student housing landlords london
Horror stories involving student housing landlords are aplenty. Here are five things you can do to avoid falling victim. Source: Shutterstock

Horror stories involving London private landlords is a running theme for anyone studying at a university in London. As beautiful and exciting as the city is, it has one of the world’s worst affordable housing shortage, a situation that puts many tenants at the mercy of their landlord. The other alternative is to go homeless.

For international students, all this can make renting a place in a city like London a daunting task. Not only are higher requirements and bigger deposits needed, being foreign to a place also means the lack of knowledge of how things work locally and the support systems to access when things go wrong.

A little knowledge beforehand can help international students wade through these unknown waters. Here are the top four things you should be aware of when dealing with student housing landlords in London:

1. Be prepared

Not to incite fear, but it’s good to expect the worst when it comes to renting in a city like London. Here’s the scale of the problem: not one of the single rooms available for private rent in large parts of London are within the budget of people on housing benefits. In London, workers in their 20s spend more than half their income on rent. It has the highest rate of homelessness in Britain – between July and September 2018, 3,103 people were found sleeping rough in the capital.

With such high demand for affordable housing, especially by students, tenants are essentially disposable. With too much power in their hands, plus a lack of regulation and students’ relative vulnerable position, it’s no wonder the list of horror stories from students continues to grow.

Some situations to be prepared for: absent landlords when the ceiling is leaking. Threats of a slander case for exposing their fraudulent gas safety certificate. Or our favourite, blaming disgusting mould in the house on tenants boiling water for pasta

2. Choose wisely

While there isn’t a shortage of houses in London, there is a shortage of affordable ones. Which means students with deeper pockets will be able to have more choices and the opportunity to filter out unscrupulous or demanding student housing landlords. If you fall within this category, make sure you pick the right one!

If you can, opt for private rentals where your university operates as a landlord. For example, under the University of London (UOL) Student Homes scheme, UOL becomes the tenant of property owners in a head lease agreement which then sublets the properties to its full-time students. This then makes them the landlord for the students renting.

3. Don’t blindly trust your London private landlord – make the necessary checks

Use the “Check a landlord or agent” system provided by the Mayor of London’s office. This allows you to get information about private landlords and letting agents who have been prosecuted or fined. Supplement this with checking with seniors at your university who may have had experience dealing with particular student housing landlords. If you’re dealing with an agent, check to see if he or she is registered with a consumer redress scheme.

You should also check whether your landlord or agent is on London Fire Brigade’s public register of notices.

4. Negotiate your contract

Before agreeing to anything in concrete, read up on Generation Rent’s guide, Know Your Rights as a UK Tenant. There’s even a quiz you can take to test your knowledge after.

5. What to do with rogue London private landlords

You should report them to the police or fill this form to submit to the Mayor of London’s office. The complaint may not solve your problem immediately, or get any lost money back, but it will help future students and tenants if the rogue landlord or agent is then properly dealt with by authorities.

You should also complain directly to the agent and complete their in-house complaints procedure. Following this, and with no resolution as a result, refer your complaint to The Property Ombudsman.

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