Legal Housing rights and obligations, Know your rights
When you’ve finally brought all your worldly possessions with you to your new student digs and moved in, you’ll no doubt ask yourself this: what happens next? Once you’ve settled into your property and, within reason, made it your own, you’ll get into the routine of going in and out without worrying about any looming inspections, repairs or renovation work.
If, however, something happens in relation to your property and you’re unsure of what your rights are, where can you turn for help? Also, what can and can’t you do in situations involving your flat that are beyond your control? In some scenarios, it may seem like there’s nothing you can do, but that’s not the case at all.
In this handy guide to your rights and student accommodation in Leeds, we look at what you can do when it comes to rent, repairs, termination of tenancy, finances and other areas relating to your time staying in student accommodation. We also discuss what rights different students have, whether you’re from Leeds or have travelled thousands of miles to study here.
Student Housing Services in Leeds, How they can help you
As Leeds is home to three universities and a handful of colleges offering higher education courses, there are plenty of services out there for the thousands of students city-wide, but who are they and what do they do? We go through the people you can talk to if there’s a problem.
Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) have branches in Leeds City Centre and Chapeltown, a northern suburb of the city. Among the many things they can advise on are issues concerning living in private rented accommodation. From tenancy agreements to repairs and council tax, they can signpost you towards relevant services and intervene on your behalf if needed.
The three universities in Leeds - Leeds, Leeds Beckett and Leeds Trinity - all have their own student unions, who are able to advise and campaign on student housing issues. Leeds University Union have a section on their website that advises on renting in both halls and private accommodation. They can talk to you about any issues you have with your property.
Leeds Beckett and Leeds Trinity’s student unions both offer similar services too. Wherever your SU is based, it’s ideal to speak to them in person, as they’ll know from personal experience and talking to students in similar situations to your own.
- Leeds University Union - Help and Advice - Housing
- Housing @ Leeds Beckett University
- Leeds Trinity Student Union - Housing
National Union of Students (NUS)
Although all three universities’ student unions are affiliated to the NUS, the wider organisation has a helpline you can call if you’re in trouble and don’t know where else to go. Their section on housing covers all possible topics and offers sage advice on tricky situations such as emergency repairs and getting a guarantor on board before moving into a new place.
They can be contacted by phone or by email, but are best as a last resort.
Link: NUS - Housing Advice
HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs)
If you’re in a position where you feel you have to pay council tax, it’s worth getting in touch with the HMRC to know where you stand. A phone call to them, explaining your situation, should help to clear things up. They also have a section on their website dedicated to paying tax on any income you earn from part-time work alongside your studies here.
Can I end my Tenancy early?
Yes, but to do that, you must get in touch with RentInc and let us know. Then, we will have all the paperwork ready and arrange to meet with you in due course. You will, however, need to pay a fee of £120 and find someone else to take over your tenancy.
Are there any circumstances where I have to pay for repair costs?
If any damage sustained by the property is down to you not taking responsibility for its upkeep, such as not changing a light bulb, then you may have to pay a small fee to cover the costs of repairing it. In most cases though, you won’t have to pay a penny.
Can I get my Deposit back after Ending my tenancy?
You can. All you need to do is get proof of exemption from council tax and, if you haven’t been living in an all-inclusive property, your final water, gas, electricity and council tax bills. For all those, a stamp from the post office is necessary to prove that the money has been paid.
What happens if I fall into arrears with my rent?
If you do fall into arrears, we will give you an additional charge, but if there are any extenuating circumstances, please let us know as soon as possible. If in doubt, please refer to your tenancy agreement.
Should this happen, your co-tenants and guarantors will be informed. Then, we are willing to meet with you and discuss a way of paying back what is owed rent-wise.
Am I able to Modify my Student flat in any way?
There are a few things you can do in relation to decorating the flat, but before you do, please ask the permission of RentInc before going ahead. Specify what you can want to do to the flat and we’ll let you know straight away whether or not we’ll let you do it.
As for changing the locks or putting locks on your bedroom doors, we cannot install a proper lock, but an internal one is possible for a little extra privacy.
Can I Make a Complaint about my Student Property?
Whether it’s about maintenance of the property, unforeseen charges or about customer service, it’s possible to complain to RentInc. Our complaints procedure involves you writing a letter or email to us, explaining what issues you have with our service. Then, we will get back to you as soon as possible and try to put things right as best we can.
If you are still unsatisfied with our level of service, you can write to The Property Ombudsman. They can be contacted by post, email or phone.
International Student Rights in the UK
Although the rights of international students living in private rented student accommodation are broadly the same as those of students who are UK citizens, there are a few subtle differences in laws that you need to be aware of. If you’re an international student living in Leeds, here are those differences:
Students from outside the EU/EEA
If you’re a student who’s from a country that isn’t either in the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you will need a little extra paperwork to prove that you’re studying in the UK, have sufficient funds to pay rental costs and have a valid student visa.
Should you have all of that paperwork to hand when applying for accommodation with us, you’ll have the same rights as every other student in Leeds where student housing is concerned.
Student Immigration Checks
According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), a ‘right to rent’ check is performed by landlords. This is just to make sure that, as an international student, you can live in a property here. This check involves:
- Seeing if you have a valid EU/EEA passport or national identity card, a family permit or residence card and, if none of those, a valid visa or biometric residence permit (BRP)
- If you have none of the aforementioned paperwork or are waiting for it to be processed by the Home Office, you can provide a letter from your university or college, a UK driving license or similar documents. This does only apply to EU/EEA/Swiss residents, however
For reference, the UKCISA website has all the information you need here. These checks, if applicable to you, will take place every 12 months or so, usually just before the start of each academic year.
Other Student Rights:
- Like UK students, you can complain if something at your accommodation has gone wrong that wasn’t your fault - simply file a complaint through the RentInc website
- As far as guarantors are concerned, as it’s harder to get one who’s based in the UK, international students are usually exempt from naming one when applying for renting a student property in Leeds
- To get a greater idea of your rights, it’s worth reading your rental agreement. This will help in case of emergencies such as leaking pipes or falling into arrears with rent payments
Wherever you’re from and whatever you’re studying in Leeds, it pays to know what your rights are for renting a student property. If so, you’ll be prepared if something unforeseen happens during your stay.