So, you’ve just moved in to your new student house- the prospect of endless house parties glowing in your eyes- but the place is looking worse than bin Laden’s underground cave. There’s damp on the ceiling, a leaky roof, and a mysterious odour you can’t quite put your finger on. What do you do?: A) Cry to mummy B) Just go with it- it’s only going to end up a tip anyway, or C) read this article, learn about your rights and take action!
It may be too little too late now, but before you sign any contracts, it’s vital you take advantage of SUSU’s contract checking service to make sure you know what you’re signing up for, or if not at least give it a good reading yourselves! It’s also a good idea to keep hold of copies of the contract, to refer to later. It is also recommendable to search for houses on the SASSH website, and look at pages such as Lousy Lettings to make yourself aware of the more notorious agencies.
When you first move in, it is crucial you immediately take pictures of any existing damage to your house, and contact your landlord/letting agency. This will mean you can’t be blamed for the damage, as well as speeding up the process of getting it dealt with. In fact, it is always advisable to make a written record of all your dealings with your landlord or letting agency. For example, if your landlord agrees to fix something on the phone, perhaps send an email to them and the letting agency noting the landlords promise, so you can use it for back up later if necessary.
Another important thing to consider is whether your property is managed by your letting agency, or by the landlord. This will affect who is responsible for dealing with your complaint.
Landlords have legal obligations to their tenants which include carrying out repairs on the property they rent to you, and making sure the property meets safety requirements.
This means that if any of the problems with your house make it unsafe or indecent to live in, your landlord is responsible for fixing it. Examples of poor housing standards include:
- leaking roof
- rotten or broken windows
- problems with gutters, drainpipes and sewers
- inadequate water (or hot water) supply
- gas appliances that have not been recently or properly serviced or maintained
- infestation of pests or vermin
- in most cases, the landlord is responsible for any issues regarding the exterior or structure of a property, including electric wiring, plumbing, and gas pipes
It’s also important to know that most student houses count as a house in multiple occupation (HMO), which means that:
If the house or flat you’re living in is defined as a ‘house in multiple occupation’, your landlord will have extra responsibilities
These extra responsibilities include issues relating to fire safety, overcrowding and electric and gas safety checks. Landlords of HMOs can also be prosecuted if they break the law concerning their care of the property.
Tenants can’t be forced to carry out or pay for repairs that are their landlord’s responsibility.
Landlords have an infamous reputation for dealing with students, which is why it is so important to be aware of your rights, and not afraid to enforce them. As long as you stay within your tenant obligations, and keep written records of all of your problems, in theory you shouldn’t have problems getting your landlord to cooperate. If you feel your problem is hazardous to your health, or your landlord isn’t responding, contact the council for further help. Welcome to your new house!
For more information, visit http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/repairs_and_bad_conditions/disrepair_in_rented_accommodation