HOW DO I MAKE A COMPLAINT
This procedure applies to an actual or potential landlord; a tenant; a former landlord or a former tenant making a complaint against SUHomes. We would also accept a complaint from properly appointed representative, provided we have written confirmation from the complaint directing us to deal with them on their behalf. You can download our complaints procedure here.
WHAT IS A GUARANTOR?
A guarantor is somebody who agrees to act on your contract (tenancy agreement) as a financial guarantee for your rent and any other costs that arise during your tenancy. It is normal for landlords or lettings agents to request guarantors before letting. You only need one guarantor per person. And your guarantor does not have to be a family member. SUHomes requires guarantors to earn £20,000 per year and be a permanent resident of the United Kingdom. If your guarantor does not meet the income requirement, it is possible to combine two guarantors to meet the income requirement. For example, if one of your parents/guardians earns £10,000 and the other 15,000, you can combine these two people to act as your guarantor. Please find further information on the Citizens Advice Bureau website.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOT HAVE A GUARANTOR OR IF MY GUARANTOR DOES NOT MEET INCOME REQUIREMENTS?
You may not know anybody in the UK who would be willing to act as your guarantor. There are services in the UK that can offer this service. We work along with two providers of this service, Housing Hand and Your Guarantor. However, this service does charge. We do not add any additional charges for using them. Their website for more information is www.housinghand.co.uk and www.yourguarantor.co.uk If you do not wish to use Housing Hand or Your Guarantor and do not have a guarantor in the UK, you have the option to be placed on a stage payment plan, paying 6 month’s rent upfront. It is important to know that a 6-month advance payment would cover the first month of your tenancy and the final 5 months, not the first six months of your tenancy.
WHAT IS A DEPOSIT?
A deposit is a payment that tenants make as security against non-payment of rent or non-payment of other charges such as damage or unpaid bills. It is normal for lettings agents and landlords to ask for a deposit. Deposit amounts are capped at a maximum of 5 weeks rent. Deposits will be returned to you at the end of your tenancy providing there is no cleaning and damage charges or outstanding rent/bills to pay. You increase the chances of having your full deposit returned to you if you look after the property, protect it from damage and keep it clean. Deposits are not legal requirements but the registration of them is. We register and insure all deposits with the UK Government through the Deposit Protection Service. Please find more details about the DPS here.
WHAT IS A TENANCY AGREEMENT?
The tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord. It states the rights and responsibilities of the tenants and landlord. It states important things about the tenancy such as the tenancy length, rules of tenant conduct, rent amount, rent due date and the contracted tenants in the property. It shows what is allowed and what is not allowed in the property. It aims to protect both parties throughout the tenancy. By signing a tenancy agreement, you are stating that you agree with everything written in it. It is very important that you understand your tenancy agreement, your rights and your responsibilities. It is therefore important to read your tenancy agreement in full and ask SUHomes and/or the landlord any questions before signing it. Some properties are on “joint tenancies” and some are on “individual tenancies”. Most SUHomes properties are on joint tenancies.
WHAT IS AN INVENTORY?
An inventory is a descriptive list of everything in a property. This includes furniture and details of the condition of the property including walls, carpets and other fixed items. It creates a comprehensive report of the condition and contents of a property at the beginning of a new tenancy. Inventories are not legally required but we conduct them in nearly all of our properties. For our managed properties a professional inventory company will conduct a check in with inventory for your property and ask you to sign it to show that you agree with what is written.
HOW DO I VIEW AND SECURE A PROPERTY?
Please refer to our website. If you still have questions, we would be more than happy to answer them (see 'Meet the Team').
WHAT IS A HOLDING DEPOSIT AND WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY IT TO RESERVE A PROPERTY?
A Holding Deposit is a payment we ask all prospective tenants to make in order to reserve a property after a viewing. This takes the property off the market and ensures that the property is yours to rent, subject to contract. The cost is £50.00 per person per property. This payment can be made in our office on campus immediately after a viewing, by BACS payment, or calling and making a payment over the phone. You must fill out one of SUHomes tenant application forms each within 24 hours of you paying this. The Holding Deposit is offset against the deposit.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT TO PAY OVERALL?
SUHomes and our landlords do not charge any administration or lettings fees. To secure a property, you will be expected to pay 1) a deposit 2) the first month’s rent (if you have a guarantor) or six months advance rent (this covers the first month’s rent and the final 5 month’s rent) 3) a holding deposit of £50.00 per person per property, which takes the property off the market. The holding deposit is offset against the deposit. The deposit is capped at a maximum of 5 weeks rent. The rent amount depends on how many people live in a property, the location of the property and the standard of the property. Our cheapest rooms can be as little as £300.00 per month and can range up to £650 per month. Your utility bill amounts depend on your consumption.
DOES SUHOMES CHARGE ANY FEES?
We do not charge any lettings or administration fees. However, to reserve a property after a viewing, we ask for a Holding Deposit of £50.00 per person per property. This is offset against the deposit, therefore not a fee. Its purpose is to take a property off the market and ensure that tenants are committed to the property.
CAN I RENT A PROPERTY AT ANY POINT IN THE YEAR?
Our main letting season is January/February. However, we normally have properties available throughout the year and you are welcome to approach us, view and move in to properties at any point during the year if available.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I WISH TO MOVE OUT OF A PROPERTY?
You are contracted to pay rent for the duration of your tenancy. If you wish to leave a property, you must find somebody to replace you in your tenancy. We can assist to an extent with this process and advise you on how to advertise your room availability. If you leave the property without notifying us and finding somebody to replace you, you and your guarantor will still be liable for your rent and any other costs that arise during the tenancy. You may not receive your deposit back. If you find somebody to replace you in your tenancy, you must provide us with confirmation that you wish to leave the property and ask the replacement to get in touch with SUHomes. The new tenant will be required to fill out an application form, find a guarantor and pay a deposit and the first month’s rent before moving in. If tenants are on a joint tenancy, all tenants will be required to sign a new tenancy agreement.
DOES SUHOMES OFFER TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION?
Unfortunately, we do not offer temporary accommodation. However, we can advise you on temporary accommodation. On occasion, landlords will accept students on short tenancies. Please get in touch with us (see 'Meet the Team') and we will inform you of short-term availabilities. Students may find that lodging offers the most flexible tenancies.
IS SUB-LETTING PERMITTED?
Sub-letting is when tenants let their rooms or parts of the property to other people who are not on the tenancy agreement. Subletting is subject to the approval of the landlord. Early release of tenants from a contract is also subject to the approval of the landlord.
WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE CHILDREN?
We are happy to house students and staff with children and will endeavour to meet the property demands and requirements of parents.
CAN I HAVE PETS IN MY PROPERTY?
Most landlords do not accept pets. However, we can try our best to find a landlord that will. If your tenancy agreement states that pets are not allowed, then you must speak to SUHomes and your landlord before bringing any pets in to a property.
CAN I HAVE OVERNIGHT GUESTS?
Unless your tenancy agreement or landlord otherwise specifies, you are allowed to have guests to stay in your property. However, we strongly recommend that you discuss any guests with the other tenants. Having guests for long periods of time may require approval from the landlord and from SUHomes.
WILL ALL TENANTS PAY THE SAME RENT AMOUNT FOR THEIR ROOMS?
Each property has a set rent price. Some tenants are happy to pay equal amounts and some like to divide it up differently, especially if the room sizes vary. You can only pay different amounts if you are on a joint tenancy agreement. In some cases, SUHomes and the landlord may offer recommendations on room prices. If you change the individual amounts tenants are paying, you must inform us and the landlord. As long as the overall rent amount is paid on time and in full, dividing the rent up in to different amounts is no problem. However, all tenants must be in agreement.
WILL MY PROPERTY BE SAFE AND LEGAL?
All of our Licensable HMO properties (5+bed) are Licenced or a Licence application has been submitted with Colchester Borough Council. All properties are required to have a Gas Safety certificate and an Energy Performance certificate, and an Electical Safety Report. All properties have fire doors according to HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy) requirements. All properties have fire safety equipment, fire alarms and carbon monoxide alarms according to legal standards. We regularly inspect properties to ensure fire safety equipment is maintained and working. Tenants should contact SUHomes / the landlord immediately if they believe their fire safety equipment is not working or if alarms are low battery.
WHERE WILL MY PROPERTY BE?
We have a range of properties available to meet different preferences and requirements. We take your preferences seriously and try our best to accommodate them. You should communicate your preferences to us when you register and before viewings. Most of our properties are close to the University and in the areas of Greenstead, Hythe, Wivenhoe and Colchester town. All of our properties are within walking distance or close to travel links to the University.
WHAT IS “NORMAL” FOR A PROPERTY?
Our properties are fully furnished according to our Furnishing Code. Bedrooms must have a bed, mattress, desk, chair, wardrobe and chest of drawers. We occasionally have unfurnished properties on offer. We offer both flats and houses generally for 1-6 people. Most houses have 4-6 bedrooms. Properties can vary greatly in size and layout. Most houses will have gardens and / or patios, although some do not. Bills are sometimes included and sometimes are not. Flats generally exclude bills and lodging properties always include bills. Utility bill amounts depend entirely on your use. If you do not pay your bills, utilities can be cut off from the property and legal action can be taken against tenants and the landlord to recover the unpaid bills.
DO I NEED TO VIEW A PROPERTY BEFORE MOVING IN?
Yes. We ask all students and staff to view properties before signing a tenancy agreement and moving in. This is because we want you to be fully satisfied with the property you are moving in to prior to committing to pay rent for it. Viewings can be arranged simply by contacting SUHomes. We offer virtual viewings completely free of charge on most of our properties, and carry out viewings at properties you are interested in by meeting you there. It is also normal when a landlord requests to conduct viewings themselves usually for lodging / resident landlord properties.
WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT ACCOMMODATION IF I AM GOING ON / RETURNING FROM STUDY ABROAD?
Please notify SUHomes if you are going on or returning from a year / term abroad. We can register you for text and email alerts and you can arrange viewings for a proxy or representative to attend on your behalf. If you know who you want to move in with and they are staying at Essex, please ask them to register with us. We can then take deposit, first month’s rent and holding deposit payments over the phone, via bank transfer or from the person(s) acting on your behalf. We are currently developing a programme for Study Abroad students to reserve properties before they depart. Please contact us for more details.
WHAT IS COUNCIL TAX AND HOW DO WE APPLY FOR EXEMPTION?
Properties let through SUHomes are classified as Halls of Residence and are automatically exempt from council tax providing they are occupied by full-time students. However, if you have a change in circumstances you must inform the council as may become liable for council tax. Council Tax is an annual tax that residents pay to their local Council to fund services such as bin collection, the Police and street cleaning. Full-time students are exempt from Council Tax. If you are a working adult living with students, you are entitled to a Council Tax discount. However, you must claim your exemption or if you have any queries please call the Council on their Council Tax hotline 01206 282300. If you are a member of staff not living with students, you are liable for Council Tax. The amount you pay varies depending on the property location, size and other factors.
HOW IS PRIVATE RENTING THROUGH SUHOMES DIFFERENT FROM LIVING IN UNIVERSITY ACCOMMODATION?
Your property will always be off-campus. Your bills may not be included in your rent- this differs from property to property and is something you will be informed of during viewings. Your rent will not include 24 hour security. You will only be covered for contents insurance if renting one of our 'Managed' properties. You will pay your rent on a monthly basis if you have a guarantor, although you can pay rent in lump sums. Your rent may include regular cleaners. The length of your tenancy will not revolve around your academic calendar. Tenancies can last from 6 months to 1 year, with the possibility of renewal at the end. You will be required to pay rent over the weekends and out of term dates.
HOW IS RENTING THROUGH SUHOMES DIFFERENT FROM RENTING STRAIGHT FROM A LANDLORD OR FROM A HIGH-STREET LETTING AGENT?
If you rent privately and directly from a landlord, you do not necessarily have the support and advice that a reliable third party such as SUHomes can offer. As a student orientated service, we understand the issues that students can face and are here to provide round-the-clock advice and support aimed at students. With our office on campus, we’re right on your doorstep to answer your questions, offer assistance on demand and tailor our services specifically to university students and staff.
HOW DO I SET UP MY BILLS?
Some properties include bills in their rent price and some do not. Where rent does not include bills, from student feedback 'Split the Bills' and 'Bulb' have been recommended. These services combine shared bills in a property in to one easy monthly payment. Most utilities companies will allow multiple names on utility accounts. To set up accounts for your electricity, water and gas, you will need to call your current suppliers, inform them of your tenancy start/end dates and your metre readings, which can be found on the inventory for your property or can be requested from SUHomes/the landlord. To find your suppliers, Gas: Call the Meter Point Administration Service on 0870 608 1524. The water supplier will be Anglian Water.
HOW DO I PAY MY RENT?
You are contracted to pay rent on full and in time during your tenancy. There are a number of ways tenants can make this payment. When paying rent, you can pay as many months as you like in one transaction. You can pay over the phone using a debit or credit card by calling 01206 878978. You can request our bank details and transfer the money to us through a branch of your bank or online banking. Please bear in mind that it may take 2 working days to appear on our system, so this needs to be paid in advance of your rent due date and using a recognisable reference for the landlord / us to identify your payment by. You pay in cash or by debit / credit card in our on-campus office during opening hours (Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm). Your guarantor or another individual can make a payment on your behalf. You will always receive an email receipt, regardless of payment method.
I HAVE RECEIVED AN EMAIL, TEXT OR PHONE CALL FROM SUHOMES THAT I OWE RENT AND I HAVE PAID MY RENT. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
If you have paid your rent and you receive correspondence from us that you have not, don’t worry. This may be because your bank transfer payment is taking time to appear on our financial records. We may be unable to track your payment if it has been sent by a person or bank we do not recognise. Make sure the payee puts a clear reference on the payment for us to identify it by. If you are transferring rent from a credit card or non-UK bank account, there may be a number of charges on your payment that cause rent to be outstanding on your account. Please contact us or pop in to our office to resolve any issues relating to rent.
HOW DO I DEAL WITH MY HOUSEHOLD WASTE?
You will be provided with a bin and recycling collection timetable in your SUHomes Welcome Packs (managed properties). Please find out when your collection days here. Pickup points for food caddies, bins and bin liners can be found by following this link. If you need further information, please call Colchester Borough Council’s recycling & waste hotline (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm) on 01206 282700
HOW DO I REPORT FAULTS?
Some properties are managed by landlords and some are managed by SUHomes. When you view a property, we will inform you whether we manage the property. If we manage your property you can report faults via this page. We will attend to any issues as soon as possible and take the best course of action. SUHomes also has an out-of-hours emergency assistance number for round the-clock support. If your landlord manages the property, you must report any faults or problems to them. We will provide you with their contact details. We strongly recommend that any verbal communication in regards to faults and tenant requests are followed up by written correspondence (email is satisfactory) to SUHomes and your landlord. This helps all parties to keep a chronological, hard record of any issues experienced in the property. It may help deposit disputes and help tenant claims in the unlikely circumstance of legal disputes.
HOW DO I REPORT NUISANCE NEIGHBOURS?If you are experiencing issues with your neighbours, please keep your landlord and SUHomes informed. You can report nuisance neighbours to the local Police (non-emergency number 101). In the case of an emergency, please call 999 and ask for appropriate services. You should also report nuisance neighbours to Colchester Borough Council.
HOW DO I AVOID BECOMING A NUISANCE NEIGHBOUR?
Respecting your neighbours is essential for having a peaceful, enjoyable year in your property. If you are having a large social gathering, it is polite to inform your neighbours. Please be courteous to your neighbours and be considerate of the fact that they may be working adults and / or have children. Keep noise levels to appropriate volumes and leave / enter the property quietly at night. You are required under your tenancy agreement to behave in an appropriate, tenant-like manner throughout your tenancy. Not doing so may result in complaints being made about you and in intervention from Colchester Borough Council, your landlord, SUHomes and the Police. For more information, check out Colchester Borough Council’s “Good Neighbour” Guide.
CAN I REQUEST A SMOKING PROPERTY?
All SUHomes properties are non-smoking. It is a breach of your tenancy agreement to smoke in your property. Please ask SUHomes / your landlord where you can smoke.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I DO NOT GET ON WITH MY HOUSEMATES / FLATMATES?
It is best to take preventative measures to ensure you get on well with other tenants. Make sure that you have a trustful and honest relationship with those you are moving in with. Think about whether the other tenants are financially reliable. Remember, you are entering in to a legally binding contract with those you are moving in with. If you are signing a joint / shared tenancy, you may become liable for costs and outstanding rent of other tenants. Have a discussion with those you are moving in with on household conduct, rules and responsibilities to avoid arguments and to ensure that everybody enters the contract with a clear idea of their duties. It is a good idea to draw up some house rules that everybody agrees to, set up a fair and equal cleaning and rubbish rota and come to an agreement on who will be lead tenant. It is important to be communicative with your housemates to avoid confrontational disputes. Have a look at our “Tenant Check List”. If arguments do occur during the tenancy, you must try and resolve them between yourselves. If they persist, please speak to SUHomes or your landlord and we will try our best to help negotiations. If arguments become serious, we can advise you on the best channel to resolve issues or on how to exit your contract.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM IN FINANCIAL DIFFICULTY?
If you are experiencing financial problems that may affect your attendance at university or rent payments, you must communicate them to your landlord and to SUHomes. This allows us to advise you on what to do and what hardship loans and bursaries are available for you. It also avoids other people becoming liable for your rent. Alternatively, visit the SU Advice Centre on square 3.
CAN I GET FINANCIAL HELP WITH MY RENT?
There are scholarships, bursaries and hardship grants/loans available at the University of Essex. To apply for a Students’ Union Hardship Loan, visit essex.su/money If you require advice on Student Loans, please call Student Finance England on 0300 100 0607 or visit the SU Advice Centre on square 3.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOT PAY MY RENT ON TIME OR PAY IT AT ALL?
When signing your tenancy agreement, you are contracted to pay your rent on time and in full. We recommend setting up a standing order or automatic, recurring bank transfer on your online banking for peace of mind. If you do not pay your rent, your guarantor is liable and we will contact them to request payment on your behalf. Other tenants and their guarantors may become liable for your rent if you and / or your guarantor do not pay. Refusal to pay rent can lead to Court action.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY FLATMATES / HOUSEMATES DO NOT PAY THEIR RENT ON TIME OR DO NOT PAY IT AT ALL?
SUHomes or the landlord will be in direct contact with that tenant. If they do not answer to our correspondence or still do not pay, then we will be in contact with their guarantor to request payment. If the tenant and their guarantor do not pay the rent, then other tenants and their guarantors are equally liable for this cost if a joint / shared tenancy agreement is in place. If tenants are on single / individual tenancy agreements, then the only people liable for rent are the tenant and their guarantor.
WHO DO I CONTACT IN AN EMERGENCY?
If we manage your property and you need to speak to us outside of office hours (Monday – Friday 9am- 5pm), you should call our emergency out-of-hours number. This will be provided to you at the beginning of your tenancy in your Welcome Packs. In case of a medical emergency, you should contact 999 and ask for an Ambulance. In case of a fire, you should contact 999 and ask for the Fire Brigade. If illegal, threatening, abusive or anti-social behaviour is occurring, you should call the Police on 101 (nonemergency) or 999 (strictly for emergencies). If you are experiencing problems with your neighbours, you should speak to Colchester Borough Council.
WHAT ARE SUHOMES’ OPENING TIMES?
We are open Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm. We are closed during bank holidays and national holidays. During the University holidays, there are members of staff in the office. If you live in one of our managed properties, we will provide you with an out-of hours emergency number to call when our office is closed.