Private sector house-hunting
Moving into private sector housing? Whether you decide on a shared house or a small flat, find out the key questions that you’ll need to ask
Ready to branch out?
Shared houses and flats are really popular student housing options, particularly if you’ve lived in halls of residence in your first year and want to branch out. Moving into a place with your friends is a really exciting experience, but it can also be a great way to meet new people if you’re moving on your own into a shared property.
There’s loads of private properties suitable for students in Nottingham, so you’ll have plenty of choice. You may have been told that you’ll miss out if you don’t book early – but this simply isn’t true. You should be organised, but there’s no need to rush.
Just so you're prepared, we've put together some need to know information about moving out of halls and moving into private accommodation. Follow this link to get ready!
House Hunting Events for New Students
NTU is working with our partner, Unipol, to run a series of events for new incoming students. These events will provide advice and guidance on house hunting.
Our next virtual event is 11.00 am - 12.30 pm on Thursday 3 September 2020 via Zoom.
We work closely with Unipol, a charity that aims to help students find the best housing for them. They provide student housing in the city as well as help and assistance to students renting in the private sector.
You can view Unipol’s range of properties and read their advice on house hunting on their website.
Landlords who wish to advertise their property should contact Unipol on +44 (0)115 934 5020, fax +44 (0)115 934 5021 or by email for further information.
Finding the right property
There’s a few things you should consider before you start looking for private accommodation.
- Have an idea about the type of accommodation you’re looking for. Do you want a shared house? Or would you prefer a flat? Perhaps dedicated student accommodation is more up your street?
- Decide who you want to live with. If you plan on sharing private accommodation, you and your housemates are all going to be jointly responsible for the bills. So make sure you know who you’re moving in with and be confident that you can trust them. You’ll also need to know how many bedrooms you need – you don’t want to be sleeping on the sofa!
- Think about some of the areas in which you’d like to live. Do some research about the areas around Nottingham. Work out how easy it will be to travel to uni and think about what amenities you’d like to have on your doorstep.
- Work out how much you can afford to spend. Budgeting is vitally important. You need to make sure you’re not overspending. Work out exactly what your monthly outgoings are likely to be. Our student support services may be able to assist you with this.
Once you’re ready to start your search, follow these tips to ensure your house hunting experience is a happy one.
- Use a reputable letting agent. We’d recommend using Unipol.
- See plenty of different properties. This will help you to find a place that you know offers value for money. It will also help you to work out what is most important to you in a property.
- Get your contract checked. Make sure you go over your contract before you sign anything.
Looking for a new place to live is exciting, and it’s tempting to take the first place you see. Ideally you should see a few properties, and you should check each place you see thoroughly to make sure the property you’re committing to living in is right for you.
Here are some things you should consider:
- Is there a burglar alarm?
- Is there adequate outside lighting?
- Are there door and window locks? Are they good quality and in working order?
- If you feel that any areas need addressing you should discuss this with the landlord. Make sure that any changes the landlord has agreed to are written into the contract with the dates clearly specified.
- Do you understand the contract and are you happy with it? It is reasonable and perfectly common practice to ask the landlord for 24 hours to read and check the contract before you sign it. We also recommend that you contact our Student Advice Centre – they will check the contract for you. Do not allow a landlord to rush you into signing a contract.
- How long is the contract for? Make sure it fits your needs.
- Do you know how much the deposit is for? It is normal for a deposit to be equivalent to four-to-six weeks’ rent.
- Work out how much rent you will pay over the whole contract period so you know how much you are committing to paying.
- Try not to pay in cash and always get a receipt.
Fixtures and fittings
- Does the property come with furniture? Is the furniture in good condition? If not, will it be replaced before you move in?
- Does the accommodation need decorating? If so, will this be done before you move in?
If the property has a gas supply, it is a legal requirement that all gas equipment is checked by a Gas Safe Register. Ask the landlord to supply you with a current copy of the gas safety certificate. Properties must have a current gas safety certificate to be advertised on our website.
Heating Costs - In the private sector, rent does not normally cover gas and electricity and never covers telephone bills. For gas and electricity, value-for-money heating and hot water can make a big difference to your bills.
Water Charges - Some owners include water charges within the rent; others exclude them. These then become the responsibility of the tenants. The message is: if it's not clear from the agreement, ask.
If you take out contents insurance for your room, look for Personal Possessions cover, which is designed to insure things you take out and about with you. Remember to specify any additional items that you might need covering, such as a bicycle, and add accidental cover if you want to protect your contents against unexpected mishaps at home. Also, be mindful that phones and laptops taken outside of a locked room or house aren’t usually covered.
For further information on student contents insurance please visit the Endsleigh website.
Students may or may not be liable for Council Tax, depending on their status. If in doubt, you should seek advice from your local Council Tax office or your Students' Union Welfare Office.
You'll come across all sorts of jargon when searching for a new place to live. This can be confusing even if you’ve been through the process before, so always ask if you’re unsure what something means. And never sign something if you’re confused about what it means.
This guide will help you to understand some of the common terms used by letting agents and landlords.
- A sum of money, normally equal to four-to-six weeks rent, paid to the landlord, owner or agent of a property before you move in to cover any damage that may have been caused during your tenancy, or for any cleaning services required once you vacate the property.
- A deposit should not be used to cover normal wear and tear, and should be returned to you within four weeks of the end of the tenancy, with specific reasons given for any deductions.
Tenancy deposit scheme
Your landlord must put your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme for the duration of your tenancy. Your landlord must say which scheme your money is deposited in within 14 days of you handing the money to them. Always ask for a receipt from the landlord.
- This is non-returnable money purely to hold the accommodation until the time when your contract begins. For example, if you booked a room for the start of the academic year before the summer, you may be asked to pay a retainer to hold the room over the summer.
- A retainer does not give you the right to live in the property during this period.
The contract should include the full contact details of the landlord/agent. If you are renting via an agency, make sure you also have the landlord's full contact details. You are legally entitled to this information. If you have just a name and telephone number, it could be very difficult to pursue the landlord/agent should a dispute arise. The contract should also make clear what rent payments are due and when. In addition to this, it should be clear who is responsible for the bills, e.g. water rates.
Before you sign a contract, check that the advertised rent is what is stated on the contract. Errors do occur and if you sign the contract, it may be difficult to argue later. Once a contract has been signed the terms and conditions cannot be altered unless both parties agree.
Joint contracts (joint liability)
- If you and your housemates sign just one tenancy agreement between you, you are likely to be joint tenants. This means you are all liable for all the rent, bills and deposits.
- For example, if one tenant can’t or won’t pay their share of the rent, one or all of the others will be legally liable to pay. And if one person damages something in the property, the others may lose some of their deposits to cover the costs.
Individual contracts (individual liability)
- If you and all the other tenants sign individual contracts with the landlord, you are likely to be individual tenants. This means you are only liable for rent on your room and cannot be charged if any of your housemates don't pay the rent or leave before the end of the contract.
- You will be liable for any damage to your room and communal damage if the person responsible does not accept responsibility.
- Signing a contract for a fixed period means that you must adhere to the terms and conditions and pay rent for entire duration of the agreement. You are required to pay rent even when you are not staying in the property, for example during the Christmas or Easter breaks. Some landlords make special arrangements to reduce rent over the summer, but they are not legally obliged to. Make sure any arrangement is confirmed in writing.
- If you choose to move out during the tenancy period, you will probably still be liable for rent.
- Occasionally, the contract contains a break clause that enables you to hand in your notice before the tenancy has ended. However, this is rare.
- If you wish to move out, and your tenancy does not contain a break clause, then you will probably have to try and negotiate a new agreement with your landlord. Often the landlord will allow you to leave, if you can find someone to replace you.
- If an agreement is not reached, and you decide to move out anyway, then the landlord may take court action to retrieve the unpaid rent for the remainder of the tenancy.