As a student living in private accommodation you are part of the local community. This page provides useful information to help you enjoy university life, whilst maintaining an excellent relationship with your neighbours.
Do your research
Learn about tenancy agreements and deposit schemes before you start viewing properties. Don't be afraid a lot of questions and don't get pushed into anything you are unsure of - once you sign you are in a legally binding contract.
Ask the current tenants if they have had any problems - will the same things affect you?
Read helpful 'Ready to Rent' resources via the National Union for Students (NUS).
Is your landlord accredited?
Partnership Accreditation for Landlords (PAL) is a partnership between The University and Welwyn Hatfield Council. It recognises landlords that provide which recognises landlords who provide good quality accommodation.
If you are thinking of renting a private property, it helps to find out whether your landlord is a PAL member. PAL helps both landlords and tenants (both student and non-student), and actively promote good management practices. This is the first scheme of its kind in Hertfordshire!
When choosing an accreditated Landlord, you will have assurance that:
- The property is safe and in good repair.
- The landlord has committed to the health, safety and welfare of their tenants.
- When a problem arises there is a reliable means of having it resolved within reasonable timescale
- You will be provided with a tenancy agreement that is clearly written with reasonable terms; which states how much rent there is to pay and when - with no hidden costs.
- A transparent services where all fees and payments are clearly stated up front
Read more about how the accreditation scheme supports students.
Get all the information
Before you sign a tenancy agreement, make sure you know:
- The length of the contract
- The rent you will pay over the whole period
- All associated bills for the property
- Is this property or room within your budget?
- How much notice you are required to give before moving out
- Does the property has an up-to-date gas and electrical safety certificate?
Protect your deposit
By law, landlords are required to protect your deposit in a government authorised scheme. It will help safeguard your money and provide a independent adjudication service in the event of a dispute.
Make sure you have the items below within 30 days of paying your deposit.
- Make sure you have details of the deposit scheme used
- Contact details for the landlord
- How to apply for the release of your deposit
- What to do in a dispute
Read more about safe deposit handling on the Shelter website.
Find out if you need a guarantor
Many landlords and lettings agents require a guarantor - usually this will be your parents or guardian. Your guarantor will be liable for the financial commitments of your tenancy agreement if you are not able to pay yourself. They may be also liable for your housemates' rent if they are unable to pay. Make sure you are fully aware of their responsibilities before signing the contract.
We advise that you don't ask someone to be a guarantor if the tenancy agreement does not specifically limit their liability to just your portion of the fees.
Most letting agents and landlords will require a UK based guarantor. This requires them to be resident in the UK and show proof that their finances can afford to pay the rent should you fail to pay, some students choose to use an online Guarantor service. Unfortunately, the University is unable to recommend specific companies, however you may find something that helps your current situation whilst searching online. Most PAL accredited Letting Agents or Landlords will be able to recommend a Guarantor service to potential Tenants, many use a company called ‘Housing Hand’. Please ensure you read the terms and conditions before committing financially.
An alternative to having a UK based Guarantor is to pay a larger proportion of rent in advance, as added security for the Landlord. Please only agree to this if your Landlord or Letting Agent is PAL accredited. Paying large sums of money in advance for non-accredited properties is high risk, and not encouraged.
Give a lot of thought to who you want to live with
Just because they are your friends or you enjoyed living with them in halls of residence does not mean that you will get along with them when you are living in a house together. Any annoying habits will be amplified - remember you won't have a cleaner and together you will be responsible for the payment of all bills and any damage.
Searching for Family Accommodation
The University does not offer Family Accommodation, however the PAL Accreditation Scheme is available to student and non-student tenants.
Here are things to consider when searching for private accommodation for your family:
• Research locations as part of your property search.
• You may need to research local schools for your children and access to available transport systems (such as buses or trains).
• Make a realistic budget based on the cost of property in the selected areas (you will need to factor in costs such as council tax and utility bills, on top of your rent). On average, rent for a 2 bed property within Hatfield costs approximately £1,400 a month (utility bills may not be included). Remember to check if properties are furnished or unfurnished. You will also need to ensure you have enough space in the property, to prevent overcrowding.
• Have your finances in order. Delays in payment can result in another prospective Tenant financially commiting before you.
• Search for the property, book for viewings, and make a quick offer when you see one that you like and can afford. Do not commit to a contract that is above your budget, as this may result in the accumulation of Rent Arrears.
• Ensure you have the required documents and responses to pass the Right to Rent checks. Your Landlord or Letting Agent will confirm what information will be required.
• Read your contracts before signing and cross check all features in the house against what was listed in the contract, to ensure it is a true reflection of what was offered to you.
Take an inventory
Many landlords will provide an inventory but if they don't create one yourself. Note and take pictures of any items that are missing, damaged or worn.
When complete, sign and date it, make a copy and send it to your landlord - ask your landlord to sign it too and send a signed copy back to you.
Please see our Ask Herts page for further information on using your inventory for your end of tenancy process.
Private Off-Campus Accommodation - End of Tenancy: Moving-Out Checklist | Ask Herts | University of Hertfordshire
Are you exempt from council tax?
If all the people you live with are full time students then the property will likely be exempt from council tax - find out how to apply for council tax exemption.
Know your rights
Your landlord must follow rules on how and when they can evict you.
It's a criminal offence for your landlord to evict you without following the correct legal steps for eviction.
Actions that count as illegal eviction
It's usually illegal eviction if your landlord:
- Forces you to leave by threatening or harassing you
- Physically throws you out
- Stops you from getting into certain parts of your home
- Changes the locks while you're out
If your landlord is violent or threatens violence towards you or anyone you live with, notify the Police.
If you are in direct risk of harm, phone the emergency phone number 999.
If you would like to discuss a crime that has already occurred, and you are not in danger, please contact the Police on the non-emergency number 101.
You can read further advice regarding Landlord Harassment and Illegal Ections from Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.
Make sure that your property is insured (especially any expensive equipment that you have). Usually this means contacting an insurer yourself and arranging a policy - shop around as there will be many on offer that have different levels of cover and different prices.
To ensure your private accommodation remains a pleasant place to live for both you and your neighbours, it is important to take note of the recycling and general waste collection arrangements.
For more information about bin collection, please visit the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council website.
If you require parking at your property, ensure you are researching the facilities available. Do you require a permit to display in your vehicle windscreen? Are you allowed access to a restricted designated space? Ask the current Tenants and Landlord, to ensure you are fully aware of any restrictions in place.
All vehicles (including guest vehicles) must be parked considerately, and not causing dangerous obstructions. Please be aware that dangerous parking can cause a great deal of upset and frustration to others, especially as it can prevent emergency vehicles accessing properties, or prevent routine wheelie bin collections.
For more information about parking on campus please visit the Student Parking at the University page.
Parties and Noise Nuisance
Parties are a great way to make new friends, however when noise levels become too loud and at anti-social hours of the day, this often disturbs neighbouring homes in the local area.
Please be considerate when arranging social events, especially as some neighbours may work shift patterns or have young children.
The University will be made aware of noise complaints escalated to the Police or Environmental Health. This may result in serious consequences being taken such as disciplinary action, which could affect your academic career.
If you are experiencing issues with your neighbours, housemates or Landlord, please contact us to discuss this further on: Community@herts.ac.uk or 01707 284096.
I have a complaint about a letting agent - what can I do?
There are a number of routes, described below, that you can take to resolve a complaint against a letting agent.
If your letting agent is PAL accredited, please report your issue to PAL direct.
All letting agents are legally required to join a government-approved letting agents redress scheme. These schemes provide a free and impartial dispute resolution service for landlords and tenants to use.
You should complain to the letting agent in the first instance but if your complaint is unresolved within eight weeks, you can use the scheme that the letting agent is a member of.
The three letting agents redress schemes are:
- Our Community Student Support Officer (Dean of Students Office) can provide advice and support on issues relating to private renting and living off-campus. Please contact Community@herts.ac.uk or 01707 284096
- Hertfordshire Students’ Union Advice & Support Centre offers free, confidential and impartial advice and guidance on housing issues; from how to handle disputes with your Landlord or agent, to informal mediations between housemates, or if you just want to know what to look for when you’re house-hunting – the Advice & Support Centre can help. To get advice; you can drop-in to the Centre to speak to an Adviser from 10:00-16:00 Monday to Friday, call 01707 285022 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- UH has a dedicated policing team who you will see patrolling in and around campus. This team will investigate student related incidents, crimes and concerns. Email: email@example.com.
- The Private Sector Housing team (Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council) work to ensure that people renting in private sector are living in safe and well-maintained housing. If your Landlord or Letting Agent is failing to rectify outstanding repairs within a reasonable timescale, or you are experiencing Landlord Harassment or Illegal Eviction, the team may be able to provide you with additional support. The Community Student Support Officer may refer cases to WelHat Borough Council for further investigation, if necessary. Read more about the support available online: https://www.welhat.gov.uk/private-renting .
Also, take a look at our off-campus student support guides for more useful contact details and information.