Student warning over dodgy landlord cash demands

Students in Devon are being warned against unscrupulous landlords forcing them to make upfront payments on rooms.

It is illegal for landlords and letting agents to charge certain fees to tenants, unless they are classed as ‘permitted payments’. But Trading Standards South West says many young people are not aware of the dangers.

They are urging students in Exeter and across the South West to know their rights before signing for privately rented accommodation.

The Tenants Fees Act 2019, which applies to new tenancies from June 1, 2019 and existing tenancies from June 1, 2020, bans certain payments from being made before, during and after a tenancy. This includes application fees, referencing fees, credit checks and inventory charges.

Stuart Radnedge, regional co-ordination officer for Trading Standards South West, said: “For many students signing a tenancy agreement for private accommodation can be a daunting experience, especially if you are unclear about what you should and shouldn’t be asked to pay.

“Although there are things that tenants are expected to pay such as rent, a capped holding deposit and utility bills, there is a risk that students may be asked to pay hundreds of pounds in fees and upfront payments that aren’t considered permitted payments under the new legislation.

“It is important that students and their family members understand their rights before signing a tenancy agreement.”

New guidance is now available offering advice to students and their family members on what to do if a landlord or letting agent asks for fees and upfront payments.

TOP TIPS FOR STUDENTS RENTING PRIVATE ACCOMMODATION

  • Don’t feel pressured to sign a rental agreement. Always read it fully and ask any questions you may have. Make sure you are clear on the rent, holding deposit and security deposit and check that the tenancy agreement requires only permitted payments.

  • Check that your letting or managing agent belongs to one of the two redress schemes – The Property Ombudsman (TPO) or The Property Redress Scheme (PRS). You can check if your agent is a member by visiting: www.tpos.co.uk/find-a-member or www.theprs.co.uk/consumer/members/

  • It is illegal for landlords and letting agents to charge certain fees to tenants, unless they are classed as ‘permitted payments’. Do not pay fees such as default cleaning fees, inventory fees or set up fees even if they are on the property advert or in your tenancy agreement. For a full list of prohibited payments go to https://www.bristol.gov.uk/web/student-tenancies/home

  • If you have been charged a prohibited payment, or your landlord / agent is not complying with requirements set out in The Tenants Act 2019, you can report them at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/web/student-tenancies/home or by contacting your local council.

  • Make sure any payments you make to a landlord or letting agent are traceable, for example, by using a bank transfer. If you choose to pay by cash always ask for a receipt.

  • In most circumstances tenants are expected to pay the utility bills for a privately rented property but make sure it is clear in your tenancy agreement what utility bills you are liable to pay and how the bills should be paid.

  • A letting agent or landlord should not request a fee to carry out a reference check. Since June 1, 2019, this is a prohibited payment under The Tenants Act 2019. Your letting agent or landlord can make checks, but at no cost to you.

  • If you rent through a letting or managing agent and pay them any money for the property, such as rent, they must be a member of a client money protection scheme. Details of the schemes can be found at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/web/student-tenancies/home

  • Check that your landlord or letting agents has provided all the relevant safety certificates such as a gas safety certificate as well other mandatory information including the “How to rent guide” and an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), if required for your property.

Devon Live