we'll help you with that process.

The answers to questions were absolutely brilliant um and really on the ball I think just to summarize really quickly you know we do at the Student's Union have a brilliant advice centre and and Liam is there as the manager and you know Liam you've um you spoke in there about uh not only Birmingham City Student Homes which is um our uh a property agency but also you know those really important things about deposits guarantors uh making sure that you know you keep a track of your entire process from start to finish when you are looking at accommodation and that housing experience so thank you so much um now students if you do need any more help with housing issues you can log an inquiry with Liam and his team uh through bcusu.com/advice thank you so much for coming to this video and Liam again thank you so much.




Housing Jargon

What types of contracts are there? What's the difference between a Landlord and an Agent? What do all these acronyms mean? Don't worry, we've got your back. Check our jargon-busting guide to housing terms.

Housing Jargon

Housing Advice and Information

How to Rent - a governament guide for tenants and landlords in the private rented sector to help them understand their rights and responsibilities.

Safer Students (West Midlands Police) - Safer Homes provide advice on how to protect your home and possessions from intruders. The site includes information about property marking and a housing security checklist.

Gas Safe Register - Gas Safe Register is the UK watchdog for gas safety. Their website has advice about carbon monoxide poisoning, cowboy gas fitters and general information for gas consumers.

West Midlands Fire Service - The local fire service website provides information on all aspects of fire safety in the home.

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