As a director and housing solicitor, and mother to three teenage boys, the eldest of whom is studying at Leeds University, life can be hectic! There are the usual anxieties ranging from whether your child secures a place at their chosen university and then settling them into halls of residence. Dealing with rental of private accommodation though can increase anxieties sky high. How can you tell if your child has an unscrupulous landlord? It is important to be aware and watchful.
Most private landlords will expect you to act as guarantors. Make sure you understand what you are letting yourself in for. If your child is moving into a shared house with friends, then each tenant and guarantor could be jointly responsible for any rent arrears – even if they are not your child’s arrears. If a student drops out then the whole household might have to pay their rent. A WhatsApp group between the parents is invaluable.
There have been some welcome legislative changes, so now your student will not be charged finding fees.
Getting back the deposit is not always straightforward. Your child’s deposit should be protected in a recognised scheme. The landlord is obliged to do this within 30 days of receiving it. This passes the money to a third party, which offers protection from unscrupulous landlords. The landlord must also send specific information to the tenants and their guarantors, if the latter paid the deposit.
These are strict rules here. If not complied with, the landlord can end up paying a high penalty to the tenant. If you are a landlord, – it is critical to be aware of these rules around deposits.
Some landlords will try to retain deposits, holding them back for general wear and tear. I had a student client on a ‘no win/no fee’ arrangement with me, who had difficulty getting back her deposit. Even though she left the accommodation in great condition, this was not clear from the checkout report. The initial inventory contained photos taken from a distance. The checkout photos were taken close-up and made the smallest scuff infinitely worse. It would also have been difficult for a genuine landlord to evidence real damage done.
I would advise any student or parent to take photos of the condition at the outset, as should landlords. Make sure that you also take photos when your student leaves, preferably timed and dated.
Keep a record of any disrepair and complaints made against the property owner. A combined claim regarding a failure to return the deposit and disrepair may result in a hefty claim against the landlord. Similarly, property owners need to be alert to ensure issues are dealt with promptly and efficiently to avoid such claims. If you have any enquiries, do get in touch with me on [email protected]. Other articles are on our website www.hmbsolicitors.co.uk
Director, Hopkin Murray Beskine