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Private accommodation

If you don’t fancy staying in halls for the duration of your studies, renting in the private sector is a popular option for many students.

If you choose to share with friends in the private rented sector, this information could help you. 

Don't rent yet!

Students living in Southampton are in a unique position. As well as being a busy, vibrant and green city, Southampton has a wide range of student housing options.

If you're in your second or third year of study you will have the opportunity to stay in official University residences, or alternatively you may prefer to rent in the private sector.

The University advises you not to start looking for accommodation until February. SASSH.co.uk is the official University housing accreditation scheme for private housing and will be releasing its list of properties from February. We will also be holding a housing fare in the Spark during this time, for all your house hunting needs.

Until then our advice is clear, don't rent yet.

The SASSH scheme is a scheme that private landlords can register to be a part of. The scheme was established to promote responsible renting of student housing and is run in partnership with Southampton City Council and the University of Southampton.

Why wait? It’s your right!

  • Once you have signed you can’t change your mind - you need time to understand the small print and to get it checked. The accommodation office offers a free contract checking service.
  • Once you sign a contract it is legally binding and you will be liable for all of the rent until the end of the contract. If you sign a joint contract you will also be liable for your housemates’ rent - even if they leave university.
  • A landlord or agent who tries to pressurise you into signing a contract should raise alarm bells. A good landlord understands that renting a property is a big decision, so you need to choose carefully.
  • Anyone that tells you all the best student accommodation goes quickly is not being honest. There is more student accommodation than students in Southampton.
  • The truth is, good landlords don’t need to pressurise students into taking their accommodation - it sells itself. 

Right to rent

The Immigration Act 2014 introduced the concept of the 'right to rent' to the private rented housing sector, where landlords must check their tenants’ immigration status and show that they are legally allowed to reside in the UK. 

From 1 February 2016, all landlords must carry out right to rent checks on all tenants and retain copies of certain documents evidencing their immigration status. Landlords and agencies are required by law to carry out these checks. For further details of landlords legal obligations please view the www.gov.uk website.

For most students, you will need to show your passport and provide a photocopy for your landlord to keep.  If you don’t have a passport, please see the full list of accepted documentsUnder no circumstances should you allow the landlord or letting the agent retain an original copy.  

Right to rent checks will happen when you start a new tenancy or if there is a break in your current contract. If you sublet your room it will be your responsibility to do the right to rent checks. Should you be renewing a tenancy with no changes to any tenants or the agreement, there will be no need for the landlord or agent to carry out these checks again as this would be a continuation of the occupation. 

As a final reminder, please do not part with any original identification and ensure you have sufficient copies to provide on viewings. 

If you are concerned about how these legal changes will affect your accommodation search, please contact the housing adviser at private.housing@solent.ac.uk

Where to start looking

The University has a website - www.sassh.co.uk - where you can search for accredited private rented accommodation. Properties are registered by private landlords and provide the opportunity to be part of the accreditation scheme which is a voluntary scheme to promote responsible renting of student housing.

You can access the SASSH standards and look at what landlords must adhere to in order to register with the scheme.

The website allows you to search the accredited property list on a wide range of housing options, as well as view maps, and leave messages about looking for accommodation, spare rooms or potential housemates.

There is a lot to think about when you are looking at accommodation - here we have provided a summary of important things to consider.

If you have any queries relating to private sector accommodation, please contact the private sector housing adviser on 023 8201 5040 or email private.housing@solent.ac.uk.

Contracts

Most landlords and agencies use assured shorthold fixed-term tenancy agreements and will usually run for a 12 month period.

Many will require full rent during the summer period. Some may only ask for half-rent so it is worth checking this when you sign your agreement.

  • Always read the contract before signing.
  • Be sure what period you are signing for – if you sign a 12-month contract you are liable for rent for that period and a landlord can pursue you for any unpaid rent if you leave before the end of the fixed term.
  • Do not sign anything you don't understand - seek advice.
  • Don't be pressured into signing - there will always be another house.
  • When you do sign, make sure you get a copy.
  • Remember - you will have to pay for gas/electric/phone bills - ask about water rates.
  • Don't forget the TV Licence.

Council tax

As a student, you're automatically exempt from council tax and if you live in student residences then you don't need to do anything to claim this exemption.

Private accommodation

If you live in private accommodation then you'll need to get an exemption form to show to your landlord. Full-time students are only exempt from paying council tax if they prove their exemption. You can get an exemption certificate from the Student Hub.

If everyone in the house is a full-time student, the house will not be liable. If one person is not exempt, the house is liable (although a discount applies). If more than one person is not exempt, the house is liable for the full amount.

If you are in a joint-tenancy and the property is liable for council tax, all occupiers of the house may be pursued for the money, and don't forget - the bigger the property, the larger the bill will be.

If you have any problems regarding your council tax, visit the Student Hub or email: student.hub@solent.ac.uk

Deposits

A deposit is normally paid to the landlord or agency before you move into the property. Although there is no legal limit on the amount of a deposit, the most common amount is one or two months’ rent.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)

A Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme (TDPS) was introduced in April 2007 along with subsequent regulations which significantly improves tenants’ rights and ensures that their deposits are not unfairly withheld.

Student tenants, like any other tenant, should: 

  • Before agreeing to pay a deposit, ask the landlord to confirm in writing exactly what is covered by the deposit and when the money will be returned
  • Always ask for a receipt for any deposit paid and the landlord should tell them which Tenancy Deposit Scheme their deposit has been paid into. There are three government-approved schemes – MyDeposits, Deposit Protection Service (DPS) and Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)
  • Try to ensure that the landlord provides you with an inventory (a list of the contents and conditions of the property) before moving in. This should be checked carefully to make sure it is accurate and that everything is in working order. Then, if possible, it should be jointly agreed by signing the inventory with the landlord
  • If you don’t get an inventory, write one up between the tenants and get it witnessed by an independent person, such as a friend. Ask the witness to sign and date the inventory as a true record of the condition of the property. It may even be helpful to take photographs to record the condition of the property. Then send a copy to the landlord/agent
  • Make a careful note of the state of decoration in the property, and the condition of any furniture and appliances supplied. If anything is worn, broken, or damaged report this in writing to the landlord and keep a copy
  • A landlord cannot withhold all, or even part, of a deposit because of general ‘wear and tear’. Landlords are expected to redecorate and replace (as appropriate) carpets and furnishings every few years – perhaps even more frequently if there is a high turnover of tenants. A tenant should only be liable for damage which creates extra costs
  • A landlord can hold a deposit for unpaid rent/bills and any cleaning above and beyond wear and tear. Any money withheld needs to be agreed jointly and if you can’t agree mutually, you or the landlord can utilise the dispute resolution service for that deposit scheme

The scheme only applies to assured shorthold tenancies and not, for example, to assured tenancies or licenses.

Viewing properties

Always view a property before signing the contract.

Once you have a shortlist of properties you want to view, draw up a list of the things you want to know before you go (or use the checklist in the guide to private sector housing).

Key things to ask about are:

  • How far is it from the University?
  • What are transport links like?
  • What is the rent/deposit?
  • Length of tenancy?
  • Is it furnished?
  • Is it in good repair – who do I report problems to?
  • If there are problems will they be sorted before I move in?
  • Does the kitchen have enough storage? Is there a fridge/cooker/washing machine?
  • Are there enough bathroom(s)/shower(s)/WC(s)?
  • What heating does it have?

Find out about the SASSH standards and entry-level for each star rating that is expected of landlords by reading SASSH - landlord information. (The standards will only apply to properties found through SASSH and not to properties found independently or through an agency).

If you have any queries or need more information please contact accommodation@solent.ac.uk.

Students who live in private residences in a residents parking zone during their academic year must apply for a residents' parking permit if they want to park their cars.

SASSH accreditation

The SASSH scheme is a scheme that private landlords can register to be a part of. The scheme was established to promote responsible renting of student housing and is run in partnership with Southampton City Council and the University of Southampton.

Housing Health and Safety System (HHSRS)

The Housing Health and Safety System (HHSRS) is the risk assessment procedure for residential properties. It replaced the Housing Fitness regime on 6 April 2006 in England. It is the mechanism that the local authority uses to assess properties to identify and protect against potential risks and hazards to health and safety from any deficiencies identified in dwellings.

Local authorities have discretion over the action they take, but they are more likely to prioritise cases where there is some evidence of serious hazards.

Carbon monoxide - Are you at risk?

  • Are you having headaches, having difficulty thinking clearly or feeling tired or sick?
  • Have you had your heating and cooking appliances checked recently?

Find out more about the risks of exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) and how to avoid it. It could save your life!

LACORS fire safety

This guidance was developed by LACORS to adopt a risk based approach to fire safety and satisfies both the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The purpose and relevance to you is that the guidance was developed to assist landlords on how to carry out a fire risk assessment and improvements to ensure the safety of residents.

The aims of the fire risk assessment are:

  • To identify the fire hazards;
  • To reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable; and
  • To decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start.

If you have concerns about the fire standards within your rented property please contact Hampshire Fire and Rescue on 023 8064 4000.

If you are concerned that a property does not meet the SASSH standards as advertised, please contact the private sector housing advisor on 023 8201 5040 or email accommodation@solent.ac.uk or alternatively call Southampton City Council Environmental Health on 023 8083 3006.