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Students warned to choose their landlord and potential flatmates carefully

Students have been advised to thoroughly check the credentials of prospective landlords – and make sure they get along with housemates – before signing a lease.

Image: John Giles/PA Wire/Press Association Images

STUDENTS GEARING UP for college life have been warned by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to exercise caution when choosing prospective flatmates and landlords.

The PRTB advised students – particularly those renting for the first time – to take the time to establish a potential landlord is an experienced professional, and to ensure they share some common ground with their new flatmates.

While recognising the excitement felt by young people experiencing new-found independence, the PRTB also reminded students that renting a property is “a business arrangement which must be taken very seriously”.

The Board warned that:

  • In certain circumstances each individual tenant may be held jointly responsible for unpaid rent or damage to property caused by other tenants
  • Tenants are legally obliged to pay their rent and if they (or their flatmates) fall into arrears and do not repay them, they could end up facing prosecution

It also underlined the importance of prospective renters signing a lease that suits their needs; students, in particular, are asked to consider whether a twelve month lease is something they can truthfully undertake if they only need the property for the academic year – as breaking a lease may incur penalties.

Deposits

The single biggest area of dispute referred to the PRTB each year relates to deposits, and students have been strongly advised to know their rights on this matter.

The PRTB says there are only three circumstances in which a security deposit may be retained:

  • If rent is owed at the point of moving out
  • If damage beyond normal wear and tear has been done to the property
  • If utility bills are outstanding

Students are encouraged to prepare a detailed inventory of all the contents of the rented property and the condition of each item before they move in. If photographs are taken of items or areas which look damaged or stained, they can be extremely helpful in the case of a later dispute.

However, the PRTB also had a more positive message for students – pointing out that rents have been decreasing over the last number of years and that students could now expect a higher standard of accommodation.

New standards set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 and Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 specify requirements in relation to a range of matters such as structural repair, absence of damp, separate bathroom facilities, heating, ventilation, light and safety of gas and electrical supply. A kitchen, for example, must include at least a four ring hob with grill and oven, a fridge and freezer, microwave and washing machine.

Landlords are legally obliged to register the tenancy with the Board, and the PRTB maintains a public register on its website.

However, college-owned accommodation does not come within the PRTB remit.

Read: Rental accommodation options for students fall again this summer>

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