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Hendrik
31-01-2010, 23:40 PM
Helicopter parent alert! (Sorry this also is a bit long - I am trying to keep to the key points!)

My son is at uni and has been looking for a house to rent in Oxford for the coming academic year. They are a group of 5, and money is limited, but they have managed to find somewhere, and paid over £1k deposit to the Letting Agents. We as parents will be needed as guarantors, and since one of the girls comes from Holland, and one of the boys from Germany, we have been sounded out as acting guarantors for one (or maybe both) of them, as well as our own son. (I know you will caution against this, but moving on to the main point...) we went to see the property that we going to be signing for... currently empty, since the landlord (who lives at the other end of the country) seems not to have managed to let it this academic year. No surprise there, given the condition.

The heating is off, which does not help, and the place is extremely damp. Mould everywhere, strange smell, not good. Lots of other problems, and overall the place is starting to feel pretty derelict, with little to commend it. Various bits of bodged workmanship, eg bricked in fireplace with no air brick, which is now not just damp but actually has water running down the wall, bay window to the front which is falling apart, with consequent dampness inside, a pile of firewood masquerading as furniture... I could go on.

There is an old gas safety certificate stuck to the (oldish) boiler, but no current one. Is the landlord allowed to let it lapse like this?

Reluctant to allow son and sharers to sign the letting agreement, and part with another £4k, for a place in such a state. Would be reluctant to trust any promises made by landlord as to what will/might be fixed by the autumn. A good friend, who has a lot of experience in this area and manages a large property portfolio, suggests that the landlord is asked to bring things up to a reasonable standard, including gas certificate and also a periodic electrical inspection report, and for there to be a further inspection before any documents are signed.

There are many issues here, and obviously the shortage of property is an factor that allows houses in this state to be offered in the first place.

But is it reasonable to ask the landlord for a gas certificate, even though the property is empty is maybe my first question? I suspect that he is so keen on spending no unneccessary money on the property that he will refuse even this. But would he be within his legal rights not to have a gas certificate because the property is empty?

Letting agents are also new boys on the block, and were students themselves until recently. The one that showed us around suggested that it was not a problem if the place was in a **** state, as you get your own back by leaving it in a **** state when you leave. Not our view, nor the view of our son!

I know that student tenants do not have a perfect record (I have been reading some of the threads on this forum!) but I do not want my son - who is a careful and considerate person - to have his mental and physical health to be damaged by living in a derelict property for a year.

Thanks for reading this far!

Snorkerz
31-01-2010, 23:50 PM
Has an energy performance certificate been produced for the property? It is a legal requirement before the property is marketed.

Does the property meet these conditions? http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/legResults.aspx?LegType=S.I.+(All+UK)&title=multiple+occupation&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&TYPE=QS&NavFrom=0&activeTextDocId=2483006&PageNumber=1&SortAlpha=0 (it's a relatively short bit of law)

The gas safety certificate is a requirement while tenants are there (£20k fine) but not needed right now.

There are many stories on here about apauling student accommodation. If the landlord is not willing to spend a few quid on a gas certificate (and presumably an EPC) then it suggests to me that he may not be over keen on the other repairs that are obviously required.

I'd be inclined to suggest the students walk away - unless the deposit has been paid with a specific 'non-returnable' condition then it is returnable in law (something to do with not getting something for your money - you can tell I'm not a law student!)

Slightly off-topic. Do you realise that as guarantor for your son, who in turn would be jointly and severally liable, you could be made to pay the rent for the entire place for the entire 12 month term? Unlikely, but technically possible.

Hendrik
31-01-2010, 23:58 PM
The LA website shows an Energy Efficiency Rating and also an Environmental Impact Rating (those coloured bar charts) so I think the answer to your question is yes.

As the students are jointly and severally liable for everything, we didn't think the business of acting as guarantor for a couple of the other students was as big a deal as it might at first appear. We are liable anyway! Plus, we do have a fair degree of faith in our son to have picked some sensible housemates.

Hendrik
01-02-2010, 00:01 AM
Technically I do not think it is a HMO, as although there are 5 students, it is only 2 story. Oxford city council have been deliberating about widening the scope of HMO, and indeed I understand the government is doing the same. However I suspect that the good landlords will rush around and try and comply with the regulations, and the dodgy ones will carry on as before. Or am I being too cynical?

Snorkerz
01-02-2010, 00:08 AM
It is a HMO, although maybe not a licensable HMO. Those regulations do apply.

Snorkerz
01-02-2010, 00:09 AM
The LA website shows an Energy Efficiency Rating and also an Environmental Impact Rating (those coloured bar charts) so I think the answer to your question is yes. I too am not cynical - ask for a copy of the original and phone the company that issued it to check it's legit!
As the students are jointly and severally liable for everything, we didn't think the business of acting as guarantor for a couple of the other students was as big a deal as it might at first appear. We are liable anyway! Plus, we do have a fair degree of faith in our son to have picked some sensible housemates.I have no doubt about your son, or his proposed housemates - just wanted to make sure you were aware of the absolute worst case scenario.

Preston
01-02-2010, 00:18 AM
We are liable anyway! Plus, we do have a fair degree of faith in our son to have picked some sensible housemates.

Even people who have been married for decades fall out and then argue about the financial consequences. My advice would be to think very carefully about the the extent to which you are prepared to act as guarantor.

With regard to the property, it sounds to me that your son and his friends will be taking a huge leap of faith by taking it on. From what you have said so far I would not be inclined to do so.

Whatever you decide good luck!

Sad S
02-02-2010, 18:07 PM
Students can be anxious to find properties for the following year very early on, months and months in advance.

There are still plenty of other 5 bed properties available in the city, by the look of it. Some might be in acceptable condition. What is so desirable about the apparently derelict property they have set their heart on?

Ericthelobster
02-02-2010, 19:28 PM
There is an old gas safety certificate stuck to the (oldish) boiler, but no current one. Is the landlord allowed to let it lapse like this?There's certainly no need to have one for an empty property; at least the fact that there's an old one there implies that the landlord is aware of his obligations!