The advice comes after a survey of students revealed nearly two thirds have experienced serious issues with the property they are living in, ranging from damp and problems with the heating system to poor security*.
With the scrapping of maintenance grants and rising tuition fees, there is a concern that students will resort to signing contracts for cheaper housing without properly inspecting the property in an effort to save money.
This could result in students living in potentially unsafe accommodation, which might put their health at risk, or create significant disruption if they have to move out halfway through the year if the house becomes uninhabitable. Of particular concern are poorly maintained heating systems that could be life-threatening if they emit harmful carbon monoxide fumes.
To help with their property search, OFTEC, the trade body for the oil heating industry, has issued a safety checklist for students which outlines the legal requirements landlords must follow and the key red flags to look out for:
1. Every floor of the property must have a working smoke alarm. Carbon Monoxide alarms are mandatory in rooms which use solid fuel (such as a fire place).
2. There must be clear access to a fire escape route at all times.
3. Upholstered furniture such as beds and sofas must have appropriate fire safety labels attached.
4. Check all electrical appliances (kettles, TVs, light fittings etc) are working correctly as it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure they are in a good condition. Electrical Safety First also recommends portable electrical appliances provided by landlords are tested at regular intervals.
5. For a mains gas heating system, the boiler must have been serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer. If you are moving in to an oil heated home, an OFTEC registered technician should service the system. When viewing the property, ask to test the heating and check the radiators warm up.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: It’s that exciting time of year again for students as they prepare to return to university and move into rented accommodation with their friends. However, whilst the vast majority of landlords are fully responsible, unfortunately there are some unscrupulous owners who will try to dupe students into living in potentially unsafe accommodation full of problems.
With rising costs and university towns, affordable housing is often in short supply so it’s easy to feel pressured into taking the first property you find. But, when moving in, it is important to inspect the property and ensure all safety measures are in place and everything is working correctly. In particular, check the heating system is working because you might not turn it on and notice any problems until later in the year once the weather gets colder.