Housing

New Tab

We set up a facebook group to allow you to advertise vacancies and find people to share accommodation with. Please read the guidelines we’ve pinned to the top of the group before posting.

Official accommodation group
Starting your search
Key Point
Don’t be rushed into signing up

Despite what you may be told, there are more than enough houses to go around. Because of this, agents are keen to sign tenants up early so they don’t have un-let properties. That’s their problem, not yours, so take your time when searching for a house.

Get to know your housemates

You are going to be living with these people for the best part of a year and mis-matching of housemates can cause misery. Have a frank discussion. Who likes to have the heating on at 28 degrees and who would rather put a jumper on? Who thinks that you do the washing up after dinner and who thinks you do the washing up only after every piece of crockery in the house has been used? Does anyone smoke, like to play loud music late at night, languish in the bath for an hour etc?

Talk to your guarantors

Agents will usually ask each tenant to provide a UK-based guarantor. This will usually be a parent. The guarantor undertakes to pay the rent should you (or your housemates) fail to pay. If you are unable to provide a guarantor you may be asked to pay several months’ rent in advance.

Key Point
Decide on a budget

Be realistic and work out what you all can afford before you start your search. Add up all the money you expect to have over the year and divide by 12 to convert it to a monthly figure. Most private rentals are for fixed periods of 12 months so you will be liable for rent for a whole year. In addition to rent you will probably have to pay for gas, electricity, water, phone, internet access and a TV licence. You also need to budget for food, toiletries and household items. Work out how much you are likely to need and then look for something that is within your means.

Decide the type of property you’re looking for.

How many bedrooms do you need? How many bathrooms? Do you want a communal living room? Do you need parking spaces, room to store bikes, a garden?

You are probably not going to find a house that ticks every box but it would be worth deciding as a group what your priorities are.

Consider the area of Oxford you’d like to live in

You may not find the perfect location, but it's worth thinking about where you want to be. Do you want to be close to the university, to shops and pubs, in a student area? Is there an easily accessible bus route? You can find bus routes by searching the Oxford City Council website www.oxford.gov.uk

Research Agents you're looking at

Houses are usually rented through letting agents, and it is a good idea to use one that has signed up to the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) nalscheme.co.uk. Members of NALS must have a complaints procedure that you can use in the event of a problem. It is also worth checking to find out whether an agent is a member of Oxford City Council’s Landlord Accreditation Scheme. The Scheme will not guarantee a trouble-free let but agents do have to sign up to a minimum set of standards, and if you find they fall short you can report issues to the Council. To find out more about the scheme search for ‘Landlord Accreditation Scheme’ on the Oxford City Council website www.oxford.gov.uk

You may also find helpful reviews of agents by looking online.

Viewing properties
Check as many properties as you can

Spend some time, look at as many properties as you can and write notes so you can compare their pros and cons.

Key Point
Be thorough

Be thorough and look in every room. Decide whether the bedrooms are big enough for everyone and whether there is enough storage space. Check for signs of damp or mould by looking carefully at the walls and in cupboards and behind doors. Check all the taps, showers, toilets and kitchen appliances to make sure they are working. Look at the locks on the front and back doors, check whether the windows have locks and that the house has good security. If there is a garden consider how you will maintain it. If you can, ask current tenants how much the utility bills are.

Check who manages the property and whether it has a HMO licence.

Find out from the agent who manages the property; is it the landlord or the agent? Ask whether the property has a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence. Housing of Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licence – If you live in a property where there are a total of 3 or more individual occupants Oxford City Council requires the Landlord to have an HMO licence for the property you live in. This is done for a number of reasons but most importantly to protect your health and safety whilst you are living in the property. You can check whether a house has an HMO licence by going to oxford.gov.uk and searching ‘HMO licence’.

If there are problems and the agent agrees to fix them, get it in writing.

If you identify any problems such as a broken shower or a non-working fridge, don’t rely on verbal assurances that all will be fixed before you move in. Ask the agent to put it in writing. If it isn’t in writing you won’t be able to prove it was ever agreed.

Choosing a House
Reserving the property

Once you have found a property you want you will be asked to pay a fee to take it off the market, usually referred to as holding deposit. Do not pay any money to reserve a property until you are sure you want to go ahead with the rental as you won’t get it back if you change your mind. Ask for a copy of the tenancy agreement and go over it before you reserve a property. If you have any concerns or queries contact Brookes Union Advice Service. We will be happy to go over your contract with you.

Signing the contract

Once the checks are completed and the contact is drawn up you will be asked to sign it. Signing a joint tenancy is a serious undertaking. As joint tenants you are each legally responsible for ensuring that all of the rent and not just your share is paid. You will also be jointly liable for other costs which may arise from the tenancy such as damage caused by you or your housemates. At this stage you should decide who the “Lead Tenant” will be. The lead tenant is usually the person named first on the list of tenants. The landlord or agent will provide details about the security deposit and will return it to the lead tenant so it is important that you agree who this person will be.

Security Deposit

You will be asked to pay a security deposit, typically one month to 6 weeks rent. Your landlord is required by law to register this deposit, within 30 days of payment, in a Government approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. In addition your landlord must provide you with information about which company it has been registered with. If your landlord fails to do this you may take legal action. Security deposits should be refunded in full as long as you have paid your rent and not damaged the property. You can find out more about security deposits by going to england.shelter.org.uk and searching ‘tenancy deposit scheme’.

Other fees and charges

In addition to a holding deposit you will be asked to pay various non-refundable fees and charges which may include fees for drawing up the contract, checking references and preparing an inventory and check out report. Agents are obliged to provide clear information about their charges before you sign up. If you think the charges are not clear or are unreasonably high contact Brookes Union Advice Service for advice.

Other housing options
Halls

Renting a room in University halls is an option for all students not just first year students. You have an individual contract so you are only responsible for your rent. For information on halls accommodation contact Brookes Accommodation Bureau (brookes.ac.uk/accommodation) f you have not already done so. They will be able to tell you whether they have any halls accommodation available.

Be aware that Brookes have a mixture of university owned and private halls. The contractual terms are different for each so make sure you understand the terms of your agreement.

You could also try their Facebook accommodation community page: facebook.com/brookesaccommodation

Brookes lettings

Brookes Lettings houses are private properties in Oxford close to Headington and Wheatley campuses that are let and managed by the University. Again, you have an individual contract for a room in a shared house so you are only responsible for the rent on your room not the house. Let periods are for between 46 and 50 weeks. As with hall accommodation you can only end the let early if you can find another Brookes student who is not currently in Brookes accommodation to take your place. You will not pay a deposit but will need to pay a £230 booking fee which will be credited towards the rent. For more details of shared house availability contact the Accommodation Bureau by email on accomm@brookes.ac.uk, or telephone 01865 484660.

Renting a room in a private house

This can be either in a family home or in a house that is occupied by tenants renting separate rooms in a single house. Rights and responsibilities vary depending on whether the landlord is resident.BUAS can give you further information on your individual situation. Brookes Accommodation Bureau http://www.brookes.ac.uk/studying-at-brookes/accommodation/ will give you a copy of their latest lodging list which has information on resident landlords with rooms available to rent.

The websites below list accommodation:

www.dailyinfo.co.uk

www.easyroommate.oco.uk

www.spareroom.co.uk

www.rightmove.co.uk

www.zoopla.co.uk

You can also join the Brookes Union Facebook Housing Group where students who have spare rooms to let or are looking for accommodation or housemates can post messages.

Moving In

This guide is designed to cover all that things you need to know when you first move into a property and to help you deal with problems during your stay. We hope that it will help you to have a trouble free tenancy and to get your deposit back at the end of it. If you would like further advice on any aspect of renting please contact Brookes Union Advice Service (BUAS). See the end of this guide for details of our service.

Getting ready to move in
The inventory or check-out report

This is a document which lists the condition of the property, and its contents, room by room.

An accurate inventory is a vital document in the event of a dispute over the return of your deposit.

Before you move your belongings in, go through the inventory provided or produce your own if one has not been provided. For an example inventory go to england.shelter.org.uk and search ‘making an inventory’.

The inventory must be detailed and it must be signed by all parties (including the letting agent or landlord if possible) showing that you agree on the contents and condition of the property and its contents. Take as many photos as possible, not forgetting front and back gardens where relevant, to show the condition of the property and particularly where there is any sign of wear and tear or damage.

Do not sign it unless it is accurate. If there are details missing or details you do not agree with, you can annotate and add to it as appropriate before you sign it. If your landlord or letting agent tells you that an inventory is not needed ask for confirmation of this in writing and keep a copy of your request and any reply. You may need it as evidence in the event of a dispute.

Be sure to return the inventory by the deadline specified.

Utilities

Make sure you know where the stopcock, fusebox and gas, water and electricity meters. Once you move in contact the relevant utility suppliers to report the readings on the meters. If you do not you may find that you are ask to pay for utilities the previous occupant used. If you do not know who the suppliers are you should ask the agent or landlord. If they don’t know contact BUAS for advice.

Council Tax

If you are a full time student you are entitled to exemption from paying Council Tax, but to get the exemption the Local Authority must be informed of your student status.

If you live in postcode areas beginning OX1,2,3or 4 the University will inform the Council directly of your student status but only if you update your address details on PIP correctly and at the beginning of semester one. If you rely on the University to do this you must ensure that your details are entered correctly. If you make a mistake with the postcode or put it in the wrong place you may find that you get a council tax demand.

Students who live outside these postcode boundaries or those who want to give their information to the council themselves can pick up a council tax exemption certificate from the Student Central counter or request one by post by emailing studentcentral@brookes.ac.uk

If you are a part time student you are liable to pay Council Tax. If you are the only non full time student in a joint tenancy you will be eligible for a 25% single occupant discount but you will be liable for 75% of the Council Tax for the whole property.

TV Licence

You must have a TV licence if you are watching or recording ‘live’ TV on any device. For more information and to get a licence visit:

www.tvlicensing.co.uk/students

If you are caught without a licence, you could be prosecuted in court fined up to £1000.

Contents Insurance

Your landlord will have insurance for the property and any fixtures and fittings that go with the house but you need to think about whether you want to insure your property. It is really worth considering this. Add up the cost of replacing your property should it be stolen or damaged by flood, fire etc. to help you to decide whether it is worth getting insurance.

Housing Folder

It is a good idea to have a folder that everyone has access to and that contains a copy of the inventory, tenancy agreement, deposit registration certificate, bills, gas safety certificate and any other relevant information such as copies of letters of agreement and reporting repairs.

Bins and Recycling

Find out where your bins are kept, when the next collection is and which bins are collected when. Ask your neighbours or visit the Oxford City Council Household Recycling and Waste pages on their website www.oxford.gov.uk or ring them on 01865 249811.

Security Deposit

If you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, your deposit must, by law, be placed in a government-backed tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days of payment.

Once your money is in a deposit scheme your landlord cannot make any deductions without your agreement, or if there is a dispute, without the agreement of the relevant dispute resolution officer.

The landlord has to provide details of the deposit scheme that your deposit has been protected in.If your landlord does not provide this information you should write to request it. If you are not provided with the information after asking for it you can contact BUAS for help.

This information is usually provided to the lead tenant so be sure that you know who this is. The lead tenant is usually the first person named on the tenancy agreement.

You should contact the scheme to check it has been protected. If your deposit has not been protected contact the Advice Centre. Information about Tenancy Deposits and a lot of other information is available from Shelter: Go to: england.shelter.org.uk and search ‘tenancy deposits’.

During your tenancy
Reporting Problems

If you experience problems such as faulty appliances, showers not working, lack of heating and damp you should report them to the agent or landlord as soon as possible. You should report problems with the property in writing, email is fine; do not rely on text messages alone. If you report a problem verbally, follow it up with an email. Keep a copy so that you can provide evidence of when you reported the problem. This may help you in the event that you have to pursue the matter should the landlord fail to remedy the problem.

Disrepair

If your landlord refuses to deal with serious problems and you feel your health or safety is being affected you should consider reporting the matter to the local council, either to the environmental health team or the HMO team. Contact details are listed at the end of this guide. If they think the situation warrants it, they can come out and inspect a property and provide an independent report on the condition of the property.You can find further information on what constitutes disrepair and health hazards by visiting england.shelter.org.uk and searching ‘ repairs bad conditions’.

House of multiple occupation (HMO)

In Oxford, if your rented accommodation consists of more than 3 people who are unrelated, and who form 2 or more households, the landlord has to have an HMO licence. This means that the landlord has extra legal responsibilities. The extra rules are there to reduce the risk of fire, and to help ensure that people living in the shared accommodation have decent facilities. You can check whether a house has an HMO licence by visiting oxford.gov.uk and searching ‘HMO register’ or by calling the HMO licensing team on 01865 252565 Find out more by visiting: www.england.shelter.org.uk and searching for ‘HMO’.

Neighbours

It can be a good idea to develop and maintain good relationships with your neighbours, eg you might take in each other’s deliveries, or keep an eye on each other’s property when away. Remember that they probably have a different lifestyle, and keep different waking hours, so be considerate especially when staying up late, or coming home late.

If you feel harassed or threatened by neighbours, seek advice from us or the police.

Disputes with your housemates

Whilst living with friends can be fun, occasionally disputes do occur and can sometimes escalate to the point where relations break down. If this happens try the following:

  • try not to retaliate with similar behaviour as this will just make matters worse
  • sit down all together & discuss what has happened. Make sure everyone gets their chance to speak and that everyone listens to each other
  • try to agree a course of action to deal with the issue. This may involve drawing up a cleaning rota for example.

Harrassment and illegal eviction

If your landlord or the letting agent display behaviour towards you that makes you feel uncomfortable about staying in the house and/or they try to remove you from the property, this could be classed as harassment or an illegal eviction. The law protects tenants from both of these.

If you believe that this may be happening to you, seek immediate advice from the BUAS. If at any point you fear for your personal safety, or are being evicted illegally, ring the police on 101.

Security

Make sure windows and doors are locked at all times when the property is empty. If you trust your neighbours, let them know if you are going away so they can keep an eye out for you. Most tenancy agreements state that you must let the Landlord know if the property will be empty for a period of time - check your contact as periods can vary.

Ending the tenancy early

Seek advice from us before committing to leaving.

Unless your contract allows you to give notice to end the tenancy early, with your landlord’s agreement, you will have to find a replacement tenant who is acceptable to the landlord. You will be responsible for the rent and bills until a replacement is found or the contract ends naturally.

There will probably be a fee to pay to get out of the contract.

Another way a tenancy is ended early is if there is severe disrepair and the council deems the property uninhabitable. However, this can be a long process. You should seek advice if you think this might apply to you.

Complaining about your letting agent

If you are not happy with the way your agent has dealt with you you may make a complaint. All agents should have a complaints policy. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint you can take your complaint to the relevant ombudsman. Whichever agent you chose they must all have signed up to a government approved redress scheme which you can appeal to should a complaint be unresolved. They are:

Your agent should tell you which one they are registered with. If you find that an agent is not signed up to one of these schemes you should report it to the council on 01865 252565

Useful Contacts
  • Oxford City Council: oxford.gov.uk
  • Council Tax : 01865 249811
  • Tenancy Relations Officer: 01865 252267
  • HMO Licensing Team: 01865 252307
  • Environmental Health: 01865 249811
  • TV Licensing: 0300 790 6144

Student Union Advice

Find us in the John Henry Brookes building, Headington Campus.

Drop in service opening hours:

During semester:

Monday - Thursday 9:30-5pm

Friday 12:30 - 4pm


Out of semester:

Monday - Thursday 9:30 - 4pm

Friday 12:30 - 4pm


Appointments available on request.


su.advice@brookes.ac.uk

01865 484770

brookesunion.org.uk/advice

Moving Out

This guide is designed to help you to think about the things you need to do when preparing to move out and to help you get your deposit back once you have moved out.

As long as there is no outstanding rent and you haven’t damaged the property or its contents and you leave it in a clean and tidy state you should expect to receive all of the deposit back. If you have caused any damage you can expect the landlord to want to make deductions but these must be fair.

Your landlord or agent cannot make deductions without your permission. If you disagree with what they want to deduct you can start a dispute with the relevant tenancy deposit scheme, your landlord should have provided you with the details of the scheme which they registered the deposit with within 30 days of you paying it to them.

If you do not know which scheme your deposit is protected by, then find out by visiting england.shelter.org.uk and searching ‘tenancy deposit schemes’.

If you find that your deposit has not been placed in a scheme contact Brookes Union Advice Sevice for help.

Cleaning the house
Make a plan

Everyone in the house should be involved. The whole house needs to be cleaned, each room and all the communal areas.

If you start this process a few weeks before your tenancy agreement ends, it shouldn’t take too long on the day.

Cleaning Checklist
  • Clean the windows inside & out or hire a window cleaner.
  • Clean the oven inside and out. Use oven cleaner product to get off the stubborn dirt.
  • Pull out & clean behind the oven, fridge, washing machine etc.
  • Clean inside, outside and on top of kitchen cupboards.
  • Clean tiles & walls in the kitchen as they are probably greasy.
  • Get all the stains off & remove limescale from the kitchen sink, toilets, shower & bath.
  • Remove mould from bathroom, shower curtains etc.
  • Clean skirting boards, doors, frames & light switches.
  • Wash curtains & net curtains or have them dry cleaned if you cannot put them in the machine.
  • Hire a carpet cleaner and do the whole house.
  • Tidy the garden and get rid of garden waste - this should be put out for collection with your regular recycling.
  • REMOVE ALL RUBBISH FROM THE HOUSE. You could be charged for removing this or other left items.

 

Inventory Check
Find the inventory from the start of your tenancy

When you moved in, you should have completed an inventory. You should have retained a copy and returned a copy to the landlord or agent so they should have a copy too.You should also have taken photographs of the house when you moved in to support your version of the inventory.

Check everything

Go around the house with the inventory and your photos to check that everything is as it was when you moved in. Of course daily use of carpets and furniture will cause a gradual deterioration in the state of these things but that is “fair wear and tear” and you should not be penalised for it. If you have caused damage such as spilt wine on a carpet or cased a burn mark then you will have to pay for it.

Take photos

Take photos to show that the house is in a similar condition to the way you found it. You will need these if there is a dispute because of course, you will not be able to gain access to the property once you have moved out. Don’t forget the garden if you have one.

Call the agent

Once you are happy that the house is in good order, call the agent and arrange for them to come & do an inventory check out. At least one housemate should be there when they do this.

Moving out
Meter readings

Read all the meters, then contact the utility supliers with the final readings, give them a forwarding address for the final bill.

Move your belongings

Remove all of your items from the house - including any rubbish.

Return your keys

Return ALL the keys to the agents - they will charge you if you don’t.

Get contact details for the lead tenant

Get contact details of the lead tenant and if you are the lead tenant share your contact details with the rest of your housemates. The deposit is normally returned to the lead tenant and they will distribute it among the housemates.

Getting your deposit back
Ten working days

Once your tenancy has ended you should expect your deposit to be repaid in full within 10 working days. This may go to the Lead Tenant or you may each get your share, depending on the agreement. If you have not received your deposit after 10 working days you should make a request in writing to your agent or landlord.

Deductions

If the landlord or agent wants to make deductions and you do not agree, you will need to:

1) Write to them & explain why you do not accept their deductions

2) Ask for evidence that the work was necessary or for evidence of damage

The only option after this would be court - this incurs costs.

Raise a dispute

You should always try to resolve the issue with the landlord/agent before beginning a dispute, but don’t get into lengthy discussions with the letting agent or landlord as you have a limited time within which to raise your dispute.

Commonly there is a time limit of 3 months less 1 day from the last day of the assured shorthold tenancy in which to raise a dispute with the relevant deposit scheme.

We have a lot of experience in helping students get their deposits back. Please contact us as soon as you can rather than wait and let things drag on and lose the chance of getting your money back!

Useful Contacts

Oxford City Council: oxford.gov.uk

Council Tax : 01865 249811

Tenancy Relations Officer: 01865 252267

HMO Licensing Team: 01865 252307

Environmental Health: 01865 249811

TV Licensing: 0300 790 6144

Student Union Advice

Find us in the John Henry Brookes building, Headington Campus.

Drop in service opening hours:

During semester:

Monday - Thursday 9:30-5pm

Friday 12:30 - 4pm


Out of semester:

Monday - Thursday 9:30 - 4pm

Friday 12:30 - 4pm


Appointments available on request.


su.advice@brookes.ac.uk

01865 484770

brookesunion.org.uk/advice

Powered by