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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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.
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:
If you are caught without a licence, you could be prosecuted in court fined up to £1000.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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’.
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’.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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