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INSPECTING THE HOUSE
  > Advice on how to inspect a house you want to rent


Security
• Is the house secure?
• Are all the external doors are solid with five-bar mortice locks?
• The internal doors all have locks.
• Do all ground floor windows have security locks?
• Are the ground floor curtains sufficiently lined or is it possible to see through them?
• Does the property have a burglar alarm?
• Does it have a smoke detector?
Gas & Electricity
• The wiring doesn't look old, there aren't any frayed cables.
• Do the electric gas fires work? Check the gas fire heats up properly and isn't heat stained.
• Check the plugs don't get hot when switched on and there are is a sufficient number of power sockets.
• Do all appliances work e.g. cooker, fridge-freezer etc?
• Make sure you get your gas and electricity meters read immediately after you have taken responsibility for the property.
• Ensure that you ask the landlord/agency to see the original CORGI Gas safety certificate for gas appliances.
Gas Safety Certificates
All landlords now have to carry out annual gas safety inspections (with a CORGI registered engineer) by law and provide each tenant with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate. If you are a new tenant, then you should be issued with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate before you move in.

The Health & Safety Executive has a Gas Safety Advice line on
0800 300363

In the event of an emergency call
0800 111999
Electricity
Many landlords may hold a NICEIC certificate which proves that the property has had an electrical check within the last five years. Although this is recommended, it is not a legal requirement.
Furniture
• Has the house got enough furniture for the occupants?
• Is there sufficient storage space (Kitchen, wardrobe etc.)
• Is any of the existing furniture the property of existing tenants?
• Is all the furniture in good condition?
• Is the furniture fire retardant?
Plumbing
• Does the plumbing work?
• Is there hot running water and how do you pay for it??
• Have you tried and tested all the taps?
• Does the toilet flush or leak?
• The bath and basins aren't cracked
Carbon Monoxide
If you have gas appliances in your house, Carbon Monoxide is a possible danger. It's invisible and odourless, but it can kill.
Watch out for...
• Gas flames that burn orange or yellow rather than blue.
• Sutty stains on or around your appliances.
• Solid fuels that burn slowly or go out.
Know the symptoms...
• Unexplained drowsiness.
• Giddiness when standing up.
• Headaches.
• Sickness and Diarrhoea.
• Chest pains.
• Unexplained stomach pains.
Insurance
• Don't think of doing without it - the number of burglaries and thefts in student houses is rising!
• Shop around to find the right insurance package for your requirements.
• Make sure that you're covered over the vacations.
Costs
• How does the rental price compare to other properties in the area?
• Have you paid a deposit? If so what is it for? (see Deposits)
• Have you got a receipt/invoice for all transactions?
• Are you responsible for gas/electricity/ water charges. Some landlords include water rates, others don't.
• How much does it cost to heat the house? (If possible, ask the previous tenants)
• Be sure to take readings of the relevant meters as soon as you can once the last tenants have left.
• Gas and Electricity bills will require to be held under a name(s) when you move in. Normally one person takes responsibility for the electricity bill, another person takes responsibility of the gas bill then it is decided who owes who when the bill is produced.

Council Tax Exemption for Students
• Properties where all the occupants are full-time students will be exempt. You may be asked to produce a certificate giving evidence of your student status; this certificate will be obtainable from your faculty office after you have registered on your course.
• If one or more of the occupants of your house is not a student the house becomes taxable so you must clarify whether you are expected to pay anything towards the cost.
• If you are unsure about your status with regard to Council Tax then seek advice from your Student Advice Centre.
TV Licence
Students are covered by the same licensing requirements as the rest of the population. A licence will be needed by a student living in halls, a bedsit or a flat. If you live in a shared house one licence is needed per house as long as you have a joint tenancy agreement. If you have separate agreements with the landlord you will need separate licences. If you want more information then contact www.tv-l.co.uk
Type of Contract
The protection you have largely depends on your status as an occupier. However, an Assured Short Hold Tenancy Agreement (England) or Short Assured Tenancy (Scotland) are the most common. These can be made for a specific period of time, for instance, one academic year, but they will not usually be made for a period of less than 6 months. Please note that if you are staying in Home Stay or with the owner of the property then you will not be a "Tenant" and should therefore not be required to sign a contract.
If you are sharing a house then you may be asked to sign a joint tenancy or a separate tenancy. If you sign a joint tenancy then you will all be responsible for each other's debts and damages. If you have your own contract then if there are any discrepancies, the argument is between yourself and your landlord and should not involve your housemates.
Points to Note
• Rents must be agreed before the contract is signed since this is a binding agreement. Remember you can negotiate with the landlord over rents, opt out clauses etc. if you are not happy with the landlord's suggestions.
• You cannot give notice during the period of the contract, if no such clause has been added to the contract. If you leave before the end of the fixed term then you (or your housemates) remain liable for the remaining rent.
• Always try to get your contract checked - the Students Union Advice Centre/Accommodation Office or Citizen's Advice will be able to check your contract.
• Remember to get a copy of your contract!
• Landlords must comply with relevant legislation on Notice to Quit and Termination of Tenancies. A Notice to Quit also has to contain prescribed information. A Landlord cannot simply evict a tenant without a Court Order which will be granted only on certain grounds.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
Some local authorities have introduced licensing schemes for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), you should ask to see such a licence, and if it's existence is denied, check with the local authority. In Scotland the Licensing Order makes it mandatory from October 2000 for all HMOs to be licensed. To be classified as a licensable HMO the accommodation must be the only or principle residence of a specified number of people who are not members either of the same family or one or other of two families. The specified number started on 1st October 2000 at six or more and is reducing annually until it reaches its minimum level , ie three or more. Students in accommodation that is an HMO in term time are treated as being solely or principally resident there in order to calculate the number of occupiers of an HMO.
Retainers
These are paid to the landlord by prospective tenants. The retainer period forms part of the contract (typically July to August) when the student is unlikely to want to occupy and the landlord may wish to carry out certain maintenance works to the property. The normal retainer payment is 50% of the per calendar month rent.
Harassment and Unlawful Eviction
If your landlord wants you to leave your house then a legal process must be complied with before you can be evicted. This will include written notice and applying to the Court for a possession order. If you are evicted without the landlord following the correct process then the landlord is committing a criminal offence. In addition, if the landlord (or someone acting on his or her behalf) interferes with your peace or comfort either with unannounced visits, by not fulfilling his/her responsibilities for basic repairs (as listed above), disconnecting utility supplies etc. then this may amount to harassment which is a criminal offence. If you are in danger of eviction or suffering from harassment by your landlord then contact the Student Union Advice Centre, your local Council's Housing Advice Team, or your Council's Anti-Social Behaviour Team. Citizen's Advice also produce a booklet entitled "Protection Against Harassment and Unlawful Eviction "
Advice for women:
For personal safety, it is always advisable for you to view a property accompanied and try to arrange the appointment at a reasonable hour, although there are advantages to viewing it after dark in that you can get a feeling for how you will feel when walking home at night. It is important that you contact your University advice centre if you feel that you were in any way subjected to sexism or harassment during the appointment.
 

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