House Hunting Queries
I’m looking for a contract to start in September but they all seem to start in July?
The letting year in Sheffield runs from the 1st July until the 30th June each year. Some landlords or agents will offer contracts starting in September which you can find by using the search facility on our website by changing the ‘Available?’ filter to September. It is often the larger student developments which will offer contracts from September. Alternatively, you could look for accommodation in August and discuss with any landlord, the possibility of starting a contract in September.
I’m looking for a short term contract over the summer and I can’t find one.
Short term lets can be difficult to find. Many landlords offer 52 week contracts, so their properties will be let all year round. Some of the larger student developments offer short term lettings over the summer. These include the University of Sheffield accommodation which only students registered for the duration of the summer are able to use. Smart Move Sheffield produce a list of short term lets for the summer that you can come in and collect from us.
Is my landlord/agent registered with you?
Smart Move Sheffield register specific properties rather than landlords or agents. Your landlord or agent may have some properties registered with us. If you want to find out if your property is registered come and speak to us or give us a call
I don’t have people to live with next year, what should I do?
If you don’t want to live by yourself, you don’t have to! The welfare committee run housemate finder events a couple of times a year (usually February and May/June) in the Students’ Union where you can meet potential housemates in person. If you can’t attend these or have missed them you could take a look on our message board to meet housemates or find a room in a house, or you can search for a room in a shared house using our property search facility. You can enter the number of bedrooms you are looking for in the ‘How many bedrooms?’ section and leave the ‘What size of property?’ blank. This will display any results where the property contains at least the number of bedrooms you are looking for and the landlord is willing to let the property to individuals rather than a pre-formed group.
The agent wants to charge me lots of fees, can they do this?
On 1st June 2019 the Tenant Fees Act came into force banning most lettings fees and capping tenancy deposits. For tenancies entered into before 1st June 2019 any charges contained within your tenancy can be charged until 31st May 2020. For any tenancy entered into after 1st June 2019 Landlords and Agents are prohibited by law charging you most lettings fees, even if they're contained within the tenancy agreement!
How is the rent paid?
The way you pay your rent will depend on the landlord or agent. It is normally written into your tenancy agreement so if you don’t think you can stick to the schedule try and get it changed before you sign for the property! Some landlords will take the rent in instalments which roughly match your student loan dates whereas others will charge the rent monthly (including over the summer on a 52 week contract). Common methods of payment are setting up a standing order or post-dated cheques.
What happens if I don’t have a guarantor?
Some larger agents or landlords may ask for a guarantor. This will need to be a UK based person who can pay your rent in the case that you are not able to. If you cannot provide a guarantor when requested to may be able to arrange to pay some or all of your rent upfront, alternatively you may wish to look at other properties with smaller landlords where guarantors are not required.
Do I need to pay rent if I’m not living there over the summer?
Yes, unless your contract states otherwise. It is common that the tenants of student properties in Sheffield pay full rent for the entire duration of the contract.
Council Tax Queries
What properties will I need to provide my council tax exemption information for?
Some properties will not require that you provide your exemption certificates to Sheffield City Council. These are usually properties that only students can live in, for example University of Sheffield student accommodation (University family accommodation is not exempt) or large student developments.
Do I need to pay council tax?
Only students studying full time at the University of Sheffield are exempt. Students must meet the criteria set by Sheffield City Council to be exempt. Part time students are required to pay council tax.
I am an Erasmus student, do I need to pay council tax?
Erasmus students may be exempt from council tax, but must obtain a letter from their home University in English as well as a letter from SSiD. SSiD have produced an example of the letter you should request from your home institution which can be found here. These will then need to be submitted to Sheffield City Council for consideration.
My partner is not a student, do they need to pay council tax?
Unless your partner meets the requirements as set by Sheffield City Council for exempt persons, such as a partner who is not able to work or claim benefits in the UK as a requirement of their visa or dependents of a student, they will usually be required to pay for council tax. Details of exempt persons can be found here.
One of my housemates isn’t a student, do we need to pay council tax?
Council tax is a requirement for the property rather than the specific tenants. If any person living in the property is not exempt the council tax will be payable by those persons. If only one person is liable to pay council tax, they may be able to receive a discount of 25%. You will need to complete and send a form to Sheffield City Council to apply for the discount and exemptions.
What is a meter and where can I find it?
A meter is a device that measures the amount of consumption. This is usually for gas and electricity but can also be for water, so you may have up to three meters. Meters are in different places in every property, but common places are in a cupboard by the door, in the cellar, under the stairs or on the outside of the property in a white box. If you can’t find them, ask your landlord or agent.
How much will the bills be?
The amount you pay for bills will depend on a number of factors, including how energy efficient the property is, the number of housemates, size of the property and how much energy is consumed. If you leave all of the lights on 24 hours a day, it will cost you more than only turning them on when you need them. The common bills you will need to pay are gas, electricity, water, internet and tv license. In an average shared house, the bills are usually around £10-£20 per person per week (but this is only a guide and the actual amounts may vary – particularly due to the seasons!). It is advisable to submit regular meter readings for gas and electric, and ask how much your account is so that you can adjust your usage accordingly. More information on bills can be found here.
Heating is really expensive, what is the minimum we need to have it on for?
Heating can be expensive, but it is also really important for your health and the condition of your property. Cold, damp houses aren’t any good for your health and probably won’t help with your studies either, so it’s worth spending a bit extra on being warm. There isn’t a minimum amount because each house will vary, but ensure the house isn’t too cold and that the heating comes on every day when it’s cold – even over Christmas when it’s empty. It would be cheaper to pay for the heating than fix the pipes if they freeze and burst while you’re away!
Home Safety Queries
What is a Gas Safety Record and does my property need one?
A Gas Safety Record is a certificate that must be provided by a Gas Safe registered engineer. It confirms that any gas appliance in the property is safe for use and is valid for one year. Any property that contains a gas appliance e.g. boiler, hob, fire must have a valid record, and you are entitled to ask for a copy. If your property does not have any gas, for example large developments are usually electric only, then the property will not need a Gas Safety Record.
Is a downstairs bedroom an escape route?
If your property has a ground floor bedroom that has access to the outside of the property then it will be classed as an emergency escape route. This means that the exit door must allow exit from the property without the use of a key e.g. a thumb turn lock, you should not lock the bedroom door as this could prevent escape in the case of an emergency (particularly if the other exit is through the kitchen where a fire is likely to occur) and that the exit door must not be blocked by furniture. Remember, the other tenants may not be as familiar with the layout of the room and may need to escape in the dark – try to keep a clear exit route as far as is possible.
If I sign a contract but no longer want to live there what should I do?
The first thing that you should do is speak to your landlord (and your housemates if they don’t know). Your landlord will advise you of anything that you are required to do to end your contract. The usual requirement is to find a replacement tenant. If you are looking for a replacement tenant you have a few options. If your contract hasn’t yet started, you could try attending the housemate finder events held by the Welfare Committee, usually February and May/June. Other options for everyone to try are to post on our message board, speak to the Student Advice Centre to see if you can put a card up on their accommodation board and finally, if the property is registered with us we may be able to advertise it for you – so come and talk to us! Don’t ignore the situation, try and sort it out as soon as possible. You’re more likely to find a replacement if you give yourself more time to look.
Can you help me find a replacement tenant?
Yes we can, but the amount we are able to do depends on whether the property is registered with us or not. Any University of Sheffield student is able to use our message board to post an advert looking for replacement tenants, and the property does not need to be registered to use this. However, if the property is registered, with the landlords’ permission, we can place an advert on our website which may also help to find a replacement. If you aren’t sure if your property is registered, feel free to come and speak to us and we will check for you.
Have I signed a joint tenancy or an individual tenancy?
A joint tenancy is where all of the tenants have equal responsibility for the whole property. All of the tenants will be named on one tenancy agreement, and you will all have signed the same document. An individual tenancy is one where you are responsible only for your room, which is often specifically identified, and you have use of the common parts along with the other tenants. You will have a tenancy agreement where you are the only tenant listed on the document and are the only person (other than the landlord/agent) to have signed it.
My housemate is no longer going to live in the house we signed for. Do I need to pay their rent?
Hopefully your ex-housemate will be paying their rent and you won’t have to worry. If they are unable to or do not pay, whether or not you will need to pay will depend on the type of contract that you have signed. If you have signed a joint tenancy agreement then you are all equally responsible for the payment of the rent for the entire property which will include your housemate’s share. Your landlord may ask you to pay. If you have signed an individual tenancy agreement then you are only responsible for your share of the rent, and the landlord cannot ask you to pay for anyone else.
My landlord is asking me to pay my housemate’s rent but I can’t afford it, what can I do?
If you signed a joint tenancy agreement with your housemate then your landlord is able to ask you to pay your housemate’s share of the rent. Other than the obvious of asking your housemate to pay their rent, you could speak to the Student Advice Centre for assistance with your housemate or if they can offer any financial advice (ask for an adviser who can deal with both housing and financial advice).
I’m looking for accommodation for my course after my ELTC studies have finished can you help me?
We do not recommend that you sign a contract for a property until you are certain that you will be continuing your studies at the University of Sheffield because the tenancy agreement will be legally binding. However, we would be happy to talk to you about your options when continuing your studies and answer any questions you have about accommodation in Sheffield.
I have signed a contract for a property but I have finished studying but did not pass my ELTC, what can I do?
If you are not able to live in the property, you can post details about the property on our message board, speak to the Student Advice Centre to see if you can put a card up on their accommodation board and finally, if the property is registered with us we may be able to advertise it for you – so come and talk to us!
I have paid a deposit when I signed the contract for a property, does this mean I can cancel the contract if I have changed my mind?
A deposit in the UK does not act like insurance which allows you to cancel your contract at any time. The deposit is used to cover any outstanding payments or damage caused to the property when you leave as specified in the contract only. All contracts are legally binding and if you have changed your mind you will need to speak to the landlord to see how you can be released from your obligations. Usually you will need to find a replacement tenant to take over your contract.