Just like that assignment you've been putting off for months, it is easy to fall into the trap of delaying the search for your next Oxford student home.
But even though the 2019/2020 academic year still seems like an age away, the search for student homes to rent in Oxford starts now!
Oxford has an extremely fast-paced market when it comes to student housing and delaying your search could cost you the ideal property.
The best properties, in the best locations, and that are in great condition don't stay on the market for long, so getting through the door for a viewing early is crucial!
Martin & Co Oxford's student property list for 2019, which boasts more than 100 great student properties to rent, goes live on Monday!
So, in order to act quickly once the list is published, follow our essential guide to student renting in Oxford below!
DECIDE THE AREA YOU WANT TO LIVE IN
Prior to viewing properties, it's essential to pinpoint the area you want to live in. That will depend on what your priorities are for the next academic year.
Consider the time it will take you to travel to your university or college and the costs associated with that. Research which bus routes will get you to the city centre or to college, and what cycle paths are available. While peace and quiet ahead of an important year may be on your wish-list, the costs and time associated with living further away from your college or university might not work for you.
Consider the things that are most important to you. Remaining close to the great nightlife around the Cowley Road could be a 'must-have' on your dream student property check-list, or perhaps a priority is being within walking distance of Oxford Brookes University.
Establishing your preferred location now will save you time when the rush to view properties starts at the end of this month!
KNOW YOUR BUDGET
It's important to know your limits when it comes to the costs associated with renting a property in Oxford.
Work out your maximum budget and do not be tempted to push it beyond what you can afford. Make sure you include everything in your budget that should be in there - rent, bills, internet costs and expenses for travel should all come into your thinking.
Get your guarantor confirmed before commencing your search and see if they want to come with you to view properties or whether they are happy to support your decision without seeing the property themselves. Their support is crucial as it allows you to commit to a property early.
DECIDE WHO YOU WANT TO LIVE WITH
While tenant swaps are possible prior to moving in to your property, they are far from ideal and you would be responsible for your share of the rent until such time as a replacement tenant is found.
This can prove costly for you, so ensure you are happy with your prospective housemates before committing to a tenancy agreement.
SHOW UP FOR YOUR VIEWINGS
Think of property viewings like a two-way job interview. From your perspective, you are scoping out the property, letting agent and landlord to decide if you want to commit to them.
But remember: The letting agent and landlord are also running the rule over you and your housemates, so be professional and courteous at all times.
Turn up for your viewing on time. Nothing upsets a lettings agent more than time-wasters who don't show up.
Turning up on time and enthused will demonstrate your reliability and, even if the property you are viewing is not right for you, making a good impression could mean the agent contacts you with other options.
Make sure all of your potential housemates attend the viewing and bring anyone else with you who has an interest in where you will be living during the academic year.
Draw up a list of questions to ask the lettings agent in advance so you are fully aware of your obligations should you choose to take the property on.
UNDERSTAND YOUR RENT OPTIONS
All student renters need a guarantor if advanced rent is not being paid up front. Get your guarantor in place early before viewings commence and ensure they are:
* Not on a temporary employment contract
* Have three years of history and accounts information they are willing to supply if they are self-employed
* Earn 42x your share of the rent per annum to pass the affordability test (i.e if your share of the rent is £500 per month, your guarantor would need to earn 42 x 500, which is an annual salary of £21,000)
BE PREPARED FOR THE REFERENCING PROCESS
Make sure your guarantor is aware of the process and scrutiny they will be under when it comes to proving who they are, and proving their earnings are sufficient to guarantee your share of the rent.
Payment of the first month's rent and deposit (and checkout fee where applicable) will be due within the month you apply to take on the property and these sums will secure the property for you.
Ensure your guarantor and / or parents are aware of this and discuss all aspects of the tenancy agreement with them, from start date, length of the tenancy, your share of the rent and any deadlines for the application to be completed.
Martin & Co Oxford uses an independent referencing agency, Van Mildert, who will send a referencing application to you and your guarantor. Guarantors' employers will be asked to validate their income, but it is YOUR responsibility to ensure referencing is completed promptly and all deadlines in relation to the property are met.
KNOW ABOUT FEES
Oxford lettings agents currently charge fees to tenants to process their application, and complete credit reference checks.
Our agency fee at Martin & Co Oxford is £175 per applicant and payment of this fee will remove the property from the open market. The first month's rent and security deposit (and checkout fee where applicable) must be paid up front within 10 days of your application to fully secure the property.
Ensure you and your housemates are aware of these fees and when they are due in order for the property to remain off the market and secured for you. Each guarantor will be charged an additional £84 for a referencing application to be made in their name. Please note that our standard agency fees are non-refundable.
CHECK YOUR INVENTORY
On or just prior to your move-in you will normally be sent a copy of the pre-tenancy inventory for your property (some self managing landlords don't use inventories). This outlines the condition of the property on moving-in day.
If you are provided with an inventory, ensure you and your housemates go through it carefully and highlight anything you believe has been missed or which misrepresents the actual condition of the property.
Whether you are provided with an inventory or not, make notes and take photos to back up your points about condition and be honest because your agent or landlord may inspect to validate the issues you raise.
Flagging up issues during your first week will help when it comes to claiming back your deposit at the end of the academic year because a check-out report may be used to compare the condition of your property at the end of the tenancy with the annotated pre-tenancy inventory report at the start.
Or your landlord may inspect and note all matters relating to condition. While some normal wear and tear is expected, damage beyond fair wear and tear will be charged against your security deposit. So, be organised, capture everything at the start and keep a record for reference at the end.
As tenants, you and your housemates are responsible for the general upkeep of the property. If you don't keep to these obligations, your deposit could be at risk.
Ensure you read the tenancy agreement IN FULL. This will outline your responsibilities as tenants.
While deductions to your deposit will not be made for 'fair wear and tear', items damaged through negligence or miss-use could see a deduction made.
Make sure the property is well-ventilated and kept clean to keep mould at bay.
In simple terms, look after the property as if it were your own and you won't go too far wrong!
When it comes to rent, make sure it is paid in full and on time! It's that simple! Any outstanding rent at the end of the agreement could affect your deposit and therefore your housemates' share as well as your own.
Know who looks after the management of your property. It could be the lettings agent or the landlord themselves. Knowing who to contact for routine repairs, maintenance or in an emergency is crucial as it is your responsibility as tenants to report problems as soon as they occur.
Clause 9.3.2 in your Martin & Co tenancy agreement will confirm who is the point of contact during your tenancy.
BE PREPARED FOR INSPECTIONS
Make sure your student property is clean, presentable and well-looked-after so when an inspection does come up, it will be a formality.
Stick to regulations regarding safety. Don't obstruct doorways or exit routes and make sure all fire and carbon monoxide alarms are in good working order.
TYPICAL ISSUES / DAMAGE TO AVOID
Mould in bathrooms and on bedroom walls is normally avoidable by ensuring the rooms are properly ventilated. Sometimes extractor fans are switched off because they are noisy, but no window is opened to compensate. Mould can be treated easily via products such as HG Mould spray and simple regular wiping.
Blue tac and similar products used to put up posters can leave oily stains on walls and cause wallpaper to rip. Typically such damage necessitates redecoration and associated costs.
Food waste in shared kitchens can attract vermin and insects. Keeping cereals and opened food packets in eye-line cupboards and using units under surfaces for crockery and pans can help to avoid pest problems. Disposing of kitchen waste properly in bins rather than having bags outside kitchen doors can also avoid issues related to vermin outside properties.
Oxford is known for being a cycling city. Some properties provide secure storage for bikes, others don't. Bikes must not become a hazard blocking fire doors and/or exits from the property. Keeping stairways, doors and hallways clear is an important safety consideration.
END OF TENANCY
As per your check-in inventory report, you are required to return the property to the landlord in the same condition it was supplied in at the beginning of your tenancy (less fair wear and tear).
* All your possessions are removed
* The property is cleaned throughout (professionally if required)
* The garden is tidy (if your responsibility)
* Utility companies (gas, electric, water, council tax, phone, broadband etc) have been notified of your moving-out date and all bills are paid up in full
* You discuss your deposit return with your landlord or lettings agent
ASK US ANYTHING!
We are here to help you secure the best property you can to complement your studies. If you are worried or concerned about any aspect of renting a student property in Oxford, speak to us!
Martin & Co Oxford is your first port of call when looking for student housing in Oxford, so contact us today to request a copy of our 2019 student property list.