Students urged to be vigilant when choosing rental accommodation

As property rental prices continue to increase, students are being urged not to ignore potential safety issues in a bid to save money as they choose accommodation ahead of the new university year.

New research shows average student rental prices have increased by 10% since 2015 and in areas where demand is particularly high, students could be as much as £600 a year poorer*.

With students also facing growing financial pressure from rising tuition fees and a higher repayment rate, there is concern they may try to cut corners when looking for accommodation and sign contracts for cheaper housing without properly inspecting the property first.

As a result, many could be putting their health at risk by living in unsuitable or unsafe rental housing.

In response, OFTEC, the UK trade body for the oil heating industry, is providing students with a five point safety guide that includes the legal requirements landlords should follow, to help them choose safe accommodation:

  1. The property must have a smoke alarm on each floor and furniture should be fire safety tested. Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms are mandatory in rooms where solid fuel is used e.g. a fireplace. We also recommend having a CO alarm in other rooms which have a heating appliance
  2. Landlords must ensure there is unblocked access to a fire escape route at all times
  3. All electrical appliances, including light fittings, kettles and TVs, must be safe to use. We also suggest you check they are working correctly
  4. For gas, landlords must have a Gas Safe registered engineer conduct a gas safety inspection every year, so ask to see the certificate. If on oil, we recommend you check that the boiler and tank have recently been inspected by an OFTEC registered technician
  5. Inspect the property for signs of damp or mould which can potentially cause health problems. In an attempt to rent the property, landlords may try to paint over patches to cover up the problem.

Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: “Choosing a place to live is an exciting part of the whole university experience. However, many students will be concerned about growing costs, particularly when it comes to rental prices.

“With limited housing available, our advice is not to feel under pressure to take anything you can get. Always speak with the landlord about safety to prevent problems further down the line and remember, they have legal requirements they must follow.

“A key responsibility is ensuring the heating system is safe and working correctly. We recommend you check the boiler has recently been serviced by a registered GasSafe (for mains gas) or OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) technician for complete peace of mind as a faulty system can potentially cause dangerous CO poisoning. Ask to see the inspection certificate if you have any doubts.”

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*SpareRoom Student Rental Prices Report, September 2016