Welcome to My Crib; Students Should Study Two New Laws before They Rent a Property for Next Term, Says David Lawrenson Homes & Property

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Byline: DAVID LAWRENSON

AS LONDON students gear up to start the autumn term, they should be aware of two important new laws regarding rented accommodation: regulations covering large shared houses come into force soon, and, from next summer, tenants' deposits will be protected from rogue landlords who don't return your money at the end of a tenancy.

Where more than two unrelated people rent a property but don't form what would be considered a single household, the property will now be classified as a house in multiple occupation, or an HMO.

Further, with effect from this October, landlords in England and Wales with HMOs of three or more storeys and five or more tenants will have to apply for a licence (in Scotland and Northern Ireland all HMOs already have to be licensed). Local councils in England and Wales will also be able to extend licensing to smaller houses in their area if they think there is a need. The licences will make renting safer because they will impose tough new standards on fire and electrical safety and restrict occupancy levels.

In July 2006, the new deposit rules will come into force. These will address one of tenants' biggest fears, that they will not get their deposit back at the end of their tenancy. Shelter and the Citizens Advice Bureau say one in five tenants has had all or part of a deposit unreasonably withheld (though landlords insist this claim is exaggerated).

All private landlords will have to join one of the government-approved tenancy deposit schemes, known as a TDS. These will aim to protect deposits.

The schemes will try to sort out disputes between landlords and tenants at the end of the tenancy that involve deposits. Landlords will have to tell tenants which scheme they are in within 14 days of taking the deposit.

There will be two types of TDS: a "custodial" scheme where a third party holds the deposit and pays out at the end of the tenancy on the terms agreed between landlord and tenant, and an "insurance" scheme, under which the landlord holds the deposit but if they do not pay out at the end, the scheme pays out instead, and will then chase the landlord for money. …