Great news! You’ve found a property, and you’re keen to move in. Use our checklist below to help you understand the key things to check with the property and your contract, before you sign anything.

Before you sign anything

  • Make sure you’ve viewed the property and are happy with its condition
  • Check the property for adequate heating, any signs of damp and mould, any
  • disrepair, and any signs of pests, as these can cause a problem later on
  • Get any extra things or repairs promised are agreed in writing
  • Make sure you are given the name and address of the landlord
  • If you’re using a letting agent, check they’re a member of a redress scheme
  • You will need to provide ‘right to rent’ documents (passport, ID card, BRP, etc.)
  • Read all of the tenancy agreement and make sure you’re happy to sign it, getting advice if you need it

Your contract

  • Your contract will likely be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), this is the most common option for students renting in London
  • If your contract is not an AST, for example you are a lodger, check you are happy with what this means for you
  • Your contract should state how much your rent is, and when it should be paid
  • Check the term of your contract:
    • Is it a fixed term contract?
    • How long is the term?
    • Do you have a break clause if you want to leave early?
    • Check how much notice you have to give the landlord if you want to move out

When you move in

  • Make sure the landlord gets an inventory done - you need to check and agree it
  • Take photographs when you move in and out of the property
  • Check your deposit is protected – your deposit must legally be protected within the first 30 days of your tenancy by one of the following schemes:

Safety & Repairs

  • Your landlord is responsible for most repairs in your home, including gas and electricity repairs, heating and hot water, and structural issues
  • You should allow your landlord to enter the property to make repairs, but they must give you 24 hours’ notice to do this (unless it is an emergency)
  • You are responsible for minor repairs like cleaning mould, or changing lightbulbs
  • Your landlord should supply gas and electricity safety certificates, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (if needed) throughout the property
  • You should take out a tenants contents insurance policy to cover your personal belongings – this will not be covered by your landlord’s building insurance

Your responsibilities

  • Make sure you are clear exactly when your rent is due, how much is due, and how to pay it
  • Check whether smoking, pets, or fixing pictures and posters to the wall are allowed (they usually aren’t)
  • Ensure that the property is adequately heated and ventilated to prevent damage caused by freezing or mould
  • If bills are not included, you will have to open gas and electricity accounts – you will need the opening meter readings to do this
  • You will be responsible for managing your council tax payments:
    • As a full time student you may be eligible for a discount, or an exemption (if all people in your property are full time students)
    • To get this discount or exemption, you will need to register for council tax with your local council, then provide them with a Statement of Student Status – you can do that through your Portico account
    • You should not ignore any council tax bills that you receive, even if you think you should be exempt, as there may have been a mistake that needs correcting
  • If you choose to watch television (even on a computer or device) you might need to get a TV licence

Money matters

  • Set a budget to help you to identify which properties are right for you. Your first offer on a property may not be accepted and you may have to negotiate. Make sure to look at properties within your budget, that allow you the option to comfortably increase your offer if you need to.
  • You will need to budget for at least the first month’s rent when renting, but also a deposit. It might take some time to get your deposit back at the end of your last tenancy, so you might not be able to rely on using this.
  • When deciding your budget, you should also research living costs like the average cost of utilities, for a household of your size. This can give you a more realistic understanding of how much you will be paying each month.
  • Most joint tenancies are Joint and Severally liable. This means that all individuals named on the tenancy are not only responsible for paying their rent but are also liable for the entire amount of rent, for example if housemates don't pay their share. If renting with other people, communicate openly about making sure the rent is met and that everyone can pay their agreed portion.
  • If for any reason you think you will have difficulty paying a bill or are at risk of making a late payment, keep your utility providers informed. It is better to keep them updated, ask for extra time or come to an arrangement than to be chased for payment or incur fees.

Get Help Before It’s Too Late - If at any time you feel like your finances are becoming difficult to manage, or you are at risk of not being able to pay your rent or bills, get specialist help and advice. Contact the Advice Servive for confidential specialist Money and Debt advice, to help get your finances back on track.