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Housing

Housing

WELFARE AND COMMUNITY OFFICER
Officer Cricle
Lauren Kaye

Welfare and Community Officer

We offer advice about various aspects of housing including checking your tenancy agreement, repairs, recovering deposits, problems with utility bills and Council Tax.

We also have a property inspection standard, Snug, to help you find accommodation which is fit and proper. Learn more about Snug and find answers to FAQs below.

Self help Resources

Housing Repairs 

During your time at university things in your home may need repairing. Landlords are normally responsible for most repairs. This leaflet is a step by step guide to repairs, what do you when you move in and how to deal with a Landlord who won't make repairs. 

Step by Step Guide to Repairs

Leaving Your Housing Contract Early 

When you agree to rent a property, you create a contract between yourself and the Landlord. This leaflet offers you some ideas on how you can leave your contract early.  

A guide to leaving your contract early

Getting Your Deposit Back 

If you have problems getting your deposit back this leaflet gives you advice on what to do next.

Claiming your deposit back 

Right to Rent

The Home Office published information in October 2015 which brings in new procedures for landlords in the UK from February 2016.  This process is called 'right to rent'. 

A guide to right to rent 

 

Snug - the only student accommodation we recommend!

Finding the right student accommodation is an absolute minefield. If there is one thing we think you should look out for, it is for accommodation that is 'Snug approved'!

What is Snug?

Snug is an award winning property inspection standard which is awarded when homes meet the required standard of property and tenancy management, and the landlord is considered ‘fit and proper’. These standards are set by your Students' Union, the University, and the City Council, to make sure you get more than just a roof over your head, but a decent home. The University of Sheffield and the University of Sheffield Students' Union have also just come on board, expanding this scheme to the whole of Sheffield.

The Snug scheme ensures: - Landlords are trustworthy and accountable.
- Housing is safe, secure, and of a higher quality.
- Accommodation is easy to find
The majority of student landlords are professional and ensure that you pay fairly for a good house, but we are aware that there are some that are not. Snug is a way to ensure that you only get the good ones. Remember though, it is the property that is accredited, not the landlord.

How many properties are Snug approved?

As of the start of 2018, there are 550 Snug properties, with a total of nearly 14,000 bedspaces. Despite what you may have heard, there is actually a surplus of student property in Sheffield, so you'll be able to find student accommodation at any point in the year - just don't panic, and take your time!

Where can I find Snug properties?

First and foremost, we encourage you to ALWAYS ask if the property is Snug approved when speaking to a landlord or letting agent. All the private sector properties offered on the University's Studentpad website have been accredited by Snug. That means you can be confident they've been inspected by Sheffield City Council and comply with strict rules.

This sounds great! Where can I learn more?

It is great! If you have any other questions about Snug, pop into the Students' Union Student Advice Centre at The HUBS or contact us on 0114 225 4148.

Where can I find somewhere to live in Sheffield?

We recommend that the safest way to find accommodation in Sheffield is via SHU Accommodation Services website. They offer 4 types of accommodation: - University Managed residences (Bramall Court & Charlotte Court).
- University partnership residences.
- Private Sector Housing.
- Homestays or accommodation with a family.
All properties advertised with SHU accommodation services are Snug registered.
How to find accommodation

Finding Accommodation - SHU Services Finding Accommodation - Shelter

Landlord requirements, tenancy rights and liability

What documents do I need to provide to have the right to rent? Your landlord or lettings/property agent will need to see original evidence of your right to be in the UK for example the following will be sufficient:

British citizens: A passport (current or expired) /A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen

EEA/Swiss nationals: Your passport or national identity card

Family members of EEA / Swiss nationals: EEA family permit or residence card

People with immigration permission to be in the UK: Current passport containing a valid visa, or a valid Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If these documents are with the Home Office as part of an ongoing immigration application (or you have a pending appeal or administrative review) then you should give your landlord your Home Office reference number so that they can verify this with the Home Office.

If your landlord does do not check your immigration status they could be fined up to £3000.
My landlord says I have to show them my passport or birth certificate, should I?

For new tenancies that start on or after the 1st February 2016, private landlords, agents or householders who are letting private rented accommodation, or taking in a lodger/ subletting must check their tenant's immigration status before they can offer them a tenancy agreement. This is called the ‘Right to Rent’. This means checking that tenants or lodgers have the right to be in the UK. This also applies to council and housing associations. If you already live in a property before this date then your landlord or letting agent will have to check your right to rent before you move into the property.

Landlords have to check the status every year and take a copy of the tenant's documents. If you find your accommodation before you arrive in the UK then your landlord or letting agent will have to check your right to rent before you move into the property.

The right to rent checks should not be carried out more than 28 days before the tenancy is signed

You have the ‘Right to Rent’ If you are one of the following:

• You are a UK citizen.
• You are an EEA/Swiss national
• You have the right to be in the UK under EEA law
• You have valid immigration permission to be in the UK
• You do not have valid immigration permission to be in the UK but you have been granted 'permission to rent' by the UK government Who is exempt from the checks?
• You live in an exempt property. This includes student halls of residence; accommodation owned and managed by a higher or further education institution, or a body established for charitable purposes only; and accommodation that you have been nominated to occupy by such an institution, or charitable body.

• You are under 18 when you enter into the tenancy agreement; you will remain exempt until the landlord's next set of checks are due, even if you turn 18 during this time.

• You are not using the property as your main or only home in the UK.

• The landlord is immediate family, such as a parent.

• You are a guest in the property, you do not pay rent to stay there and it is not your only or main home in the UK.

• The property is holiday accommodation and you will be staying there for only a short period of time.
My landlord won't do the repairs, what can I do?
Emergency repairs such as broken boilers, leaking roof or ceiling, broken toilet, should be carried out between one to two days.

For non-urgent repairs, such as broken cupboard door we suggest 28 days to be a 'reasonable' amount of time.

If the landlord ignores your requests or refuses to carry out repairs there are a number of things you can do:

- Try to collect evidence of the disrepair.

- Take photos of the disrepair/ items damaged by the disrepair.

- Gather receipts for the damaged items.

- If appropriate contact your local council to get them to come to inspect the property.

Keep copies of any emails/letters/ record of any conversations that you have had with your landlord/agent.

If your health has been affected by the disrepair then get copies of GP notes.

Do not stop paying your rent without taking advice from ourselves or another advice agency.

If you are having problems trying to resolve the issue, please contact the Advice Service for further help/advice.

It's important to note that your basic legal rights may not be written into your tenancy agreement. However, tenants have basic rights set in law.

What the Law states:- Under the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act, the landlord is responsible for:

- The structure and exterior of the property, heating and hot water systems, basins, sinks and other sanitary installations.

- Gas and electrical appliances.

- Fire safety of furniture and furnishings provided.

- Repairing and keeping in good working order the water heating system.

- Tenants are also responsible for some basic repairs such as changing lightbulbs.

The landlord is generally not responsible for any damage caused by tenants or for rebuilding the property, in the case of damage by fire, flood or other unavoidable accident

However, the landlord only legally becomes responsible once they have been notified of the repairs in writing (this can be via post or email).

The law states that you have to then allow a 'reasonable' amount of time for the landlord to carry out the repairs.

My landlord has kept some of my deposit, is he allowed to do this?

Deposit Scheme Checker
Since the 6th of April 2007, security deposit should be secured in a tenancy deposit scheme.

Your landlord is legally obliged to secure your deposit within 30 days of receiving it. Your landlord should also provide you with specific information about the scheme that they have used:

- The contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme
- The landlord or agent's contact details
- How to apply for the release of the deposit
- Information explaining the purpose of the deposit
- What to do if there is a dispute about the deposit

There are 3 government backed Tenancy Deposit Schemes
The Tenancy Deposit Scheme
My Deposits
Deposit Protection Service

If there is a dispute about your deposit and your landlord won't come to an agreement with you the schemes offer a free service which can help to resolve the dispute called the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service.

If you and the landlord both agree to use the service to resolve the dispute, then you're both bound by its decision. However, both parties need to co-operate with the service. The onus is on the landlord to prove why they are deducting the money.

This doesn't prevent you from taking the matter to the small claims court instead of using ADR, but the judge at court may want to know why you refused to engage with the dispute service.

- My deposit has not been protected: If your deposit isn't in a scheme, the action you take will depend on whether your tenancy is still current or if your tenancy has ended.

- Current Tenancy: If you are still in the tenancy then you should ask your landlord to protect your deposit and give you the prescribed information

If it has been 30 days or more since you paid your tenancy deposit to your landlord (or the landlord's agent), write to your landlord and ask for your deposit to be protected.

- My Tenancy Has Ended: If your tenancy has ended and your landlord hasn't protected your deposit, the law says that you're entitled to have your tenancy deposit returned to you.

A court can order your landlord to return your deposit and pay you compensation of between one and three times its value.

If you need further help with this process then contact the Advice Service.

Paying rent, liability and moving out

I am struggling to pay my rent, what can I do? If you don't pay your rent, then you risk losing your home. Therefore it is very important that you take some action. Talk to your landlord - explain what problems you are facing and they may be understanding and offer you an arrangement to pay what you owe (i.e. change the payment schedule, or wait until you receive your student funding). It's important to keep your landlord updated, as landlords might take further action if they think you are unwilling to pay your rent.

Don't ignore any letters regarding rent arrears- as rent arrears are grounds to start legal proceedings to evict you from the property. Landlords can also take you to court to get the money you owe.

Seek help from the Advice Service

If you owe 8 weeks or 2 months' rent, then a landlord can take you to court to apply for a court order to get you evicted from the property.

If you are unable to reach an agreement with your landlord over rent arrears, the landlord may threaten to take you to court to evict you from the property. What action they can take will depend on the type of tenancy agreement you signed.

Many students will have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy which means the landlord will have to follow a set procedure and you cannot be evicted unless the procedure is followed.

If you are threatened with eviction or the landlord threatens to take you to court, please contact the Advice Service as soon as possible.

What does jointly and severally liable mean?

Joint Tenancies

If a group of you are renting a property together and you are all named on the contract, it is likely that you will have what is called a joint tenancy.

A joint tenancy means that you are each liable for the whole rent of the premises and for any other obligations under the tenancy, including bills.

For example: There is a group of four tenants on a joint tenancy for 9 months and one tenant decides to leave in the sixth month because they are fed up that no one else does any cleaning. Each joint tenant was paying an equal share of the rent. In this case, the landlord is entitled to collect the shortfall in rent from any or all of the remaining tenants. These remaining tenants may subsequently be able to recover this money from the missing tenant.

In the above circumstances, the best solution is for the leaving tenant to find someone to replace them.

If none of you pay your rent, your landlord can ask any one of you to pay the full amount.

Individual Tenancies

If a group of you are living in a property together, but you want to avoid the burdens of a joint tenancy, you could try and negotiate individual tenancies of your rooms. This means that you are only liable for the rent for your room but have access to all the joint facilities of the property (i.e. bathroom, kitchen etc.). However, you would still be liable for any damage/costs for the shared areas. The disadvantages of this agreement are that:

If someone leaves, you do not have any say over who the leaving tenant or the landlord finds to replace them. Because you only have a tenancy of your room, the landlord can have relatively free access to the common parts of the property (i.e. bathroom, kitchen etc.)

You may have to pay a separate licence fee for each TV in the house. for further information click here http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/for-your-home/students-aud1

I'm not happy where I am living, can I move out?

If you do not have a break clause in your tenancy agreement, and you want to leave your contract earlier than it allows you have 3 options:-
- Negotiate with your landlord

- Find a replacement tenant

- Take the risk and move out, however, you will remain liable for the rent until the end of the contract

Step by Step Guide to Leaving your Contract Early:
1) Check your contract

2) Check if your contract has a break clause in it, as this will make it easier.

3) Negotiate with your Landlord

Your Landlord may be sympathetic to your circumstances and it may be possible to negotiate with him/her to bring your contract to an end. If your Landlord does agree then you should get this in writing. If you are a joint tenant you and your landlord will also need to get the agreement of the other tenants.

Here are some suggestions that you could use to negotiate:

Will your Landlord accept a one off payment to allow you to leave your contract early?

Will they accept your deposit as part payment?

You could provide supporting evidence to back up your case, such as a letter from your tutor or GP.

4) Find a replacement

Most landlords usually agree to find a replacement tenant as it is in their best interests to do so, however, it is your responsibility to find a replacement; some landlords/agents will advertise on your behalf.
To find a replacement, put as many adverts up for the room as you can. You could put them in:

- Post offices
- Newsagents
- The Star (local newspaper)
- Shop windows
- Accommodation Services
- Any relevant web Forums
- Move Out/ Don't Move in

It is very risky if you take this action, as you will be in breach of your contract and you will remain liable to pay your rent until the end of your contract. If you intend on taking this action please seek further advice first!