With A-Level results and places in universities confirmed this week, students are on the haunt for their home for the next year.
But with rental property costs rising in Northern Ireland by 3% last year alone, students are being urged not to cut corners and ignore potential safety issues in student accommodation.
As thousands of students across Northern Ireland start planning for the new term, the number of available rental properties in Belfast was down 13.8% in 2015.
With prices going up; students are being advised not to rush into a contract without properly inspecting the property.
Before signing on the dotted line and committing to 12 month lease, OFTEC is advising students to asking the landlord some simple questions to highlight common pitfalls:
1. Check The Electrics & 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Heating requirements
Does your house have oil or gas fired central heating? At the minute oil is cheaper than ever, so that means low fuel bills. The Health & Safety Executive recommend that all boilers should be serviced annually and tenants looking at an oil-fired property should ask for a certificate – an OFTEC CD/12 Landlord Oil Installation Check which is carried out by a an OFTEC registered technician will give you peace of mind.
If the property has a gas boiler it must be checked by a Gas Safe 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.
6. 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 the increase costs and reduced availability of rental properties in Northern Ireland, students may feel under pressure to take what they can get. However, it is vital students ask their landlord about safety no matter how awkward it may seem as it can prevent students being caught out or 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.”