House Hunting

Every year, the Students’ Union Information and Advice Service helps students make house hunting as simple as possible.

However, this year we are aware that things won’t be the same for students looking for future accommodation which is why we have written this guide to help you.

 

This year it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re making the right decisions about your accommodation for next year. Therefore, we are advising students to wait until at least February before they sign any tenancy agreements for next year’s accommodation. 

We are advising students to not sign any accommodation agreements until at least February for the following reasons:

  • Due to social distancing restrictions, students are telling us it’s not been as easy to build the friendship groups that then lead to housemate groups. Give yourself a bit more time to let these friendships develop. 
  • Currently, restrictions are making it harder to view properties in person. Even with virtual viewings, these are no substitute for seeing a property in person where you will notice things that the camera did not pick up/focus on.
  • No one can predict what teaching and learning will look like for the next academic year, which may influence your decision. Private-rented contracts do not have anything to do with the University, so whatever decisions are made about your teaching and learning, these will have no bearing on tenancy agreements. 
  • You’ll be legally liable for the contract once you’ve signed it, so if you change your mind and there’s no break clause (there very rarely is) you will still be liable.  This means that you still must pay the rent on the property even if you do not live there.

Some housing providers start advertising accommodation for the following academic year as early as November. Remember, the reason they do this is not because students are starting to look early but because they need to fill their rooms and make money for the next year.  We would therefore encourage you not to feel pressured into signing up, or re-signing, for accommodation too early. There is a lot of accommodation in Nottingham, even with two universities. 

Information and Advice Service (IAS) webinars

In January, the Students’ Union IAS team will be holding a number of webinars where you will receive information that we know students will find useful in their house hunting. You can also ask the team any questions you have.  Keep an eye on our website for future webinar dates. 

Information and Advice Service Housing Guides

When you’re ready to start looking for your 2021/22 accommodation, then you’ll find our housing guide  .

This depends on where you want to live next year. Students find accommodation through a variety of ways, often through seeing lettings boards on houses, word of mouth or via the internet.

Sometimes, students advertise accommodation that they have signed up to but no longer want/need on the following webpage

You can also go through NTU Accommodation Service webpages to view your options about staying in catered/self-catered halls, purpose built student accommodation or private-rented accommodation.

Before Viewings

The first thing to do is to check to see if the property is accredited through the Nottingham Standard, if you are looking in the Nottingham City area. The Nottingham Standard helps tenants identify properties that meet a minimum quality standard.

Most properties in Nottingham City require a licence, which helps to maintain quality and safety standards in private rented sector accommodation. More information about Nottingham City Council’s schemes can be found here. 

In other areas (e.g. Rushcliffe) some larger shared properties may require a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence – check with the local council if you are in another area.

Marks Out Of Tenancy – NTSU has partnered with MOOT so that NTSU students can leave reviews about their property and landlord/agent.  We’d strongly advice all students to have to see if any of the reviews are relevant to any properties you are interested in. 

Currently, our advice would be to view properties virtually, wherever possible.  Once you have done this and you are interested in the property, then current government restrictions do allow you to view properties but bear in mind that current social distancing measures must be in place if you do– this relates to you, your potential housemates, the current tenants and the agent/landlord.

We would also advise you to see whether you can speak to the current tenants to ask them about the property. Again, this must be done in line with Government guidance. 

We have written a guide for students to help them to understand the key terms and conditions of their tenancy agreement as well as their rights and responsibilities.  It is important that all students read this guide before they contact us to check their agreement because they are the ones who are going to be bound by the terms.  Once students have read the guide, if there is anything that they are unsure about or want further clarity on, we request that they complete our booking form so that an advisor can help. Your landlord should give you 24 hours to allow you to take the agreement away and read through it properly.

Many landlords and estate agents request a holding deposit to reserve a property. A holding deposit can’t be more than 1 week’s rent. This may or may not be refundable so only pay a holding deposit if you're serious about taking on the tenancy or you may lose it.

If you go ahead with the tenancy, the holding fee will usually form part of your tenancy (damage) deposit. This should be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of handing it over. You may also be asked to pay a retainer/half-rent for the summer period.

All upfront fees for tenants are banned.

If you sign a new tenancy or renew your tenancy, you cannot be asked to pay for:

  • Referencing
  • Credit and immigration checks
  • Administration
  • Renewing your contract

The only fees that you can be charged will be:

  • For the cost of replacing a key if you lose one
  • If you are more than 14 days late with your rent
  • If you want to change your tenancy or bring it to an end

The applies to most private tenants. This includes if you have an assured shorthold tenancy, are in student housing or if you are a lodger. 

If your landlord tries to charge you for tenants fees that are banned, then please report them to Nottingham City Council’s Trading Standards Team.

Some landlords and agents ask for a guarantor form to be completed. Your guarantor will become liable for your financial responsibilities, which means they will be liable for your rent if you don’t pay. If you do not have anyone who is willing/able to do this, then you will need to find accommodation where a guarantor is not required.

It is sometimes difficult for international students to provide a guarantor, so please ask the agent or landlord about this before signing anything.

 

NTSU recognize that it is difficult for International students to provide guarantors when looking for private rented accommodation here in the UK.  We therefore worked hard to get NTU to partner with a guarantor scheme to help our students.  NTU have now partnered with Yourguarantor to provide a UK based guarantor for students who need it.You will need to check whether this service is operational during the current pandemic.  If it is not, you can check to see if other guarantor schemes are available.

Most students sign joint fixed term assured shorthold tenancy agreements.Assured shorthold tenancy agreements are the most common form of tenancy for anyone renting privately.

A joint tenancy means you are renting the whole property as a group and, importantly, the landlord can hold everyone jointly responsible for the rent.

A fixed-term tenancy means you will usually be tied to the contract from the date the tenancy starts until the date it ends (see your tenancy agreement for these dates). Most students who want to leave before the fixed term has ended will have to find a replacement tenant to take over.  Until they do, they are legally liable to pay the rent until the fixed term ends or a replacement student takes over their agreement.

 

Questions?

If you have any questions about house hunting, please contact us at NTSU Information and Advice Service