If you are a student, some landlords will require you to provide a UK-based guarantor. A guarantor is a person who agrees to pay your rent if you are unable to for some reason. Most people choose a family member to act as their guarantor. If you are not able to supply a UK guarantor, you may be asked to pay between 3 to 6 months’ rent in advance. For more information on guarantors and how this process works, please visit the Citizens Advice website.
A deposit will need to be paid before you are able to move into a property. Deposits are intended to provide insurance against unreasonable acts of waste or damage by tenants. There is a difference between damage and reasonable wear and tear (i.e. a decline in condition through use, especially for furniture and fittings). Due to the Tenant Fees Act 2019, landlords are only be able to charge a maximum of 5 weeks’ rent as a deposit.
Government legislation states that all landlords must protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme. This is a consumer protection measure designed to prevent landlords wrongly withholding all or part of your deposit. Details of how your deposit is being protected (i.e. which scheme has been chosen) must be supplied to you within 30 days of the deposit being paid.
You should get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy, however the landlord may withhold all or part of this if they decide there has been damage to the property or you have failed to pay rent or bills. Landlords should state to you how much they are withholding from you and for what this is for, and you will be able to challenge this through your tenancy deposit scheme.
For more information about deposits please see the Queen Mary Housing Services Private Accommodation Guide.
The Tenant Fees Act 2019 effectively bans private landlords and letting agents from charging fees to tenants. Aside from rent and deposits, agents and landlords are only permitted to charge tenants fees if they request a change or early termination of a tenancy, if there are bills or council tax to pay or if a cost is incurred such as replacing a key. You may also sometimes be asked to pay a ‘holding’ deposit to reserve a property, capped at one week’s rent (this will often be counted toward the first month’s rent).
If a landlord or letting agent tries to charge you any other fees, this is illegal and you should seek advice from Queen Mary Housing Services.
As a full-time registered student you are exempt from paying council tax as long as you provide a copy of your tenancy agreement and student attendance certificate (obtained from the Student Enquiry Centre) and send it to the relevant local authority. Some local authorities accept exemption lists directly from Queen Mary, so make sure your term time address is kept up to date. If you are not a full-time student, you are not exempt from paying council tax, however you may be eligible for a discount. For more information about who is exempt, please visit here.
If you are living in a property with other people who aren’t students, then they will need to pay council tax. If you are a full-time student, you are exempt from paying council tax and you are not jointly liable with any non-students in the property.
For more information on council tax, you can visit the UK government website here.
If you are privately renting you will normally need to pay for bills in addition to your rent unless your landlord states otherwise. This can include electricity, water, internet and phone bills. Bills aren’t calculated per person, so it is important to decide with your housemates how you are going to pay these. This might involve one person paying the bills and everyone else sending money in advance, or you could set up a separate account for everyone to pay the money into.
It’s important to make sure you have budgeted for all bills, rent and living expenses before you sign a contract.
If you are going to watch live TV (on a TV, laptop or another electronic device) then by law you will need a TV license. This also applies if you are going to download programmes or watch BBC programmes on demand. You only need one TV license per household unless you have an individual tenancy agreement for where you are living, then you will need your own TV license.
If you are caught without a TV license and you need one, then you can be fined up to £1000 plus any legal costs.
For more information on TV licensing and to pay for a new license, click on the link below.