Students heading off to university this month are being urged to check their rental accommodation is safe and that they know what they are signing up to, as a new survey reveals as many as one in three don’t read their property contract.
These simple steps could help prevent students being among the 66% who, according to the National Student Accommodation Survey 2021*, experience problems with a lack of water or heating, damp rooms or dangerous living conditions.
The study also found that half of students struggle to pay rent, leading to fears that some will sign contracts for cheaper housing in a bid to save money without thoroughly checking the property and agreement first.
This could result in students living in sub-standard conditions and, of particular concern, are poorly maintained heating systems that could be life-threatening if they emit harmful carbon monoxide fumes.
To help students understand what they should consider when choosing accommodation, OFTEC, the trade association for liquid fuel heating, has put together a safety checklist outlining the legal requirements landlords must follow and the key red flags to look out for:
- Check that every floor of the property has a working smoke alarm. Carbon Monoxide alarms are also mandatory in rooms which use solid fuel (such as an open fireplace).
- Make sure there is always clear access to a fire escape route.
- Upholstered furniture such as beds and sofas must have appropriate fire safety labels attached.
- Check all electrical appliances (kettles, TVs, light fittings etc.) are working correctly as it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure they are in a good condition. Electrical Safety First also recommends portable electrical appliances provided by landlords are tested at regular intervals.
- When viewing the property, also ask to test the heating and check the radiators warm up.
- For a mains gas heating system, the boiler must have been serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer. If you are moving into one of the 1.5 million oil heated homes in the UK, it is recommended that an OFTEC registered technician, who follows strict industry safety standards, services the system.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, says: “Whilst the vast majority of landlords are fully responsible, unfortunately there are some unscrupulous owners who will try to dupe students into living in potentially unsafe accommodation full of problems just to secure the rent.
“Amid the excitement of going to university, it can be easy to forget some of the vital property checks. But, staying alert and spotting any issues before you move in will help avoid further problems that might affect your stay.
“While it isn’t mandatory, we would expect and encourage reputable landlords to fit working carbon monoxide alarms in all rooms with oil or gas boilers as these can also emit harmful CO if they are poorly maintained.
“Finally, make sure to check your tenancy agreements for any clauses around COVID-19 to get a full grasp of what you are agreeing to.”
The latest government guidance and advice for landlords and tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.
*National Student Accommodation Survey, February 2021