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How to solve common student accommodation problems

If you’ve got problems with your student house, our guide will give you the keys to sorting them out.

Beyond occasional arguments over washing-up, most student houses are safe and enjoyable places to be, and most problems can be sorted out with your flatmates. However, if a more serious issue does arise don’t worry that you’re going to lose the money in your pocket or the roof over your head, as there are almost always ways to solve the following common problems if you know your rights and responsibilities:

Someone leaving early

When you’re sharing a house, chances are you all signed a joint tenancy agreement with your landlord. That means you’re all responsible for paying the full rent on the house, which can cause problems if someone leaves, as everyone remaining will be legally obliged to cover their rent.

If someone does move out, they should have let the landlord or letting agent know, who could find someone else to move in. If they don’t, you might have to find someone yourself. However, you do need to tell your landlord you are doing this so they can change the names on the contract and so that you can negotiate any outstanding rent. Your student services department should be able to help you either find someone else to move in, or deal with your landlord in the mean time.

If you want to leave, tell your landlord and flatmates well in advance. They might well expect you to find someone to fill your room yourself, which isn’t just doing them a favour, but should also avoid trouble when it comes to getting your deposit back or being asked to pay rent in the future.

Not getting your deposit back

Your landlord should provide you with proof that they have put your deposit in an official Deposit Protection Scheme when you move in. These schemes are meant to ensure that landlords can’t keep too much of your deposit when you move out, so you need to contact them directly if you think your landlord is being unreasonable. Your student services department will be able to help with this. Read our article on Deposits for more information.

Intrusive landlords

Just because your landlord owns your house doesn’t mean they have the right to enter it without asking you. They normally have to give you 24 hours notice if they want to come around, or send a workman to repair something. If they don’t they could be breaking their contract with you, and if they carry on turning up unannounced they will be guilty of harassment. (They can come in without notice in some emergency situations - for example, if a pipe bursts while you're on holiday and the house is flooding.)

If you feel that your landlord is harassing you, complain directly to them or your letting agent first. It’s best to do this in writing or in an email so you have a copy you can refer to later. If this doesn’t solve the problem, go to your student services department for help and support. Read our article on Landlords and letting agents for more information.

Repairs

If you’ve got a problem with something like plumbing, electricity, damp or any furniture or appliances like a washing machine that were provided with the house, then it’s up to the landlord to sort them out. Phone at first, but follow the call with a letter or email describing the problem so you’ve got a record.

The landlord should come around to inspect the problem themselves, or send an approved repairperson, as quickly as possible. Remember that although they have to give you 24 hours of their or a repairperson’s visit, you can try and arrange for them to come around earlier if the problem is urgent.

Mice and rats

You don’t necessarily get to choose everyone you share your house with. Tell your landlord if you have mice in your house, but remember that they have no responsibility to deal with the problem, although they might want to make any repairs to the house if the mice are getting in through a hole in a wall, for example. They might also advise you on traps or poison to use, and you’ll need to keep the house clean and your food in sealed containers to help keep your unwanted guests away.

Rats are a rarer but much more serious problem. If you find any evidence of rats in your house, your local council’s environmental health department will be able to help you.

Noisy neighbours

Some people see life as a non-stop party, which can be slightly less fun for people living next to them. Since your neighbours are in a different house they aren’t your landlord’s responsibility, so you’ll have to deal with them yourself if they’re keeping you awake with loud music or parties. It’s best to be direct but diplomatic about this so – rather than either sticking a note under their door or banging on it shouting to ‘keep the noise down’ – knock and politely explain to them that you’re being disturbed and ask them to be quieter. If the problem is loud music, you could try and come to some arrangement where they only play it before a certain hour in the evening. This will normally do the trick with most reasonable people, but if they won’t co-operate or the problem persists, your student services department should be able to give you advice. In more extreme cases you should contact your local authority’s environmental health department, who can legally force people to stop noise.

The other side of this is if you receive complaints about noise from your house. But the same rules apply: be reasonable with whoever’s making the complaint – even if you think you’re doing nothing wrong – and try to come to an agreement that suits you both. After all, most people want peace and quiet, but absolutely nobody wants environmental health at the door.

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