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Moving back into your student house

Welcome back!  We hope that all our students had a restful break and a very happy new year.  We’re sure that you’re all eager to move back into your student properties and get back into the uni lifestyle after a few weeks at home with your families, but what should be at the top of your to-do list now that you’re back?  Here are our suggestions…

  • Open a couple of windows.  In order to avoid condensation which can lead to mould, crack open a window or two and let some fresh air in.  The house should have been all locked up over the winter break which, while safe, can cause it to become stuffy and prone to condensation.  Let some air flow through while you’re home, but don’t forget to lock up again before you go out!
  • Have a quick clean.  While things should have been spick and span before you left, an empty house can lead to dust, and any forgotten abandoned food may have gone bad and left a nasty smell.  With exam and coursework deadlines looming, you may be spending a lot of time studying (and celebrating afterwards!) in the common areas so make a pact with your house mates to keep it clean.  A quick wipe down of the work tops and a sort through your cupboards and fridge can make a big difference, so start the year as you mean to go on!
  • Check for any problems.  Whether it’s the harsh winter weather taking its toll on the property, resulting in fallen roof tiles or frozen pipes, or whether you’ve just sprung a leak, drop us a line right away and the Mistoria team can get things fixed up as soon as possible.  Give us a call on our emergency maintenance number 07794 913 390 and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
  • Sort out your student housing for next year.  If you’ll still be studying in the next academic year and haven’t yet sorted out your accommodation, make sure to get it booked so you don’t lose out.  If you’ve grown attached to your student house this year, give us a call and rebook for 2014/15.  The process is quick and easy, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing you can keep your digs for another year.  Contact us to arrange a viewing on 0800 500 3015 or through our website – we’re always happy to answer any questions you may have.

We hope you all have a fantastic second term in your Mistoria property and that you’ll consider rebooking with us for next year.  If you have any questions or comments, as usual don’t hesitate to contact us – whether by phone on 0800 500 3015 or through our website.  We’d love to hear from you!

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Leaving student housing secure over Christmas

Everyone needs to protect their home over the Christmas period, but student housing is often more vulnerable than most.  Leaving a house empty for up to a month requires security precaution, and the possibility of snow, storms or floods needs to be considered.  Here are our top tips for keeping your student home safe over the Christmas break…

  • Set the heating to a timer so that it comes on (on a low heat) a couple of times a day for a couple of hours.  This will stop your pipes from freezing and prevent any other frost damage.  It will also ensure that your home will not be freezing cold when you return. 
  • Clean!  You will kick yourself if you come back to a dirty house, which has been festering for weeks.  Take out the bins, empty the fridge (no-one wants find mouldy month-old pasta!) hoover and check under the bed for any old food or stinky socks!
  • Now’s the time to check your locks.  If you think any may need changing, bring this up with your landlord now.  You’ll need to lock everything before you leave to prevent break-ins, so if there’s any doubt, get it fixed.
  • As a further precaution, set up lamps on timers to make it look as though the house isn’t empty.  Cancel any deliveries such as milk or catalogues which could build up and indicate there’s no-one home.
  • Let your landlord know when the house will be empty.  They can then check on the property in the event of bad weather and keep an eye on things.  If you know anyone else on your street who will also be around, ask if they can let you know if anything seems wrong, or even give them your landlord’s number for emergencies such as a burst pipe or collapsed roof.

If you’re starting to property hunt ready for the next academic year, check out our available student housing now, and be sure to download our student housing guide.  It’s full of tips for finding a student house, as well as handy hints on how to save money, what you can expect from your landlord, and check-lists for moving in and out of student accommodation.  Feel free to contact us with any queries on 0800 500 3015 or using our contact form.

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Freshers’ week tips

Freshers’ Week is fast approaching for our student tenants. It can be an equally exciting and nerve-wracking week – no one wants to start the year off on the wrong foot. So here are Mistoria’s top 6 Freshers’ Week tips…

1) Avoid Freshers’ Flu! A week of socialising with new people, taking buses everywhere and plenty of late nights can take its toll, and many students find that by the end of the week they feel awful. Which isn’t what you want for your first full week of lectures! We recommend stocking up on antibacterial gel and multi-vitamins. And maybe have at least one early night!

2) Stay safe. New and unfamiliar cities can be daunting at night, so it’s important to make sure you’re covered. Exchange numbers with your new flatmates before going out so you’re never left alone and Google local taxi companies – if the night’s a disaster, you can always go home!

3) Take advantage of the Freshers’ Fair. They aren’t just for societies – they’re also full of free stuff, discount cards, offers on food and drink, and flyers for all the social events you could ever want to attend that week – who wants to pay for entry? Stalls at Freshers’ Fairs have been known to give out everything from tins of baked beans to beach balls – some even have freshly baked pizza to sample! 

4) Budget. That student loan may look like a lot now, but it has to go a long way so try not to blow it all in one week. Try and stick to a budget, but allow yourself to splurge a little this week. If you want to save on food, suggest a group dinner once a week – this will not only give you more money to spend elsewhere but will bring the group closer together.

5) Start to think about next year. It seems a bit premature now, but a lot of students start hunting for next years accommodation around Christmas time. If you don’t get on with your flatmates, remember just because you’ve been put together with certain people this year, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with them. Sign up for some societies and try and meet up with people from your course – they could be potential flatmates for the year ahead.

6) Download our free student guide! There’s plenty of tips for finding next years digs, check lists to help you move in and out, and some pointers to help you to keep your costs down throughout the year! 

To download our PDF click here, or to view our range of student properties, visit our website. Feel free to contact us with any queries on 0800 500 3015 or using our contact form.

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Student House Viewings – What To Look For

Trying to find the right student house can be stressful.  So many viewings in such a short space of time can leave you unsure of what it is you’re actually looking for.  And so, here at Mistoria Estate Agents, we’ve devised a helpful list of things to bear in mind during student house viewings

  • Furniture – What comes with the house?  Most student accommodation will come equipped with the basics – beds, sofas, wardrobes etc.  But what about white goods?  Will you need to buy your own toaster and kettle?  What about a bookcase sturdy enough for all your textbooks?  And don’t forget the TV!
  • Location Location Location – Have an idea in mind for where you want to live to narrow down your property search.  Would you rather be closer to the university or further afield where it’s quieter?  Remember to consider transport costs – if you find a house that isn’t within walking distance, you will most likely have to buy an annual bus pass.  Ask yourself, does the area feel safe?  We recommend Googling the street to double check. 
  • Security – Every landlord is legally obligated to make sure their property is as safe as possible.  This includes both fire safety and security measures to prevent burglaries.  Student houses are notorious for being break-in targets, so it’s definitely worth making sure you choose a house that measures up in terms of security.  We’re talking locks on windows, multiple locks on the doors and outside lights.  If you find a house you love that doesn’t feel secure enough, you are well within your rights to demand an security upgrade from your landlord.  There’s nothing worse than coming home to find your laptop (and with it, all your coursework) missing!
  • Price Rent is obviously one of the first things students consider when choosing a house but what about other costs?  Does the rent include any bills?  What about internet costs? And don’t forget food!  Rent won’t be the only thing coming out of your account every month so remember to add up the total costs and figure out a hypothetical budget when considering whether or not you can afford a place.
  • Housemates One of the best things about a student house as opposed to halls is the communal aspect.  A good sized living room and kitchen is essential if you plan to spend a lot of time with your housemates or hold a lot of parties.  A garden may also come in handy for the summer.  However, remember that things don’t always go smoothly!  One bathroom between five may cause early-morning fights, and if it turns out you can’t stand your housemate’s taste in TV, you may want to avoid the living room, so make sure to choose a bedroom you don’t mind spending a lot of time in if necessary.
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Student Accommodation FAQs

So, you’re looking for your first student house and everything is a little bit overwhelming.  There’s so much to consider and loads of new jargon to wrap your head around.  What’s a deposit?  What’s a holding fee?  Do I need to pay them both?  And what’s this NLA I’ve been hearing so much about?  Don’t panic!  Sit back, relax, and check out Mistoria’s Student Accommodation FAQs…

  • What is a guarantor and why do I need one? 
  • A guarantor is a third party (usually a parent or legal guardian) who guarantees that your rent will be paid.  Your guarantor will need to sign a form to confirm that, should you fail to pay the rent, they will pay the landlord on your behalf.  Basically, they act as a safety net, since most students cannot be 100% trusted with their funds!
  • What is a deposit and will I get it back?
  • Your deposit is there to ensure that you take care of your property.  Most landlords will ask for approximately a month’s rent as a deposit, and given that the property is not damaged, you will get this money back at the end of your tenancy.  Bear this in mind during your stay and work together to keep the property in a reasonable condition – it’s a lot of money to lose for one person’s careless behaviour. Also remember that your landlord is obligated by law to place your deposit in a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme. Always ask your landlord which scheme they’re using in order to make sure your money is safe.
  • What is a holding fee?
  • A holding fee guarantees that the property is yours if you want it – the landlord will stop holding viewings and it gives you some extra time between viewing the property and signing the contracts to get things in order.  However, holding fee policy differs from landlord to landlord.  Some do not accept a holding fee, while others will require one.  Some will take the holding fee amount out of your deposit, and others will consider it an additional payment.  Make sure you know where your prospective landlord stands on holding fees, especially if you’ve found a house you love.
  • Who pays the bills?
  • While some properties come with bills included, usually it is up to the students to pay.  Make sure each of you keep some money aside for bills every month, and work out a system to split the cost.  To keep your bills as low as possible, check out the efficiency rating of every house you view – the more efficient the property, the lower your bills will be.
  • What about internet or TV?
  • Again, this differs from property to property.  Remember that internet is essential for uni work, so if it’s not included, make arrangements ASAP to avoid any problems at the start of term.  Discuss with your flatmates whether or not you need a TV.  On the one hand it can encourage the group to be more sociable, but remember that a TV will require a TV license – another additional cost.
  • What’s the NLA?
  • When looking for student accommodation, you may have come across the phrase “NLA registered”, meaning that the landlord is registered with the National Landlords Assosiation and therefore more reputable.  If possible, it is always recommended that students choose an NLA registered landlord to ensure that they are protected.
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The Deposit Protection Scheme – Keeping Your Money Safe

Deposits can be a scary thing.  You’re handing over a large sum of money to someone you barely know, and trusting that you’ll get it back.  Unfortunately, landlords have broken this trust in the past, which is why in 2007, the Government introduced tenancy protection laws in the UK.  These laws mean that landlords are obliged to place your deposit within a deposit protection scheme to keep it safe until you get it back.

The schemes are government run, meaning they’re completely reputable and trustworthy.  The four schemes available to landlords are:

Each of these websites contains a tool which, as a tenant, you can use to double check that your deposit is protected.  Your landlord is also legally obligated to tell you which deposit protection scheme they are using and how you can apply to get your deposit back.  For a full list of landlord responsibilities regarding your deposit, and to check your landlord isn’t keeping any important information from you, follow the link here.

So what if your landlord hasn’t used a deposit protection scheme?  Well, the four aforementioned websites all offer help and advice for such an event.  The official government website on deposit protection also recommends contacting a county court, who may demand that the landlord repay you the deposit or pay it into a scheme within two weeks.

Moving house is stressful enough without the added anxiety of what your new landlord may be doing with your deposit, so keep your mind at ease by making sure your money is stored away in a reputable deposit protection scheme.  It’s the law!

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Letting Agents to be more upfront when it comes to cost

A new ruling by The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) now means letting agents must now be much clearer about their fees for rental properties.

Certain estate agencies have been accused of hiding compulsory administration fees making it difficult for the consumer to really know what they were going to be charged for their rental properties.

The ASA have said that all prices now quoted must be transparent to ensure a much fairer system. Now when an agency is letting a property the monthly rent must be advertised alongside any extra admin fee to be paid including information about a property’s deposit, any rent to be paid in advance and also any contract fees involved. These changes are being made to protect all renters but especially vulnerable people such as first time renters and students from looking for a home.

With these new regulations in place consumers will now have all the information they need to compare prices and shop around, so that they can be confident when choosing a property. 

Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said:

“Hidden fees are not only unfair, they hit those who are struggling hardest. Our ruling today makes clear that Letting Agents need to get their houses in order and treat potential tenants fairly.

Renting a property is a significant commitment. And for those who are new to the rental market, like students, navigating it can be particularly difficult. That’s why the ASA is clamping down on Letting Agents who hide fees. Today’s ruling makes clear that agents must include all compulsory fees and charges in their quoted prices. If the fees cannot be calculated in advance then the agent must make clear that fees have been excluded, and provide enough information for consumers to establish how fees are calculated. It’s now our priority to make sure agents across the sector bring their advertising into line.”