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How not to get screwed over by your landlord

Here’s some helpful tips and tricks that might help you avoid a student house nightmare…

Joining university is an experience that comes with a lot of emotions, and can leave you feeling a little out of your depth. It’s no secret that leaving home and starting a life independently from your family is daunting, and often you’re left with little guidance. So, what happens if you leave it a little late and can’t make it into halls? Perhaps you’re going into second year and haven't quite grasped adulting enough yet to understand what the best way to get a house is.

On paper it seems like a relatively similar choice, with not many differences between halls and a property clearly advertised as a “student property to rent”. However, renting a property with a private landlord can have unforeseen hurdles that a student new to living away from home can easily fall victim to. Deposits, fees, location – oh and watch out for mould, damp and all things nasty! Student houses are well-known for being not-so-nice and freezing cold!

I have met several students of Bournemouth University that have issues with private landlords and I’ve heard of dozens more. I contacted a Media & Communications student, Marni Scott, that I had spoken to previously as community warden, for her first-hand experience:

Q: “What were the main issues you experienced in your property?”

A: “Overall the property was a mess. Like, I moved in and there was a leak from my bedroom window leaving my carpet soaked. Didn’t help I was moving in September.”

Q: “What happened?”

A: “So eventually my bedroom walls had damp, like big patches of dark damp that was making the wallpaper go all bubbly. I asked the landlord to fix the leak all he did was give us a dehumidifier for upstairs. Then he said there was a leak in the roof or something, that was a reason why there was damp. Which is when I contacted SUBU for advice. He said we had to pay £950 to get it check out. He also said that the damp was our fault for drying our clothes indoors, which we did do in the first week but stopped and the damp just kept getting worse. We also had mice in our kitchen and a huge fly infestation.”

Q: “What happened after you received the advice?”

A: “Well I found out that I didn’t have to pay for the roof inspection. It was a lot of money, especially for a student and he was asking all of us to pay because we were the ones in the property. It turns out that there was nothing done to the property before we moved in, like, it was barely cleaned. We had to pay for carpet cleaning and stuff and plumbing issues and I found out that it’s the landlord’s responsibility to do that. I feel like we were cheated out of quite a bit and one of my housemates was so scared of the landlord that he literally moved out.”

So what you should you do?

Knowing your rights as a tenant could prevent you from paying out money you don’t need to. For example, if your boiler breaks, it is your landlord’s responsibility to pay for repairs or install a replacement. You should also check if your boiler is up-to-date on the required safety checks and has been properly installed. It is your responsibility to keep the heating on timed, so that the pipes do not freeze and then explode when used again. You will have to pay a minimum for a heating bill anyway, so keeping it off will not make the bill go any lower than if you have it timed to come on for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening.

If your house has damp when you first move into the property, it is your landlord’s responsibility to fix this issue. Damp is an experience most students will face because it is so easy to get. If you’re drying clothes on the radiator, keep a window open to prevent excessive moisture but you should not move into a property with damp that has not been expressly stated to you. This is a problem that should be fixed prior to move in, or an issue that should be fixed at the expense of a landlord, very shortly after your arrival.

Your landlord should clean the property before your move in date and you should be given a clear list of damages with photographic evidence, that haven’t been fixed prior to your move in date. It is then your responsibility to review these damages (wear to the walls, carpet, door frames) and sign an agreement that you are happy to move into the property in its current state. This will prevent you from your deposit being deducted any charges for these damages when you move out.

Remember if something isn't right – speak up!