Posts tagged advice for students
Protecting your student property over the christmas holidays – iConn Property Management, Canterbury0
Here Policy Expert offers a few pointers for students for keeping your accommodation safe this Christmas;
Whether you live in university halls or a private student property, visiting home at Christmas or Easter can leave your student digs exposed to thieves. Here’s what you need to consider before driving home for Christmas.
Although it’s important to take responsibility for your own things at university, you can still get contents insurance to cover yourself in worst-case scenarios. Some home insurance policies also cover student contents, so check with your parents’ insurance provider first. Stand-alone student contents policies are also available from some insurers. Leaflets from student insurance firms are usually circulated during the first week of term but you can also try looking online.
If you have any concerns about your security while at university, ask for advice from your parents, halls mentor or university services.
Many universities offer students the chance to take a room for just 30 weeks a year. This time period only takes term-time into account and most students return to their family home over Easter half-term, summer and Christmas holidays.
Over these holiday periods, you may be asked to completely vacate your room. This could mean removing everything from contents to furnishings depending on your contract. They’ll also ask you to clean your room. Sometimes universities rent these halls to visitors over the empty period. Therefore it’s important to make sure you check underneath and behind any furnishings for anything that may of dropped down the back.
When you pack up your things, be sure to wrap everything carefully to prevent breakages and get rid of any food-stuffs from you room and communal areas. Clean your room thoroughly using appropriate cleaning products that the university should be able to recommend or loan to you.
Holidays are also a good opportunity to get rid of things you no longer need. You may be able to give quality items to friends or donate them to local charity shops. If not, your uni or local shopping centre should provide recycling facilities. The earlier you start this process the better, don’t leave it to the last minute when there are sure to be end of term parties and nights-out to enjoy.
You may not want to take all your possessions home with you, if not – see if you university provides a secure storage facility. If they don’t have such a facility, you could try a a well-known self-storage company in the local area who uses high-quality security features. Prices may vary, but you might be able to store some of your stuff near your halls for a reasonable price.
If you’re allowed to leave items in your halls over the festive period, be sure to take valuable items like laptops, phones, cameras and jewellery home with you. Also, make sure you lock all windows and doors carefully and unplug all electrical items. If you must leave valuables behind, try to make sure they’re hidden out of sight to help avoid opportunist thefts.
After your freshman year you may want to move into a private property. Your landlord will outline how you should leave your property over holidays. Generally it’s considered best to shut off water while you’re away. You will also need to empty your fridge and throw away food that will go out of date. Cancel any regular deliveries to your house like milk and newspapers and make sure you get any other orders sent to a relative or friend’s address.
Your landlord should have bought buildings insurance (which may or may not cover the property when it’s empty). Comprehensive cover should pay out in the case of accidental damage, damage by tenants and also provide emergency home cover. Their policy may also contain a vacancy clause with regulations for how long the property can be empty for. They may have some contents insurance in place if they have furnished the property for you, however this will not cover your personal items in the house. It’s wise to buy your own contents insurance to make sure all your possessions are covered.
You can take other steps to secure your property. Tell your landlord or letting agency the dates the house will be empty and request they check up on it. Alternatively, ask a trusted friend or neighbour to keep an eye on the property wile you’re away. Automatic lights that are set on timers and burglar alarms can help deter night-time opportunists.
***BANK HOLIDAY OPENING TIMES***The office of iConn will be open Saturday 29th August between the hours of 9am and 1pm and closed Sunday 30th August and Monday 31st August. We will reopen on Tuesday 1st September at 9am. Please see our website on the link below for our out of hours contact details:
For all of you students securing your accommodation for the next academic year, check out this useful article from Rightmove, which details helpful tips regarding council tax, bills and other relevant paperwork:
Student Council Tax Exemption
If you live in University halls or live in a shared house where all the occupants are full-time students, you will be exempt from paying council tax.
The definition of a full time student would be someone enrolled in an educational programme lasting at least one year and which you are expected to attend for at least 24 weeks out of the year and study for at least 21 hours per week during term. Or, you are under 20 and your course leads to a qualification up to A Level standard (or equivalent), lasts more than three months and comprises more than 12 hours of study per week.
There are some other categories of students who may also be eligible. You can always check with the National Union of Students for advice by calling 0871 2218 221.
If you live with someone who does not fulfill these criteria, you may still be eligible for a discounted council tax rate so check with your local council.
The bills you have to pay when renting student accommodation vary enormously depending on the landlord or agent.
Traditionally, as a household, you will be responsible for TV license, gas, water, electricity, phone and internet. However, to entice you as a tenant, sometimes some of these are included in the rent.
Students should always check if something is included, if is it capped (i.e. if you use a certain amount of electricity, are you likely to suddenly get a huge bill?) and also if the rate that is “included” is unrealistically high (i.e. you would never use that much gas and so the landlord will end up in profit).
The best way to check is to ask the previous tenants if you can see their bills so you can make a comparison between the average rent for the street and how much these “included bills” are costing.
How to pay
If you do have to pay bills as a household, there are companies who can look after this for you by taking a certain amount of money each month from each tenant and then splitting it amongst the bills equally. They will usually charge a fee for this but it can solve issues that you may have otherwise such as arguing over water usage or someone always covering someone else’s share. Your letting agent can usually recommend someone.
Otherwise, you will need someone to take charge of paying bills and ensuring that there is enough to cover them monthly.
What else can you expect?
- You should be given an inventory to check for the contents of the property, and their condition. If not, then make sure you do one yourself and take photos of any damage so you are not liable when you move out
- A recent Gas Safety Certificate
- An EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) for the property
- A Fire Safety Certificate if you have a furnished property
- Current gas/electricity meter readings. If not, take your own readings as soon as you move in
- You will need to sort out your own contents insurance – make sure it sufficiently covers all your belongings including laptops and musical instruments. (Also, read the small print – you won’t be covered if you leave doors and windows unlocked!)
- You will need to arrange to collect the keys on the day of the tenancy agreement start date (you may be able to leave belongings in the property over the summer months by prior agreement and usually at a reduced rent)
- Moving Day! Picking your room and moving in your belongings is the exciting bit – make sure you bring cleaning products (boring but necessary), extension leads and toilet rolls! Everything else can be sorted out later in the day but without these necessities, you won’t get very far
Congratulations to Amy in lettings for passing her fourth and final unit in NFOPP Technical Award in Residential Letting and Property Management.
Amy has now obtained the industry recognised ARLA membership, meaning that five members of staff here at iConn are now ARLA qualified.
Rosalind Renshaw from Property Industry Eye writes:
The lettings industry and the Labour party remain on a collision course ahead of next year’s general election.
Labour has repeated its vow to make letting agent fees illegal, while agents are stepping up calls for wholesale regulation of the industry.
Speaking after Tuesday evening’s failed bid by Labour to have fees banned, Paul Weller, managing director of lettings chain Leaders, said: “Fortunately common sense has prevailed, but the vote was a wasted opportunity.
“The vote should have been on banning all unregulated agents from practising.
“This would have enabled Parliament to tackle all the problems at the heart of our industry in one motion: 40% of letting agents are not members of a professional body so it is clear that self-regulation is not enough.
“What is needed is legislation that ensures that – as a minimum requirement – all letting agents are qualified, have client money protection and operate to an agreed code of conduct for the whole industry.
“The issues go much further than agents charging fees to tenants. We need to rid the industry of rogue agents who charge extortionate fees, who do not protect their clients’ money and in some cases abuse it, who put their tenants’ lives at risk in unsafe properties and who provide a sub-standard service with little regard for the law.
“The best action politicians can take to protect tenants is to properly regulate letting agents. We have been calling for this for decades.”
Ian Potter, outgoing managing director of ARLA, said: “Fees are not arbitrary or unnecessary – they represent a business cost that those tabling the amendment failed to recognise.
“ARLA’s call, as ever, is for wholesale regulation of the market to ensure fair and transparent practices for all consumers, landlords and agents alike.”
Darren Harley, of EweMove, said: “Whilst we agree that there are far too many lettings agents across the country who don’t disclose their application fees too readily, banning all fees to tenants isn’t the way to promote fairness. It will simply drive up fees to the landlords which, in turn, will drive rents up.
“Ewemove charges no application fees, and only ever charges tenants once a property has been offered to them. We believe this is a much better system because it ensures more applications per property, and we can find the very best tenant for the landlord every time.
“Yes, the agent earns slightly less under this model, but it’s not all about the agent.
“Regulation of the industry is clearly required.
“We’ve all seen the reports from Shelter and other organisations, declaring the unscrupulous practices of a few rogue agents. I really don’t believe that those horror stories are the norm in the UK, but I do think that things can be improved, and a professional standard would be the way forward.
“The most obvious route would be compulsory membership of ARLA, and ARLA’s standards being strengthened.”
However, one person who took to Twitter to complain about the way the vote went was London Evening Standard columnist and landlord Victoria Whitlock.
She said: “Am disappointed MPs bought that bunkum that tenants would have paid more if letting agent fees were banned.”
The tireless Stella Creasy, Labour shadow consumers minister, was back on Twitter yesterday claiming: “An agency has contacted me to argue fees to tenants justified because they ‘give them a bag for life & mug’ upon arrival. Yes really.”
Meanwhile, shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds put the industry on warning by making it clear that the whole issue has not gone away.
She said: “Generation Rent needs proper protection against being ripped off.
“A Labour government will ban letting agent fees on tenants.”
* There were just three rebels when it came to Tuesday evening’s vote on letting agent fees – one Tory and two Lib Dems who refused to toe their party line.
Phillip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, and Lib Dem MPs Julian Huppert (Cambridge) and Ian Swales (Redcar) all voted to ban letting agent fees.
Of the Lib Dems, 38 voted against a ban, and 16 were missing. Among the absentees were Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Andrew Stunell, Sarah Teather and Jo Swinson.
There were 242 Tory MPs who voted against the ban, with 58 absent from the vote. Absentees included David Cameron and George Osborne.
Labour’s attempt to ban letting agent fees was defeated by a majority of 53 (281 to 228).
Vicky Cranthorne M.A.R.L.A, Office Manager for iConn Property Management writes:
It’s been a busy few weeks in the office and the rush for student properties in Canterbury has increased; We are now down to the last 15 student properties available. The smaller sized properties seem to have been the most popular this year; we have 1 one bedroom property left which is a spacious one bed cottage in a central location in Canterbury – ideal for single occupation or for a couple. We also have only 1 5 bed property left which is based close to Christchurch university – the landlord includes broadband in the rental which is a great benefit for the tenants. The interior is modern and the kitchen includes a dishwasher and a tumbledryer as well as the usual white goods.
For those who are still looking to secure their accomodation in Canterbury for next year I have listed the available properties below: (as of 24.02.12) You can also visit this following link to see the most up to date list http://www.iconnproperties.co.uk/search.php?town_postcode=&searchtype=student&search.x=16&search.y=11.
Sam Macdonald, Lettings Negotiator for iConn Property Management writes:
Canterbury College are holding their accomodation fayre on Wednesday 19 January 2011, in Augustine House, from 13.00 to 17.00.
University of Kent are holding their accomodation fayre on Wednesday 27 January 2011 in the Darwin Conference Suite, 11am- 3pm.
The fayres are a great way to get all the advice you need on finding your property for the next academic year and to see a wide selection of houses available.
Hope to see you there!