Help and Advice
Searching for a private sector property in Sheffield
The safest method of looking for a property is via Sheffield Hallam University Accommodation Services. They provide free advice and information about private sector accommodation. Together with the Sheffield City Council and the Students’ Union Advice Centre, Sheffield Hallam University have a private sector student property standard called Snug.
Snug, was introduced to tighten up the control and regulation of student housing, to ensure that Sheffield offers good quality and safe accommodation for our students.
Only private sector properties that have been vetted in line with Snug - the vetting process includes an inspection of the property and compliance with tenancy management including carrying out repairs, are advertised on our website.
Accommodation Services also provide advice and guidance on all aspects of house-hunting; we have knowledge of the local area and the types of properties that might suit you.
Contact Accommodation Services for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Signing up early? - think again
No sooner will you have moved into your halls or new property, then word will be getting around that it is time to start looking for next year's property. However, don't panic! There is no reason to rush as there is a surplus of good quality accommodation in Sheffield.
The Advice Centre in the student union sees many students each year who sign up very early, then change their minds a few months later, usually because they have fallen out with their friends, or have realised they cannot afford the new rent or have changed their study plans. Once you have signed a tenancy agreement you are not usually able to change your mind, and may find yourself having to pay the rent whether you move in or not.
Hallam Union arrange a housing fair each year (see the Union webpage for details, Covid restrictions permitting). Only landlords that are registered with the University under the new SNUG scheme are invited to attend the housing fair. It provides a perfect opportunity for students to start thinking about finding a property for the next academic year.
Come along to the fair and speak face to face with the landlords, you can ask them questions and find out as much information that you need whilst also arranging viewings for properties that you might be interested in.
However, wait to sign up until after Christmas, preferably after your exams at the end of January, so that you are in a better position to make an informed decision and are not rushing into anything.
Things to consider
There are a number of things that you can do to make sure you get the best house possible for your group:
1. Work out who you want to live with. Think about this carefully as you will end up living together for a whole year. Socialising with someone is a completely different experience to living with someone. If there are things that are irritating now a year can be an extremely long time. People have different ideas of cleanliness and lead different lifestyles, some people are studious and have early nights, others like to go clubbing and stay out until all hours.
2. Explore areas of Sheffield to decide where you want to live. Walk around different areas at different times of day and make sure you like the atmosphere and feel safe. Think about if you want to live in Sheffield centre next to bars and clubs or would you prefer a quieter area, etc. You might also want to consider how far away it is from Uni, as you may have transport costs on top of your bills.
3. Work out how much you can afford (don’t forget gas electricity etc.). This is a common mistake that many students make. Most students' maintenance loan does not usually fully cover the rent. Make sure that everyone in the group decides a budget and sticks to it. Remember to factor in the bills and living costs!
TIP: the general standard of student housing in Sheffield is very good so you should easily find a property of excellent quality around the competitive rent prices.
4. Discuss what you want in the property. Not everything will be possible but your group could draw up a list of essentials and desirables. TIP: If you are in halls your internet is normally already sorted. In the private rented sector some houses have this, some do not. Internet is relatively easy to install so don’t let this put you off a property if it isn’t there already. Please note, that most internet contracts last for 12 months, so you may have to pay for a whole year and not just an academic year.
5. Use your common sense, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Which tenancy is right for you
Tenancies and licences
• A contract is a written legally binding agreement between two parties.
• It is normally made between landlords and their tenants.
• If you are offered a ‘licence’ agreement (often if you
live with a resident landlord) instead of a ‘tenancy
agreement’, seek further advice as licences give you
Assured shorthold tenancy agreements
The majority of students are offered a ‘fixed term’ assured
shorthold tenancy. This gives you ‘exclusive possession’ of
the premises. A fixed term gives a clear end and start date
and, once signed, the landlord and tenant are bound by
Single and joint tenancy agreements
Contracts can be ‘single’ or ‘joint’.
A single contract will typically be for a specified bedroom e.g. top floor front bedroom and use of the communal areas with the rent stated as the amount for one person (e.g. £250 per month).
A joint contract will typically have all tenants’ names on it and will state the rent for the whole property (e.g. £1,000 per month). In this case the group will be renting the house as a single entity.
Joint contracts make all tenants ‘jointly and severally’ liable for the whole rent. In other words, if one of you can’t– or won’t – pay their share, the landlord can pursue the rest of you for it. This may seem unfair but it’s perfectly legal, so make sure this is what you want before signing a joint contract.
Due to the level of shared risk involved, we advise against signing joint tenancies where possible.
Should You Sign
Never sign anything you don't understand- read the contract properly and make notes of anything you don't understand. Then take it to the Advice Centre for checking.
Seek advice about what you're signing.
Hallam Union Advice Centre is there to help you and will offer a free contract checking service so you can be happy that you understand the contract you are signing.
Do not pay any money before you sign the agreement
No monies for tenancy damage deposits or rent should be demanded prior to the signing and exchange of any tenancy agreement.
Reservation deposits can be accepted providing they are small and refundable if the landlord withdraws from the contract. You should ask for a receipt stating clearly what this money is for and the grounds for a refund. If the agent/ landlord won't provide this then don't pay it.
Do not allow a landlord to rush you into signing a contract.
It is reasonable for the landlord to allow you 24 hours to read and check the contract before signing it. Under the SNUG scheme landlords should allow at least 48 hours.
Although the academic year runs for about nine months, you may be asked to commit to a 12 month tenancy agreement. You could use this point to negotiate a reduced rate of rent while you aren’t occupying the property.
Ask the landlord/ letting agent to make changes to the contract if you are not happy with it.
Ask for all "promises" of repairs and improvements should be confirmed in writing by the landlord, specifying deadlines. If the landlord is not willing to do so, then don't sign!
Google- The landlord and the property to see if there is any negative or positive feedback, which might help with your decision.
DO NOT SIGN UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE THE FOLLOWING:
Worked out if you can afford the rent and bills: - Monthly rent per person + utility bills + food & living costs = Monthly amount you are committing yourself to.
Do not sign any tenancy until you have looked around the property yourself and if possible try to look at 5 or 6 for comparison. You wouldn't buy a pair of shoes, without trying them on first!
Read and understood the contract
Got all tenants together at the same time to sign the contract- (otherwise someone may pull out and you may be stuck with additional rent and living costs)
What is a tenancy deposit protection scheme?
It is a legal requirement for Assured Shorthold Tenancies that deposits are secured in a tenancy deposit protection scheme.
The schemes are designed to ensure that any deposits paid to landlords are kept safe so tenants can get their deposits back at the end of the tenancy. They are also designed to ensure that landlords cannot withhold deposits without having a good reason.
This means if you stick to the terms of the tenancy, pay your rent and bills and don't cause any damage to the property, you should be able to get your deposit back.
There are 3 schemes which are backed by the government:-
- Deposit Protection Service
- My Deposits
- Tenancy Deposit Scheme
How it works
Your landlord must protect your deposit in one of the above schemes within 30 days of receiving it. Also within 30 days your landlord or agent must provide you with the following information:-
- the address of the rented property
- how much deposit you’ve paid
- how the deposit is protected
- a reference number
- the name and contact details of the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme and its dispute resolution service
- their (or the letting agency’s) name and contact details
- the name and contact details of any third party that’s paid the deposit
- why they would keep some or all of the deposit
- how to apply to get the deposit back
- what to do if you can’t get hold of the landlord at the end of the tenancy
- what to do if there’s a dispute over the deposit
Don't take your landlord/agent's word for it- make sure that you check with the relevant scheme that it has been secured.
Shelter has a useful infomation regarding deposits on their website here.
If your landlord hasn't secured your deposit
If you think that your landlord/agent hasn't secured your deposit in a scheme within 30 days or hasn't given you the prescribed information, then contact the Hallam Union Advice Centre for further advice. As you could take your landlord to court and ask for it to be secured within 14 days in a scheme or ask for your landlord to repay you your deposit. The court may also order your landlord to pay you between 1 and 3 times the amount of your deposit.
If there is a dispute over the deposit at the end of the tenancy
Your tenancy deposit protection scheme offers a free dispute resolution service if you don't agree with your landlord about how much deposit must be repaid. However, both you and the landlord have to agree to use this service.
If you can't contact your landlord or you think your landlord is being unreasonable, contact your scheme provider and raise a dispute with them. Please note that there may be a time limit to using this service, so don't delay!
You’ll both be asked to provide evidence, and the decision made about your deposit will be final.
The scheme will refund your deposit if the dispute resolution service agrees this is fair.
Time to Move In
Get a written inventory of everything that is provided by your landlord, e.g., furniture, curtains, hoover, etc. Have a good look around the property and note anything that is damaged, e.g., marks on walls etc.
Take date stamped photos of any issues and keep copies of the inventory, photos and any correspondence with the landlord/agent until the end of the tenancy.
This will help to avoid any disputes over your deposits when you move out.
2. Copy of your tenancy agreement
If you haven't already been given a copy of your signed tenancy agreement, ask your landlord/ agent for a copy. Each tenant should have a copy.
3. Landlord's contact details
Make sure you have the name, address, telephone number and email address for your landlord, even if you are using an agent.
If any repairs need to be done, notify your landlord/agent in writing as soon as possible.
5. Safety certificates
Ask for a copy of the gas safety certificate for the property
6. How things work
Get your landlord/agent to show you how the:
- heating and hot water works
- doors and windows lock
- fire safety procedures- including alarms
- where the water stopcock and switches to turn off the gas and electricity are
- how the appliances work
7. Find out which day your bins will be collected, at the link here
Maybe it would be a good idea to introduce yourself to your neighbours
During Your Tenancy
Survival guide for living with housemates
There is an old saying that you don't really know someone until you live with them! Here are our tips on how to get on with your housemates:-
- Set some house rules as soon as you move in. Make agreements for things such as playing music and having friends/family/ partners stay over, etc.
Different people can have different ideas about what is acceptable in terms of how often visitors and/or partners are around. Also with lifestyles, some people are night owls and like to stay up late, but others may get up early or may be more quiet and studious.
- Get everyone to agree how you will share the bills.
- Set up a kitty to pay for essentials such as cleaning supplies, toilet rolls, etc. and maybe even for basics such as tea, coffee, milk and sugar.
- Do your fair share of the cleaning and agree to keep the property / communal areas clean and tidy. if you tidy up as you go along, you won't have to spend hours doing it at a later date.
Also don't forget to keep the garden tidy.
- DON’T steal your housemates food
- If you don't want people to use your belongings, keep it in your room
- Don't just borrow other people's belongings- get permission first.
- Don't just sit in your room- try to eat together or watch TV as a group
- Be respectful of everyone in the house. Remember respect is a two way thing .You are all individuals with your own personalities. Generally, if you can respect each other, communicate effectively and do not take disagreements personally, life will be a lot easier.
Resolving problems with your housemates
It is normal for people to fall out and disagree, especially if you are living in a shared house. Falling out with housemates is one of the most common housing issues for students, and can make the shared living experience a nightmare! However, if handled correctly disagreements do not have to be the end of the world.
The best way to resolve issues is to talk about them.
Here are some tips on how to have a productive discussion:
- Agree before you begin, that only one person speaks at a time and others have to listen and that no-one will raise their voice. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sounds obvious, but going through it all beforehand helps people feel reassured.
- Prepare a list of issues that will be discussed, so that you don't get side-tracked.
- Think of possible solutions, which may involve compromising.
- Don't allow it to turn into a slanging match
Being a Good Tenant
As a tenant you have responsibilities as well as your landlord.
- Pay your rent on time- if you have any problems paying your rent; notify your landlord/ agent as soon as possible. We recommend paying your rent by standing order, this means you won't have to remember to send a cheque.
- Notify your landlord of repairs as soon as possible; for example, don't let leaks go unreported as this could lead to further damage.
- Keep the property in a good clean condition- treat it as it is your own property. Do not let equipment or areas of the property get past the stage where they can't be properly cleaned - if you do, you might lose some of your deposit.
- Be aware of your noise levels, if you can hear your neighbours through the walls; just think about what they may be able to hear. If you are going to have a party let your neighbours know in advance.
- Be respectful of your neighbour's circumstances, for example they may have young children, who may go to bed early or may be elderly. Most people will have to get up for work early in the morning, so won’t want to be kept awake by noise during the night. When coming home late at night, keep voices down and be careful not to slam car doors or front doors. Treat them how you would like to be treated.
- Don't leave rubbish outside your property
- Get involved in your community – there’s lots to do to feel part of your new community and it helps to boost the perception of students
Try to pay your bills on time, as late payments can result in additional charges.
It is sensible at the start of the tenancy that you agree how and when you will pay your share of the bills, some set up a joint bank account or have a kitty.
We advise putting all tenants' names on the utility bills, because if there are several names on the bill, the company can chase one or more of those named people. Like joint tenancies, you will be also jointly and severally liable for the whole bills.
It is important to remember that unpaid bills can be taken out of your deposits.
Clean the property as thoroughly as possible, remember that the property has to be in a similar condition as to when you moved in, allowing for 'fair wear and tear'. The general rule would be to leave it in the same condition that you would expect when you move into a property.
Take date stamped photos of the condition that you are leaving it in.
Don't forget to defrost the fridge and replace any missing light bulbs.
Get the landlord or agent to inspect the property and show them a copy of the inventory. If your landlord/agent isn't happy with the condition, they may withhold your deposit.
It is important that you take final meter readings for your gas, electric and possibly water (if metered) before you move out. Your liability for the bills will end on the last day of the tenancy and you don't want to be paying for someone else's usage. Keep them safe and contact the utility companies as soon as possible to notify them that you have moved out and to give them the final meter readings. The companies should then send you a final bill. This is important as your landlord may not release your deposit until the bills have been paid.
It is vital that you hand your keys back to your landlord. If you fail to do so your landlord may change the locks for the new tenants and you may be charged, which could be taken from your deposit.
If you have paid all your rent and the bills are all paid, there is no damage or issues with the condition of the property. Your landlord/agent must return your deposit within 10 working days.
If your landlord/ agent are withholding any amount that you don't agree with, ask for a breakdown of charges. There are rules for what charges the landlord can withhold from the deposit and they are not allowed to charge for 'fair wear and tear'.
Also notify your tenancy deposit protection scheme as soon as possible that there is a dispute.
If in any doubt please contact Hallam Union Advice Centre for further advice.
Hallam Union Advice Centre
Hallam Union’s Advice Centre provides free, independent and confidential advice on all aspects of housing such as
• utility bills and council tax
• your rights as tenants and your landlord’s obligations.
Hallam Union Advice Centre
Tel No: 0114 225 4148/ Freephone No: 0800 0732 002
Opening Hours: - Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri- 10 am to 4 pm
Thurs from 1pm to 4 pm