The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is advising the thousands of students looking for rental accommodation in the UK to use a regulated lettings agent to ensure they are fully protected throughout the letting process and tenancy.
With A level results having been issued and tens of thousands of students across the UK entering the clearing process for university places, the rush is on for last minute student accommodation in major university towns and cities across the country.
Whilst most students are provisionally offered university places and arrange housing for their September move in the spring, many wait anxiously to obtain their exam results before making a final decision on where to move.
With on-campus, university owned accommodation snapped up early in the year, a large majority of students opt for private rental. Last year, almost half a million students in the UK rented privately according to the government’s Higher Education Statistics Agency, some 29% of all UK students.
Despite a booming student lettings market, there still is no compulsory regulation of lettings agents. That means that just about anybody can set up a letting agency, despite having no qualifications, relevant training and regulations.
With time constraints pushing many students to find a place to live in the coming weeks, before term time begins, many are given little opportunity to thoroughly research their options and thousands will register with unregulated letting agencies.
RICS says that in Wales, for example, heavily student populated areas of Cardiff, Swansea and Aberystwyth, have a huge amount of unregulated agents and students are an easy target for unprincipled landlords, who are making large amounts of money by charging high rents for worn out and neglected properties.
For many students, moving to university will be their first experience of managing their own property, and many will have no knowledge of what their landlord must be responsible for. An unlicensed or unaccredited letting agency is more likely to fail to meet best practice standards and there is no official complaints procedure or guaranteed financial protection. There can often be more severe problems with landlords ignoring the deposit protection scheme or charging over the odds for minor misdemeanours.
To help safeguard students, RICS recommends registering with a letting agency that is regulated by a recognised professional body or accreditation scheme.
‘There are several advantages of using an agency that is regulated by RICS. Members have to update their skills and knowledge throughout their careers, so you can rely on their expertise, and have strict codes of conduct to protect you, including proper insurance, a complaints service, membership of a redress scheme and Client Money Protection,’ said Robert Camm MRICS, of Swansea based CLC Chartered Surveyors.
‘RICS regulated agents are obliged to adopt best practices such as ensuring your bond and finances are protected, basic living standards are met, maintenance and other issues are dealt with efficiently, a gas certificate is current and an official complaints procedure is in place. Remember that as a student, you have the same rights as any other private tenant,’ he added.