House Hunting Tips

 

Tips for househunting

Finding a decent house for the right number of people at a reasonable rent is not always easy, and the private sector in Colchester is no exception.

 

Most students start thinking about finding a house towards the end of the Autumn term and then start looking during the Spring term. You don't need to rush into choosing your house and should allow time to view a few different houses before making your final decisions. Bear in mind that loads of students will be looking at the same time as you, so houses will go quickly. You shouldn't be pressured to sign an agreement until you've had an opportunity to read it first. SU Advice is happy to check your agreement with you before you sign it and to explain what the agreement means if you've got any questions.

Houses advertised at this time will need a deposit to be paid when you sign up and you might have to pay rent through the summer.

It's important not to panic and rush into something you can't afford. Remember if you can’t work over the vacation, the summer student loan cheque might be your only income until October. There might still properties to rent through the summer to save you from paying extra rent.

 

Choosing to live with is an important decision. The obvious choice is a person you like, but remember that liking someone you see socially is not the same as liking someone who is in your house all the time. Think about common interests and life styles; are you smokers or non smokers/ quiet or noisy/ late night people or early risers? These differences may seem minor before you move in, but can very quickly lead to disputes between tenants. Remember if you do fall out with your housemates you may not be able to get out of your contract early and may be stuck living with them for the remainder of you agreement. Please seek advice should this situation arise.

 

 

SU Homes – The Students' Union offers a free service to students which aims to find housing of an excellent standard with reputable landlords. Unlike high street agencies there will be no administration fee for finding you a property. You can register your interest online here and they will aim to match you to a property that meets your needs.

Accommodation/Letting Agencies - There are a number of Letting Agencies in Colchester which rent houses to students. Some are definitely more reputable than others; however we do not recommend any of them. They can be a useful way of finding accommodation but they may charge you for their services. It is not unusual to be charged £95+ per student for contracts and administration. Letting Agencies are not allowed by law to charge you simply for putting your name on their books. Neither can they charge you for supplying a list of names and addresses of vacancies. The basic rule is that they can only charge you for actually finding you accommodation which you accept. Always ask what non-optional charges there will be before agreeing to use the agency. If you think you are being charged illegally please contact the SU Advice for help.

If you do decide to use a Letting Agency other than SU Homes it is best to use an agency which is a member of a voluntary self-regulating trade body as they will require the agency to have complaints procedures and money protection arrangements. This gives you better protection should the agency go out of business. The main trade bodies are:

  • Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
  • National Association of Estates Agents (NAEA)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)

Other Sources – These include local newspapers (e.g. Evening Gazette or Essex County Standard), advertisements in Newsagents, word of mouth and notice boards around campus. If you would like more information about agencies or anything mentioned here, ask SU Advice.

 

It’s important to consider what it is you are looking for in a property before you start your search. If you are looking as a group it is important to be clear on the needs of each individual (e.g. if a student has a car will you need a driveway/garage, can everyone afford the same amount of rent, do you all want a garden etc). Often a compromise will need to be reached as finding a house that meets everyone’s requirements is unlikely. You should have an idea of what your budget is for your rent and factor in additional bills and living costs that you may incur. Some rent prices may include certain bills so always ask what the rent will cover.

We recommend viewing a few properties before making your mind up – this will help you to make a comparison and decide what property is best for you all.  We advise that you always go with your whole group to view to help with decision making and so that everyone is happy with the house you choose.

You can download our checklist to take with you when viewing any properties to help you to compare which property best meets your needs.
We advise that you always go with your whole group to view to help with decision making and so that everyone is happy with the house you choose.

 

Many landlords or agents will ask you to provide a Guarantor. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay the rent if for some reason the tenant cannot/does not, in most cases this would be a parent or someone similar (N.B. if you are under 18 this is almost always the case).

If as a tenant you are liable to pay any debts to the landlord (i.e. unpaid rent, bills, damage costs) then the Guarantor is also liable and if you don’t pay the landlord will look to your Guarantor. If you are a joint tenant, remember, any of your guarantors can be pursued for any debts from any tenant in the property.

In the most case landlords would prefer the Guarantor to be a UK resident. If you cannot provide a Guarantor your landlord may ask you to pay in advance (often for six months or in some cases for the full period of the tenancy). Be wary of doing this. If you have no other choice ensure you get a receipt for all money paid and keep this safe along with your tenancy agreement.

There are companies such as Housing Hand who can help provide you with a guarantor if you do not have one (website details below).