House rentals - students

Discussion in 'Finance, Property, Law' started by Trackpen, Jan 16, 2010.

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  1. My son is a student at Exeter University. He and four other OTC cadets have decided to rent a house next year, as there will no place for them in Halls.

    Yesterday, he rang to say they had found a house, through a letting agent, and plan to take up the lease at the start of next academic year.

    However, they EACH have to pay:
    1) a non-refundable GBP 80.00 registration fee now;
    2) a GBP 400.00 damages deposit in April.

    and the agents will, apparently be phoning me as they require parents to act as guarantors.

    It seems they signed some form of agreement yesterday, (probably pushed into signing without time to consider the terms - 'you don't want to miss this opportunity, better sign now', sort of thing). I asked him to scan and send over the agreement they have signed, to be told none of the five was given a copy.

    We have lived out of the UK for the past 15 years, so are out of touch with current legislation, but I am concerned, primarily, about:

    1) them having received no copy of a signed agreement;
    2) having to pay a GBP 400.00 damage deposit in April, when the house is still occupied by others until the end of August. This also gives the company some 2,000.00 for six months on just this property.
    3) requiring parents to act as guarantors. I do not yet know whether this will be jointly or severally, but I suspect the former.

    I have told him they should a) get hold of a copy of the agreement immediately and b) get down to the CAB asap.

    Any advice from this forum would be very gratefully received.
  2. This smells very funny, here in Cardiff every year students get taken for suckers by con artist letting agents, I would check out these people before signing anything, or you might find that in august your kid is skint and homeless
  3. Basically what tropper said, there was an item on the news a while ago about a scam, so I would be very wary. It may be possible to have the £400 bond held by someone impartial. I would meet the landlord and discuss involving a solicitor to make it all legal etc. Either way would check up on it
  4. Sympathetic_Reaction

    Sympathetic_Reaction LE Book Reviewer

    I agree with trooper...letting agents are a con anyway, but student letting agents are worse.

    You are stuck to a degree, you have to live somewhere, but try to cover yourself as much as possible. Few things to consider:

    The University should have a housing department - usually covers the halls of residence and local letting agents. They can check out contracts and have history with the letting agents in the area...use them instead of the CAB.

    Although you may have to pay upfront the contract doesn't start until a set date, on THAT DATE or before if possible get into the property with the agent and inspect the property, take photos of ANY damage (and I mean anything) and get it recorded and signed for by the agent.

    The guarantor status is usually because the renter doesn't have an income. As the lads are all OTC they have an income, if this covers the rental costs then i'd suggest telling the agent that the kids are adults now with jobs and you have nothing to do with them financially. This might not work and you will have to balance the risk of being a guarantor against them not letting your son the property.

    Be tough at the start get EVERYTHING in WRITING and hope they aren't a total con.

  5. Sympathetic_Reaction

    Sympathetic_Reaction LE Book Reviewer

    Oh after reading Taffnp's post I remembered something else

    The bond has to be held by an escrow service...check out the following webpage.

    try and make sure they are getting an Assured Shorthold tenancy...not some dodgey 'student scam agreement rental thing'.

  6. That sounds like a pretty normal student service. They take massive bonds due to the likelihood of students trashing the house and the £80 fee is why they drive Bentleys. Unfortunately they have they market and its their playground. My Bond was £300 and £60 non refundable joining fee.

    Make sure you look over the contract, take photos of EVERYTHING in the house when he does move in, ensure that as the poster above has said, the estate agents do put it in an independant bonds service.

    When they leave too, make sure the house is in good nick as my last landlord charged £5 per lightbulb. W&nker.
  7. Thanks all so far. You are confirming my gut feelings.
    It appears the University accom unit has proved as much use as t**s on a fish, hence the reason for CAB.
    My concerns now are centred on the lads not being turned over - even if the letting agent apparently has a good record, is known, etc.
    When it comes to moving in, I've been through enough "March-ins" "March-outs" to give the letting agents a run for their money and demand that everything should be noted. Ah yes, "Forks, garden" that reminds me to ask them who is responsible for the outside area etc.
  8. But isn't the "joining fee" what we oldies used to call "key money" by another name, and that was made illegal years ago.
  9. Cow

    Cow LE

    I rent and have similar terms to that. The £80 is probably for a credit check, my wife and I both had to pay it before they'd consider leasing the house. We then had to pay a months rent as security into the government holding thingy, to be used when we leave in case of any damages. We had rented through Chamberlains who are pretty big in Birmingham, their website may have some useful info on it although not do do with students, more renting in general.
  10. I spent most of my time at uni fighting landlords. This is pretty normal procedure. They want the deposit early in case your son and his friends decide to find somewhere else or fall out over the summer. It will save them taking you to court.

    New legislation was brought in a few years ago after a mass campaign byNUS to protect deposits. Landlords now have to pay it into a government scheme and if they wish to take any money from it, they have to provide proof of the damage and receipts for the repairs. If they do not pay it into the scheme they get a massive fine, so make sure your son gets a receipt.

    One thing they will have done, however,is to make them sign a joint tenancy instead of a tenancy in common. This means that if one person does not pay their rent or moves out, your son and the rest left in the house will be liable to pay their share. It is hard to find landlords that will allow a tenancy in common (everybody has a separate lease agreement and is only liable for their own rent) the best way for your son and his friends to find these is to look for house that let's rooms and each take a room.

    If you are really worried or they no longer want this house, all is not lost. The contract isn't complete until all parents agree to be guarantors, if you refuse the contract can't complete so they are free of it. Even if they want to pull out, Idoubt the agent will do anything. It is too much hassle to take them to court to enforce the agreement and they won't want to become know to the Students Union for bullying first year students into signing contracts. It happened to me and my friends in our first year, we changed our mind and told the letting agent to take us to court and that we would report him to housing services for pressuring us into a contract there and then. He didn't take it any further.

    From experience I actually found private landlords to be much better and cheaper than letting agents. I'm not sure about Exeter but mySU had a database of landlords and ratings of them provided by previous student tenants.

    I hope this helps. PM me if you need any more advice.