As students across Northern Ireland have received A-Level results, many will be on the hunt for privately rented accommodation for university.
With rental property prices in Northern Ireland increasing last year[i], OFTEC, the trade organisation that represents the domestic heating and cooking industry in Northern Ireland, is concerned that students will take cheaper accommodation options without properly inspecting the property.
With this in mind, OFTEC has issued its seven top tips to help students ensure their accommodation is safe before they sign the dotted line.
- Check the electrics and appliances– With rented residential accommodation it is the Landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the electrical installation and appliances provided by the landlord are safe when the tenancy begins and are in proper working order throughout the tenancy.
- Look for damp – It is possible to hide damp patches with a few coats of paint, but if your house smells musty or you see evidence of mould, find out how the landlord is planning to fix the problem in the long term as mould has several health risks including respiratory problems and headaches.
- Raise the alarm – It is the landlord’s duty to provide fire and carbon monoxide alarms, as well as fire extinguishers, but the tenants should always test alarms on a regular basis. Carbon monoxide is potentially lethal as it has no smell, taste or colour. Without a working alarm, it is impossible to identify carbon monoxide leaks. It is also your landlord’s responsibility for providing you with a fire escape.
- Furniture and fittings – Ask the landlord for a list of everything that is included and make note of any damage that is there before you move it. Check any beds, sofas and chairs are in good condition.
- Heating requirements – Does your house have oil or gas fired central heating? At the minute, households on heating oil have the cheapest fuel bills of all the main heating systems[ii]. The Health & Safety Executive recommend that all boilers should be serviced annually and tenants looking at an oil-fired property should ask for evidence of recent servicing. If you have concerns ask for a CD/12 Landlord Oil Installation Check which is carried out by an OFTEC registered technician and will give you peace of mind.
If the property has a gas boiler it must be checked by a Gas Safe Registered technician. Boilers that are well maintained will save you money in the long run by being more energy efficient
- Note fire escapes – This important particularly for apartment blocks but make sure they are secure from the outside to prevent unwanted visitors.
- Secure your home – burglars target student areas because of lax security. Ask your landlord to fit key operating locks on the windows and five lever deadlocks on external doors.
David Blevings, OFTEC Ireland Manager said: “With rising rent costs, students may feel under pressure to take what they can get. We are urging students to play it safe and carry out these essential checks before signing a lease and moving in.
“Although asking the landlord about safety may seem awkward, it can prevent you from living in a potentially dangerous property. If anything goes wrong after you have already signed the contract and moved into your accommodation, report it to the landlord immediately to get the issue resolved.
“Landlords have legal responsibilities towards their tenants, who are paying significant amounts of money to experience the independence student housing can bring, and it’s vital that they meet the required standard to ensure the safety of those in the house.”
[ii] Sutherland Tables – (July 2017)