Accommodation, housing, deposits, tenancy contracts, difficult flatmates and even worse landlords. We asked your Advice Centre Team to bust some common myths around housing...
It's around that time of year where accommodation services are looking for new tenants for the next year and you may feel a bit overwhelmed by finding the perfect accommodation. If you are, don't worry! The Advice Centre is here to give you all the necessary information, and to help you if you need housing advice.
"If I don’t book my accommodation for next year now, I’ll miss out on the best accommodation."
Highly unlikely! There is lots of student accommodation in Birmingham, and it’s really a students’ market. Accommodation providers want you to sign contracts now so their income is guaranteed next year. Don’t worry about that, worry about finding accommodation that is right for you.
"Living in a shared house isn’t as good as halls – I won’t have a nice time."
Living in a shared house with your friends could be what’s best for you – think about what you can afford, how long you need your contract to be, and where you need to be close to. Also – there’s no reason why living in a shared house won’t be fun!
"The best accommodation in Birmingham is the most expensive one. Obviously, I’ll have the time of my life in a ‘luxury hall’. They have so many extra facilities that I will definitely use."
The best accommodation for you is one that suits your needs and is affordable. Being in rent arrears is not a good memory! So long as you are safe and happy, cinema rooms and rooftop gardens won’t matter. You’re at uni in the second biggest city in the UK – you will never run out of fun stuff to do.
"I’ll get along with anyone, so it’s fine to sign up to a contract with people I met down the pub last week."
Woah, are you sure? Do you know if they’ll do the washing up? Will they leave their dirty socks in the kitchen? (Ew.) Will they have loud flat parties at 3am when you have an exam the next day?
While we applaud your easy-going vibes, things are totally different when it comes to where you live! Think carefully about who you are going to live with – once you’ve signed that contract you’re stuck with them!
"Whatever my landlord says, goes. It’s their house/building after all!"
No way, landlords cannot do and say as they please! There are too many laws regulating renting and how landlords should treat their tenants to go into here, but you should really look at this from Shelter about a landlords responsibilities and this on your responsibilities as a tenant.
Just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you should be treated any differently to other tenants. If you’re concerned that your landlord is acting either illegally or irresponsibly, get in touch with us straight away and we can help.
"All the deposits I pay are non-refundable."
The only deposit you won’t get back is your holding deposit – which is the fee you pay to take the property off the market before you move in, and then only if you don’t follow through with the tenancy. Your security deposit (the fat chunk of money you pay when you move in) is refundable providing there is no damage to the property. Even then, they can only deduct what is considered a reasonable amount.
"Lettings Agencies can charge me fees, such as a viewing fee or a referencing fee."
No, they can’t. The Tenant Fees Act 2019 banned the vast majority of fees, so you shouldn’t be charged for anything like referencing, administration, viewings, etc. You can only be charged for what is listed here. If you’re being asked to pay a fee for anything that’s not on that list, walk away!
"If I change my mind about where I want to live, it’ll be fine – I’ll just be released from my contract and go on my merry way. Student accommodation is like a hotel, not a house."
We get this so often; we may have t-shirts printed with it on like we’re some sort of lame, reverse Joe Lycett. Once you have signed a contract, it is SUPER hard to get out of them unless there is a surrender clause. Most likely students have to try and find replacement tenants for their rooms. With all the choice that there is in Birmingham, it can be hard to do that! You will be liable for the rent until that replacement is found so be sure that you will use the accommodation you book.
"If my landlord does something that they shouldn’t do, I can stop paying the rent and my contract is null and void."
Not true we’re afraid. Withholding rent is not an accepted solution to landlord problems, and by not paying rent you’re risking being evicted. Even if not living there anymore is what you want, it would ruin your credit score in the UK and make it much more difficult to rent in future. You still need to pay your rent, and (depending on your problem) take alternative action. Speak to us and we can help with any landlord issues.
"My landlord/agent seems nice. I can trust whatever they’ve said to me."
Do not be fooled! Some landlords and agents have a habit of making lots of verbal promises about the repairs and improvements that will be done when showing you a property. These don’t always materialise so make sure you get any promises in writing.
The Advice Centre by BCUSU is staffed by professional advisers who are able to provide information, advice and representation on a range of student welfare issues.
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