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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Problems with rented student accommodation

Common student housing concerns include house repairs, unpaid bills or rent, and getting deposits back. Whatever your problems, remember there’s help and advice available.

Getting housing problems sorted

Housing law and tenancy issues can be complex, so try not to make assumptions about the law.

If you run into difficulties or financial hardship, always seek help first from the housing office at your university or college.

You can also get expert advice from independent sources such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter.

  • Shelter free housing advice line: 0808 800 4444

Finding financial help

If you need funds to stay in your accommodation, the housing office can also help you put in a request for money from your institution’s Access to Learning Fund, or research other sources of help.

Repairs, health and safety

Your landlord will usually be responsible for anything that requires repair, such as the structure of the property, its heating, hot water and sanitary installations.

Report any defects or damage to your landlord as soon as possible.

If you get stuck with the bills or rent

If you share a property with friends you’ll probably sign a ‘joint tenancy agreement’, making you jointly liable for any breaches of the contract, including damage to the property or rent arrears.

So if one of your flatmates unexpectedly moves out, you may find yourself left to pay more than your usual share of the bills or rent.

Although this can be frustrating, keep calm. Speak to your landlord, and if possible the absent flatmate, to discuss any outstanding amounts owed.

Before you replace your flatmate, speak to your landlord about the terms of your tenancy. If they are unwilling to allow a replacement, you may be able to seek redress for unfair contractual terms.

To find out more see the articles, ‘Private rent and tenancies’ and ‘Rent arrears’.

Getting your deposit back

Your landlord can use your deposit to pay for any losses or damage while you’re living in their property, but not for fair wear and tear.

If you feel your landlord is unfairly withholding your deposit at the end of your tenancy, contact them by letter and request the deposit back.

Say that you require written reasons for the full deposit not being returned. Keep all copies of your correspondence, as you’ll need them if you decide to go to court.

If you don’t receive a response, or you are unable to resolve the dispute between yourselves, speak to your student housing office or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

You can take action through the small claims court, although this can be a lengthy process.

Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes

As of 6 April 2007, deposits paid for most new tenancies have to be protected under a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme.

These schemes will help to stop landlords from wrongly withholding part or all of your deposit, and help to resolve any disputes. See 'Deposit protection schemes for private tenants' for more details.

Problems with your landlord

If your landlord is acting unreasonably seek legal advice immediately.

As a tenant, you have legal protection from illegal eviction. For example, it is a criminal offence for landlords to use force to make an occupier leave, even where tenancy is lawfully at an end.

For advice, contact your university or college’s student housing officer, the Citizens Advice Bureau or, in exceptional circumstances, the police.

Your local authority will also be able to advise you on how you can protect your rights as a tenant.

Mice, fleas and other pests

Occasionally, a rented house or flat will suffer from unwanted visitors such as mice or flea infestations.

This can be a potential health hazard and you should contact your landlord as soon as possible. Remember to put your concerns in writing and seek professional advice if your requests are not dealt with.

Neighbours and noise

Living in a shared house or flat, you can create unwanted noise: from music, parties or general coming and going.

Many problems can be headed off simply by considering the feelings of your local community:

  • warn neighbours if you’re having a party: try to agree an acceptable time for it to end, or for music to be turned off
  • take pride in your house: look after the garden, make sure rubbish isn’t left lying around, and take care when parking vehicles
  • get to know your neighbours: get involved in your community through volunteering or by joining neighbourhood groups

If there is a conflict try not to let it get out of hand, and to resolve disputes before other people become involved.

If neighbours do complain about excessive noise levels, you may be visited by your local authority.

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