How do I go about looking for a house?

There is a lot of housing available in Lancaster so firstly don’t panic and remember you shouldn’t rush your decision to finding housemates.

 

We recommend that you look for homes that meet the  LU Homes accreditation standard - all LUSU Living properties meet the criteria. This is part of an accreditation scheme set up and by the University, and they ensure that all the properties they advertise not only meet a strict minimum standard but also that the landlord/letting agent is trustworthy and student friendly.

 

The Students’ Union also produces a number of helpful guides and toolkits for students looking to find a student accommodation outlining what you need to look out for and the types of questions you should be asking.


Am I required to pay a deposit? If so, how much is it and what is it used for?

 

A deposit is a sum of money you pay to the university/landlord at the start of the contract. The university/ landlord will return the money soon after you move out, but they are entitled to keep some of the money if they incur expenses for which you are responsible, for instance:

  • damage to the property, like broken windows
  • damage to fixtures and fittings such as furniture or carpets
  • the cost of cleaning the property if you have left it in a condition which means the landlord cannot re-let it without cleaning it
  • re-decoration costs, for example, if you have caused damage to the walls
  • the cost of replacing keys which you fail to return to the landlord
  • any rent which you haven’t paidthe cost of removing from the property any rubbish you leave behind.

 

The university/landlord cannot charge you for fair ‘wear and tear’ throughout the tenancy. ‘Wear and tear’ means the normal deterioration of fixtures, fittings and items provided through normal use of them.

 

It is standard practice for institutions and landlords to charge a deposit. It is also fair: institutions and landlords need some financial protection in case they incur costs as a result of the actions of students living in their housing.

 

Never pay a deposit without getting proof of payment for any money you have handed over, especially if you pay in cash.  The deposit is normally equal to one month’s rent but can be more, depending on the type of property.

 

By law, private landlords and suppliers must also protect your deposit money by signing up to a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Education institutions and those in shared rooms are exempt from this requirement.


What is a ‘tenancy deposit’ scheme?

 

The Tenancy Deposit Schemes are designed to make sure money is not unfairly deducted or kept from you at the end of your tenancy. They provide a dispute resolution service, so that if you believe your landlord has acted unfairly in keeping some or all of your deposit when you move out, you can use the service to argue that you should get your money back.

 

There are three schemes that are registered with the government for these purposes:


Your landlord has to tell you which of the three existing schemes they have signed up to. If you have not received this information, you can check directly with the schemes to see if your deposit is protected.


If you feel your deposit has been wrongfully withheld, you should seek advice from a member of the Advice & Support team.


My landlord has asked to see my passport before I sign a tenancy, is this ok?

 

Yes – from the 1st February 2016 all prospective tenants have been required to provide evidence to show that they are legally entitled to live in the UK. All students will be asked to show their passport/residence permit, which the landlord/agent will take a copy of while you are there. You should not leave your documents with a landlord/agent.


I am living in my house but am not really getting along with some of my other housemates. I’m desperate to move out, can I just go?

 

Generally,  most students will be on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, for a fixed term-term [usually 9 – 12 months) and as your tenancy agreement is a legally binding agreement , once you have signed it  you will have a rent liability for that whole period whether you choose to live there or not.  

 

The impact of this on your other housemates will differ depending on whether you signed a joint or individual agreement and one of our student advisors will be able to explain this to you when they see you. Some landlord may allow you to find a replacement tenant to take your place, but again you need to make sure this is done properly so you should come and see us for advice before you move out or stop paying rent.

 

If you are not getting on with your housemates, and would like some help in trying to resolve these issues, then the Advice & Support team offer a mediation service to students. Mediation is a process that helps people to communicate, problem solve and resolve conflicts.


Do I need to pay Council tax?

 

As a full-time student you are exempt from paying council tax for the duration of your course. The University provides details of all full-time students to the local council tax office for the purposes of exemption from council tax.

 

If you study part-time you will not be exempt under the council tax student rules. However, you may be entitled to a Council Tax Benefit, and/or a 25% discount if you live alone.

If you live with non-students but are a full-time student yourself, you do not need to pay council tax however your housemates will likely be liable.

 

If you live with non-students but are a full-time student yourself, you will not be liable for council tax but your housemates are likely to be.

 

If you are uncertain about whether you are liable for council tax please contact one of our student advisors.

 

My landlord is harassing me and has threatened to evict me – what should I do?

 

Harassment and illegal evictions are criminal offences -  you are protected by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If you are suffering harassment, are illegally evicted, or feel at risk, you  need to get advice straightaway.

 

In an emergency, the police also have the power to help if you are being threatened with violence.

 

If you feel you are being harassed then contact on of our Student Advisers and we will be able to assist you. It may be that need to refer you to a specialist, depending on your circumstances.


Our landlord is saying we are liable for repairs to the house – what should we do?

 

Your landlord is responsible for most major repairs.

 

If you are an Assured Shorthold Tenant, then the landlord cannot pass on responsibility to you for the repairs on the exterior, structure or installations of the building.

This includes:

  • Repairs to the structure i.e. roof, windows, walls , floor
  • Repairs to the outside of the building – i.e. guttering and drainpipes
  • Repairs needed on plumbing, toilets, basins etc...
  • Repairs on the installations for the supply of electricity, gas, heating, water etc. 

You will however have to do minor repairs like changing fuses/lightbulbs and unblocking sinks etc.