Rent and hidden costs
- What can I expect to pay in rent?
- Are owners ever prepared to negotiate?
- As a returning student, I might be away from my university town over the summer and therefore not want to pay “dead rent”. If I do sign up for the full letting year (July to the following June), is there any way of getting away with lower or no rent over the summer?
- What about hidden costs not covered in the rent?
- Will I have to make any payments at the start of the contract other than rent?
- Are there any other fees that landlords may charge?
This is where it gets difficult to generalise. You’ll need to look carefully at a number of adverts on the Unipol website to get an idea rental levels in particular areas or streets. This can be done by typing a street name into the 'Quick Search' to bring up a list of all vacant propertieswithin that street. If you are on a budget you can do a property search by rent level. Generally it’s cheaper to rent as a group in a shared house.
Rents are set by owners who take into account 'market forces'. In theory, the better the quality of the property and the better the location of the house, then the higher the rent should be. But this is complicated by the following factors: There are always some bargains. There are always some houses which are overpriced. The time of year and the pressure on the student housing market affects rent levels. Owners are willing to accept lower weekly rent levels if the letting period is for a complete year.
Average rents are useful in providing a rough guide to student housing costs but, remember, rent levels should be based on the quality of each individual property. It's also worth remembering that if you're paying rent monthly this is slightly more than four weeks' rent. For example, a weekly rent level of £60 will cost you £60 x 52 (the number of weeks in the year) which equals £3120. Divided by 12 (the number of months in the year), the monthly level works out at £260 (not £60 x 4 = £240).
A: Some owners will vary rent levels and offer to improve the house or install more facilities if there is a group of tenants eager to rent the house. Whatever is agreed should be written down and signed by the owner, so there is no room for 'misunderstandings' or 'confusion' later. often, their willingness to negotiate will be determined by overall market conditions.
Q: As a returning student, I might be away from my university town over the summer and therefore not want to pay “dead rent”. If I do sign up for the full letting year (July to the following June), is there any way of getting away with lower or no rent over the summer?
A: A lot of contracts in Nottingham will run from September to June so rent will not be payable over the summer. Where it is some owners offer summer rent concessions where tenants have a rent-free period or pay half rent for July and August. These concessions are made clear 'up-front' by the owner. If you are not offered one, it's always worth trying to negotiate with the owner to get a rent-free period. Most students will agree between March and mid-June to rent these properties.
If you are renting accommodation from the University of College then, unless you are in residence, rent is rarely charged over the summer.
If rent is charged over the summer, some universities and private owners will allow you to sublet your accommodation to visitors over the summer to mitigate the cost of rent.
A: In the private sector, rent does not normally cover gas and electricity and never covers telephone bills. For gas and electricity, value-for-money heating and hot water can make a big difference to your bills. There are two other important areas where you need to be clear what the position is for a particular property: water charges and council tax.
If you are renting from a University or College it is likely that energy charges maybe included in your rent (you will need to check because sometimes it is separate). Water charges are always within the rent in universities and colleges.
You need to look at what you're getting for your money.
- A good quality, well-heated house (particularly where the heating is a recently installed system) will be much cheaper to run than a lower-priced property in poor condition with electric heating.
- Large rooms are more expensive to heat than smaller rooms.
- Instant hot water is also something to look out for: not only does it give you hot water on-tap whenever you need it (in contrast with a tank system) but it means that you're not paying to heat water you don't use.
- Some houses that look cheap can turn out to be expensive when you add up the running costs. Others that may look more expensive could end up costing you less.
- Gas-fired central heating with instant hot water is the cheapest and best form of heating, costing around £3 to £5 per week per person. If the property is heated by electric fires, you're looking at an extra £8.00 per person a week on top of rent. In some areas of the country (particularly Scotland where property licensing is more common) floor mounted electric heaters are not permitted.
- Some owners have efficient gas combi central heating and if the house is also well insulated, this will reduce your costs.
- Other owners may include a washer or drier in with the rent.
Some owners include water charges within the rent; others exclude them. These then become the responsibility of the tenants.
The message is: if it's not clear from the agreement, ask.
Students generally have a favourable position with regard to council tax.
If you are living in a property occupied only by full time students, you can gain exemption from the tax in most cases. However, if you are going to live with anyone who is not a full time student you may have to pay some council tax. Further leaflets are available on the subject and, if in doubt, you should seek advice from your local council tax office or your Students' Union advice team or your Accommodation Service Office.]
A: Owners will expect you to pay a deposit when you sign on the dotted line. If you are renting from a University or College there may well not be a deposit, but remember, as a member of their institution, they are in a position to bill you for any damage.
A: Yes, prior to or at the point of accepting as property from them the landlord or agent may attempt to load the fees you pay. These fees can be described by terms such as administration fees, agency fees, booking fees or finder’s fees.
Under the Accommodation Act 1956 agents cannot charge money before the creation of a letting. It is a criminal offence to charge a fee to register or undertake to register the name and requirements of a person looking for accommodation or to charge for supplying names and addresses or other particulars of properties. A fee can only be charged when a contract has been agreed between the landlord and the tenants. Moreover any charge that is made may be challenged under the OFT’s Unfair Contract Terms Regulations. Fees that are described as “non refundable” or contain ambiguous language are in conflict with the OFT’s and the landlord can be made to strike the clauses out of the contract.
There is nothing to stop a landlord or their agent charging fees as long as they are up front about them and include these fees in their marketing information. But remember you always have the right to say no to the deal on offer and go elsewhere.