Covid House Hunting
Considerations During Covid-19 House Hunting
This is traditionally the time of year when students start actively looking for properties to rent with their friends or with other students they may not know (more likely during this time). During Covid-19 times there are more things we recommend you carefully consider before signing an agreement!
Here are 6 things to consider:
- Many students have changed their attitudes to living in rented accommodation in Leeds, choosing instead to commute or live on campus.
- Do we know what is going to happen over the coming months?
- There are likely to be a lot more vacant student houses this year, remember that you are in a "Buyers Market".
- Landlords and Letting Agencies are already worried about being able to let their properties this year. This can lead to aggressive tactics when encouraging students to sign tenancy agreements. Never sign under pressure, and if you are offered extras such as a new TV or repairs – make sure it is written in the contract. If you have any doubts, walk away.
- It may well be in your best interests to wait until we all know more about long term government plans – don’t worry about missing out on properties, there are always more available later (and possibly cheaper).
- Avoid signing for a property if you haven’t physically seen it. Many Lettings Agents will provide virtual walkthroughs online. Be careful of this as problems may be overlooked/ignored. Another top tip is to speak to the current tenants about their experiences of renting the property and they are the experts.
Primarily we aim to educate and empower students to cope with various housing themes such as disrepair, deposits, housing standards, or how to interact with your Landlord. Rent is one of your largest expenditures and can sometimes become problematic. As such, please see what we can do for our members below;
What we can do:
- Direct you to the Unipol Leeds website where you find approved and reliable landlords and lettings agents and view their available properties.
- Provide realistic advice about searching for properties in Leeds, and things to watch out for.
- Share advice and tips from real student Landlords.
- Give advice about when best to start looking for the property during the academic year.
- Provide advice about good practice and top tips before, during and after moving into your new property.
- Advice about Guarantors and organisations that can help.
- Provide a source of advice if you encounter any issues with your landlord/letting agent:
- Agreements on repairs to the property.
- Health hazards such as mould and other building issues.
- Withhold of deposits and claims of damage and cleaning fees (including using legal deposit holding companies).
- Advice on different tenancy agreements, and what to do if someone leaves their tenancy agreement before it is due to end.
What we don't do:
- Direct or recommend students to individual landlords/letting agents in Leeds and the surrounding Horsforth area of the University.
- Operate a register of “approved” landlords/letting agents.
- Broker letting agreements on properties on behalf of students.
- Check tenancy agreements for legal compliance.
- Source accommodation for students
- Become directly involved in disputes between students in tenancy agreements, and/or with landlords/letting agents. (Other than meeting students to advise on good practice and possible solutions).
On-campus accommodation is limited however there are some local rental properties available in the surrounding area and many shared student properties in popular student areas.
Most students prefer to live in shared rented accommodation in Headingley, Hyde Park and Burley – these areas have great transport links both to the city centre and campus. There are a limited number of rental properties in Horsforth if you would prefer to be closer to campus however these are quite limited to family homes and flats in what is quite a rural suburban area.
The Students’ Union advises to check the Unipol website in Leeds as a first point of call to look at properties from approved landlords/letting agencies. There are a large variety of landlords and letting agencies operating in the student area and not all of these have a good reputation so please check Google Reviews/Trustpilot before signing a contract.
Alternatively, you could also look into the purpose built student accommodation run by private companies in Leeds city centre.
It is most common to sign an individual tenancy agreement, this makes you responsible for only your room within the shared accommodation and the other student tenants would be in the same position.
Once you have signed a tenancy agreement, you will be unable to cancel this and move onto campus until the agreement ends (most likely next year). Make sure you are happy with the accommodation, landlord/letting agency and contract terms before signing.
PSPO - Public Space Protection Order
Leeds Trinity Students’ Union is supporting the university’s work alongside West Yorkshire Police to make students aware of the PSPO that has been active from 1st July 2020.
The PSPO affects students living in Headingley. Hyde Park, Weetwood, Little London and Woodhouse. This order helps neighbourhoods and police deal with persistent anti-social behaviour in a local area that is detrimental to the community's quality of life.
The main behaviours the PSPO aims to tackle are;
- Large scale parties in street/ noise nuisance
- Psychoactive substances
- ASB/ criminality
- Household waste
You can read the full order on from Leeds City Council
I want to leave my current tenancy agreement, can I do this?
For most types of tenancy agreements, it is very difficult to leave. Quite often the only way of doing this is if you find a replacement tenant for yourself if you are in a joint tenancy. It is always a good idea to speak to your letting agent or landlord as there may be a break clause in your contract with them. Failing this you may have a landlord who is willing to let you out of the contract. We would also advise that you look to advertise your room on other platforms too such as Gumtree and Spareroom. These platforms may reach a larger audience and increase your chance of finding a replacement sooner. Something to be aware of is that often when it comes to amending a housing contract, there is a fee involved. Again this should be noted on your contract and if not, you should ask your letting agent or landlord how much this will be. Further to this, you may also wish to consider what will be happening with your share of the deposit.
My Landlord/Letting Agent has not returned my deposit
Landlords/agents withholding deposits from students is very common. Your landlord/agent should have protected your deposit in one of three tenancy deposit protection (TDP) schemes. If you have given your landlord/agent reasonable opportunity to return your deposit but they have chosen not to or have become unresponsive, you are best approaching your TDP scheme directly and requesting the deposit be returned through them. Most TDP schemes will give you three months from the end of your tenancy agreement to request the return of your deposit. If you have confirmed that your landlord/agent has not protected your deposit in one of the three schemes then you can file for court proceedings against the landlord/agent directly and will almost certainly win. If you landlord/agent has protected the deposit in a scheme, all you need to do is work out which one it is and follow the processes and procedures on their website to secure the return of your deposit. The process will give the landlord/agent the opportunity to dispute the deposit return and then the process will require you to provide a written submission to dispute the landlord/agent deductions.
What should students be careful of?
You have a right to see any data that we store on you, and further information can be found at www.ltsu.co.uk/privacy
Your SU Advice opening hours are 09:00 to 17:00 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
You can book an appointment online https://www.ltsu.co.uk/advice/bookappointment/
As we are not open on campus yet, contact SUAdvice or call on 0113 4673949, and we can make an appointment for you.
We are now offering an appointment based service for cases that may need more planning and support. If you feel that you have an urgent and more complex issue, please call us to book an appointment.