There are more houses than students in the areas surrounding the University of Birmingham – so don’t feel pressured to sign a contract because you feel all the ‘good’ properties will be gone. Take your time to find the right house for you.
Step 1 – Choose your new housemates
They say that you only get to know somebody when you live with them…and they couldn’t be more right. So think about people’s habits, hobbies, routines and personalities before you decide to move in together – best friends do not necessarily make the best housemates!
Who your future housemates are will influence your budget, the number of bedrooms you need, the amount of kitchen storage space, the location…pretty much everything!
House Hunting – Starter Pack
Location – Find a location that suits you all. Have a look round different areas and look at transport links that can help you get about.
Birmingham Studentpad – this is the official University of Birmingham property search engine, managed by Living, Accommodation Services. We only allow certified landlords to advertise here so you can rent with confidence.
Midland Landlords Accreditation Scheme – if you do look for a property on another website, always make sure you check if the lettings agent and/or landlord is listed on the MLAS website. This means that they will have been on training and signed a code of conduct which commits them to a number of good practices.
All MLAS accredited lettings agents in Selly Oak – check out the full list of agents below:
- Direct Housing
- Easy Lettings
- King & Co
- Broad Court
- Property Solutions
- Purple Frog
- Mason Knight
- Prestige Properties
- Seasons Law
- House Hunt
- KB Roman
If you look outside of Selly Oak, be sure to double check the agent against the MLAS list, or enquire if they are accredited in another way. Don’t be afraid to ask!
If you find a property you like the look of, then book a viewing – you can often do this through the website, but you may need to give the agent or landlord a phone call. When choosing the time and date, make sure as many of your housemates can go as possible – you don’t want one person making a decision before everybody else has seen the property!
Going on a viewing
Keep an eye out for damage to the property, including loose carpet, cracked window or door frames, damp and mould on the walls or ceilings, and broken furniture.
Student houses are especially vulnerable to burglary due to the high numbers of valuable items. Check the following things:
Do the doors and windows shut correctly? Is there at least one, preferably two secure locks on your front and back door? Does the house have a burglar alarm and does it work? Is the garden adequately fenced and secured?
Fire and Gas safety
It’s the landlord’s responsibility to check your appliances and make sure they are working and safe. You can ask your landlord for a copy of the Gas certificate before you move in to the property.
Check the fire alarms; do they work? Are they in the kitchen and communal areas? Does the house have fire doors (you can spot a fire door from the blue ‘fire door’ sticker or because it swings shut automatically)? Is there a quick escape route out of the property? Do the plug sockets appear to be safe and working?
The energy performance certificate should be provided free of charge. It is a legal requirement. It will be provided to you at the beginning of the contract period but you can also often find it online when you book to go on a viewing – this way you can estimate whether your future bills will be expensive or more affordable.
You can also visit epcregister.com to check the energy performance for the property you want to view.
Understanding the costs involved
Rent is obviously going to be an important part of your contract, so make sure you can all afford to pay the final sum.
Rental figures in Selly Oak are typically between £58-£130 per person per week. You may find that rent varies depending on the finish, size, and location of the property – for example, the houses closer to the University tend to be more expensive.
- You will be asked to pay your rent by standing order – this means that you have to manually set up a regular payment to the letting agent’s or landlord’s chosen bank account.
- Contracts normally start from the 1st July, therefore even though you don’t plan to move in until September you are likely to be liable for rent over the summer period.
- Calculate the correct monthly rent instead of guessing – to get an accurate monthly figure, multiply a week’s rent by 52 and divide by 12.
Deposits are the next thing to consider. Your deposit will typically be 4 to 6 weeks’ rent and is paid to the landlord or letting agent to provide them with security against any damage that you may cause to the property or unpaid rent during your tenancy.
- Make sure you budget for the deposit at the time of contract signing as it is a considerable sum of money upfront.
- The landlord or letting agent must protect your deposit by paying it into one of three of the government authorised schemes within 30 days – Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits, or Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
- Finally, there may be some additional, and sometimes hidden, costs to consider.
- Think about the rough amount you can feasibly set aside for bills, food, and other living costs such as streaming services or nights out.
- There may be some additional non-refundable admin and reservation fees depending on who you rent your house from.
If you don’t find your home right away on the first viewing, stay confident and keep booking viewings until you find the right one. You may have to compromise on something, especially if you’re in a larger group, but make sure it’s right for everybody and that no one person is forced into making a bad decision for them.
Signing your contract
Once you’ve found your new home, you’ll need to sign a contract to lay out all the terms and conditions of you renting the property. The most common student contract type is called an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (you may see this abbreviated to ‘AST’) and once it is signed, you are legally bound by it and it is very difficult to get out of it.
You should ALWAYS get your contract checked by either Community Living or Guild Advice – we can point out any odd phrases and explain any jargon to make sure you know exactly what you are signing up for. Any reputable landlord or lettings agent will allow you to take the contract away to read and understand for 24 hours – so get it checked for free before you sign.
When signing a contract, it is likely that you will be asked to provide a guarantor based in the UK who can guarantee the rent payment if you are unable to pay.
Usually this will be a parent or guardian, but if you are unable to provide a UK-based guarantor then there are also guarantor companies who can act as a guarantor for a fee.
Some lettings agents and landlords may let you pay more of the rent money upfront – but before you pay any extra money over, or if you have any concerns or questions about guarantors, please get in touch with Guild Advice or Community Living for information and support.
Right To Rent checks
Landlords are prohibited, by law, from letting a property to an individual who does not have the right to remain in the UK for the duration of their tenancy.
International students: you will need to secure your immigration status in order to secure a tenancy.
UK and EU students: be prepared to show proof of your right to rent property in the UK, for example a passport.
For more information and to understand whether this may apply to you please visit gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-rent-landlords-code-of-practise or alternatively call: 03000 069 9799.
Now that you’ve signed your contract and paid over the relevant monies, you’re ready to move in!