The start of the academic year is approaching and students with successful CAO offers are now searching for accommodation. Here are some tips on what to look out for.

Before searching for a property, speak to other students or check college advice websites for first-hand experiences of renting in the area. The amount of accommodation available and the average rents charged can have a big effect on your budget. Your student union may offer a free housing or legal advice and contract checking service.

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous landlords may not have a tenant‘s best interest at heart, it is therefore advisable to seek advice from professional letting agents who must adhere to a strict code of conduct.

Find out what kind of tenancy agreement you are signing, as this can make a difference to your liability. Many shared tenancies will have a joint and several liability clause and this means you are responsible for the actions of your co-tenants and not just the payment of the rent. Check also if there is a notice period required, usually a month, before moving out as if you fail to give notice you may be still responsible for rent.

Your deposit will be a significant upfront payment but also be aware of hidden costs such as utility bills and TV/Internet access.

It is important to check if your contents are covered by your parent’s home insurance policy while you are temporarily living away from home. If you are not covered it is best to extend the cover on their policy or alternatively arrange your own house contents insurance policy.

The landlord will usually give you a comprehensive inventory listing the fixtures and fittings within the property. It is very important that you go through that list, inspect all the fixtures and fittings and make a note of their condition. It is advisable to take photographs of the condition of the property and copies given to the landlord. Most disputes involving the confiscation of initial deposits are due to claims that damage was caused or that fixtures and fittings had been left in an unusable condition.