Monday, 29 November 2010

Housing Advice Week

Today represents the start of Housing Advice Week at Cardiff Student’s Union. A week worth of housing advice to ensure that you; ‘Make the Smart Move’.

One of the keys messages is Don’t Rush – there is more supply than demand for student housing so don’t be pushed into signing an agreement, houses become available all year around. There is no panic so look around and don’t feel threatened into an agreement. Please be aware of agents who insist that all good houses go early.

Cardiffdigs has a section on moving into the private rented accommodation and a list of avoiding the pitfalls:

To coincide with the week the Advice and Representation Centre have launched a new housing booklet to help you find the best accommodation. We caught up with Jane Harding from the Advice and Representation Centre on the third floor of the union who gave us a radio interview to talk about some real issues around housing and the key points. There is the transcript.

Jane thank you for coming

Thank you, it’s good to be here

So tell us a bit about your role in the Advice and Representation Centre (ARC)

I’m a student advisor, I give general advice to students on a range of issues, we give advice on accommodation, housing issues, utility problems, consumer advice and some money advice too. I work in a team with two other advisors and our manager who also provide advice and assistance with any academic issues; academic representation, academic appeals. We can assist students who are going through unfair practice and disciplinary procedures and also if students want assistance with making a complaint against the university then we can also assist with that. My specialism is housing advice.

Housing advice, ok and that’s really what we want to talk about today. So what are the main issues that students face when they are looking for housing?

The main issue is finding something that is a good quality, good standard of accommodation and they have a good landlord or letting agent, and that the contract is sound and I think that if student have those things in place then they will have a very happy and successful tenancy.

So are there some key points that student should look out for, obviously the strap line for housing advice week is ‘Make the Smart Move’. So how do you go about making the smart move?

First off we have a housing advice booklet that gives some very very useful information and just about everything you need to know when you are about start to rent private rented accommodation is included. The housing advice booklet is being distributed, if you haven’t got a copy come into ARC and get one ( It really is a very useful document.

It goes through advice about signing contracts, it’s very important to read a contract carefully, an experienced advisor at ARC can check that contract for you to make sure it’s a good and legal document. We can point out any things we think are not legal, things that we think are unfair, point out any mistakes as sometimes they are standard documents and sometimes there are simple mistakes that need to be removed and generally help you with that. It’s very important thing to realise is that they are joint contracts; so a group of students is legally bound by that contract until its end. So it’s very important to read your contract carefully.

The housing booklet also contains advice about tenancy deposits and the fact they need to be protected. We have a section on bills and council tax and TV licenses, we have a very useful checklist and I would really recommend that students use that checklist when looking for accommodation because if most of the answers on your checklist are YES then you are probably going to get a nice place to rent and everything should be ok. We also have sections on repairs and standards of accommodation.

A really useful booklet that is available at ARC. Where are you based for those students who don’t know?

We are based on the third floor of the Students Union building. We have drop in sessions weekdays daily between 10am and 3pm, expected for on Thursdays when we open at 1pm. You can e-mail us too at

That’s great. Now there are obviously a lot of letting agencies across Cardiff. I think we have somewhere in the region of 110 letting agencies and a lot of them aren’t accredited. So can you run us through some advice about when we are going through a letting agency?

Kieran you are absolutely right – there are a lot of letting agencies across Cardiff. The issue that we have with letting agents in the UK is that anybody can set up a letting agent, you do not have to belong to any accreditation organisation or be monitored in any way. I believe you can also have a criminal record, unfortunately. Yes I think you probably can which makes it very difficult to know you are going to get a good standard of service. Letting agents can be accredited and there are a number of accreditation organisations which does make it a little confusing but Cardiff has a local accreditation organisation called ALMA, Association of Letting and Management Agents. ALMA have a website and you can get a list of their agents, but there are a lot of national organisations; ARLA, RICS, NARLS.

And the message is students really need to look at going with an accredited agency because if there credentials are right, then essentially that filters down into the landlords and the accommodation and the accommodation standard.

Plus you can also make a complaint about an organisation; you have a body to complain to if their standards are not good. Also landlords can be accredited and Cardiff Council does a scheme supporting landlord accreditation.

The Landlord Accreditation Wales (LAW) Scheme that they can get accredited through.

The university have a private sector housing list out in February and they support Landlord Accreditation Wales. So that is a good way of making sure you get a good landlord.

And so Don’t Panic, I know the message is Make the Smart Move but a lot of people get, not hassled, but gently steered into signing the first contract that they see, they rush into a contract that isn’t sensible, the advice is get someone to read through it before you sign it.

Absolutely. Any good letting agent or landlord should give you a copy, not necessarily the actual document but a copy of the document that you will be signing. So you can easily get it checked. If they are not prepared to give you that document to be checked then that raises concerns straight away. We have ten key steps to finding good accommodation and number one in that list is don’t rush. There is plenty of student accommodation out there. I’m still seeing students who are signing contracts in May even June. Like I said before the Universities lists don’t even come out until February so there is time. A couple of things to be mindful of is larger properties do go quickly, there are some ten bed properties if you did decide to go into a larger property like that then it might be a good idea to start your search a little bit sooner. Also there is no harm in looking, there is no harm of getting an idea of what’s out there and if there is a property that is really good and you feel very positive about it there is no problem with signing a contract now as long as you feel that it is a good contract and you would be happy in that accommodation.

And that you are going to be happy with the people that you live with, because essentially you might have only known these people for the last two or three months.


And one of the key steps here is ‘Do good neighbours become good friends’. Essentially you might know these people through halls but living with them is a completely different ball game.

It is a completely different ball game and the one thing we see a lot is student circumstances change. They might have signed a contract now and then in a few months time they might have decided that they don’t want to live with that group of people or that something might have changed in their personal life which means that they can’t carry on with the course. And then students are in a situation where they have to find a replacement because once you are in that joint contract you are bound by that joint contract until it ends the following year.

I think that’s a really important point to get across that this is probably the first main contract that any individual is going to sign, over and above your phone contract this is the first big contract that you will ever sign so the ten key steps which is fantastic advice is things like:

Don’t Rush
Do good neighbours become good friends?
What you see is what you get
Beware of promises
Size does matter; a little bit about licensing
Play it safe
Protecting the bond
And that there is no escape but essentially one of the main points is

Think twice get advice

So if you are not sure of any aspect of looking for your house contact ARC and come and see Jane and her team who do a fantastic job on the 3rd floor just go and see them and they will be happy to answer any questions.

And however small the question or it could be a massive issue or a tiny little concern you have we are absolutely happy to help with anything

Answer any queries and I think the message is also it doesn’t matter what year you are in either.

No it doesn’t. I think housing advice week is targeted at first years because like you say Kieran it is the first contract you are every going to sign and it is a very big decision.

But that doesn’t exclude the second and third years. Come for the advice this week because people may have had bad experiences potentially in the second year and we don’t want that replicated for second and third years.

We do offer students advice throughout the year, we do have students that have problems with things like repairs and problems with getting their tenancy deposits back and problems with sometimes landlord harassment and lots and lots of issues come up throughout the year and we are happy to give advice on any of those matters.

That is a really important point. That ARC isn’t just about housing, it’s about any kind of advice any kind of welfare that you need just drop in and they will be happy to help you engage with the union.

Jane I’m really grateful for you coming in and talking with us.

It’s been great to talk with you Kieran

Good luck with Housing Advice Week.

The message is Make the Smart Move and get advice.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Student Police Initiative

In the second in a series of guest blogs we asked a student from Cardiff to write about their experiences volunteering with the Student Police Initiative in Cardiff. Samantha Beynon (seen above on the left) is a 3rd year student studying Criminology. She is an active member of the Student Police Initiative, the group are on a community walkabout this Friday so we asked Sam to tell us about her experiences…

Hiya guys! My names Samantha and I’m in my 3rd year at Cardiff Uni studying Criminology. I’ve been volunteering with the student initiative in connection to South Wales police for three years now. I never really thought I was the ‘type’ to volunteer but the police initiative seemed like a really appealing idea for me to gain some hands on experience within the police and working in the community. I went along to the meeting and was greeted by the friendly police officers from Cathays station, representatives from various council and community organisations, as well as other like minded students.

After completing an application form –which as it turns out wasn’t too bad – I was part of the team and ready to get involved. As a collective (the students, police officers and council/community representatives) we meet regularly at times that suit us and go out on patrol in the Cathays community. When out on patrol one of the main objectives is to promote the ‘Lock it, Hide it, Keep it’ scheme this involves reminding fellow students to keep an eye out for themselves and those around them by following some basic crime prevention guidelines on how to stay safe within their community. On patrol we go out in pairs armed with walkie-talkies and our South Wales police volunteer uniform and carry out the objectives set for that day such as: take your stuff home in the holidays as an empty student house is an easy target for thieves!
As a student who only lives in Cathays during term-time it is often hard to remember that there are families and individuals who live in the area permanently and we as students can often cause disruption to them, frequently it’s unintentional i.e. making a bit too much noise late at night so we remind fellow students about their social responsibilities and that they aren’t in a student bubble but live within a community.

A key moment that defiantly stands out for me is when we were taking part in an initiative that encourages students to lock their doors – even when their in – and we knocked on a door of a ‘permanent resident’. It was an elderly lady who lived alone – she greeted us at the door and listened cheerfully as I explained the purpose of our visit and that we were student volunteers with South Wales police. She thanked us for passing on the crime-prevention information and calling by and she ended by telling us that we’d really made an impact on her day as the previous night she’d had a person ‘bobby knock’ her door and she was frightened as she lived alone. This elderly lady telling me that I’d made her feel safer and, that there were people in the community who looked out for others really made me feel like I was taking part in something worthwhile. At the end of the day I would love people to be doing what we as the student police initiative are doing in the area where my grandmother lives – just for that extra peace of mind.

Working as part of a team alongside the authorities and those people living and working in the community has really strengthen the confidence inside and strengthened the desire I have to pursue a career as part of the police. I’d recommend this volunteering project to everybody who wants to make a difference to the people around them, gain some invaluable life skills and have something to make your CV stand out from the others!

The student police initiative will be out on patrol this Friday so please give them a warm welcome if you see them.

You can learn more about their work and the Lock it. Hide it. Keep it campaign here:

Students places are still available for those wanting to volunteer and more information can be found here:

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Property Marking and Bike Sale

Property marking to protect your bike and valuables continues tomorrow (10am till 3pm) alongside a second hand bike sale (1pm) on the steps of Cardiff Students Union as part of Sustainability Week which runs from the 8-12 November 2010 to help drive forward the sustainable development agenda.

Security services, the police and partners including cardiffdigs were out on the steps of the Union yesterday helping students and residents mark up their property with the service

Immobilise is a national property register, enabling users to register their bikes and property with the police to help the recovery of stolen goods and catch criminals.

Tomorrow (Thursday 10th) the property marking will continue alongside a second hand bike sale. Cardiff Cycle Workshop who were maintaining and repairing bikes all day yesterday are holding the sale at the Union. A range of second hand bikes will be on sale at affordable rates, including classic retro models. All bikes are fully serviced by trained mechanics. Various makes and sizes will be sold.

Sustainability Week is a week-long event with talks, discussions, film screenings, food co-operatives, pledging, and more open to the whole community. Further details can be found here:

To coincide with Sustainability week at Cardiff University the Make a Cardifference pages on has been launched.

The pages provide advice for students on sustainable travel with the explicit aim of encouraging students to not bring cars into Cardiff and use sustainable methods of transport. Make a cardifference – don’t bring a car into Cardiff.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Cardifference launched

To coincide with Sustainability week at Cardiff University the Make a Cardifference pages on has been launched.

The pages provide advice for students on sustainable travel with the explicit aim of encouraging students to not bring cars into Cardiff and use sustainable methods of transport.
Make a cardifference – don’t bring a car into Cardiff.

Estimates suggest it costs over £2,200 per academic year to bring a car to Cardiff, when you consider insurance, tax, petrol, MOT’s and parking.

Cardiff is easily accessible by bus, taxi, bike or foot that you can leave the car behind when coming to Cardiff to study.

These pages act as one-stop-shop providing information on sustainable travel to make moving around Cardiff easier, trouble-free, greener and more enjoyable.

Please have a look around the website, follow the links, share with friends, and have a wonderful time exploring Cardiff in a sustainable way. Information included:
Cars and Car Sharing, Cycling, Walking, Public Transport, Park and Ride, Make a Move and get Involved and Best Practice. Don't forget to check out our lego lady launch the site with a little dance at:

Sustainability Week runs from the 8-12 November 2010 to help drive forward the sustainable development agenda. It is an opportunity to showcase the University’s world-leading research and teaching in the field of sustainability, it is also a chance for everyone to join in and make a concerted effort to reduce their impact on the planet by becoming more socially, economically, culturally and environmentally aware.

Sustainability Week is a week-long event with talks, discussions, film screenings, food co-operatives, pledging, and more open to the whole community Further details are here:

Monday, 8 November 2010

Latest Edition of Unity news now available

The latest edition of Unity news is now available for download by visiting:

UNITY news is where the universities and student unions of Cardiff can engage the community.

This first issue of the academic year welcomes students back into the city. I believe this year has seen unprecedented partnership working to assist with the transition of students into the community.

Lots of proactive work has been undertaken. My thanks go out to those residents that have assisted with this often contentious time by introducing yourselves to new student neighbours. Everyone can help with this transition and get the message of community out to those who need help and education.

The warmer the welcome, the greater the ownership and respect we will secure from our new student residents.

Kieran McCann; Cardiff Council’s Student Liaison Officer working in partnership with Cardiff, UWIC and Glamorgan Universities and Unions.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Crime Prevention reminder to students

POLICE in Cardiff are reminding students to follow basic crime prevention advice after a number of robberies across the city in recent weeks.

A robbery is when violence, or the threat of violence, is used against a person to gain property.
Items most commonly stolen are mobile phones, wallets and electronic devices such as laptops.

While the city remains a safe place we would ask people to be aware of their personal safety when they are walking alone at night and to be mindful of their surroundings.

We would ask people to follow normal crime prevention advice such as not having valuables on show, to stick to well-lit areas, and if possible to walk with company in the hours of darkness.
We will not tolerate people, who are simply walking home from work or a night out becoming victims of robbery.

Despite recent incidents, robberies in Cardiff have significantly reduced by 32.3 per cent, or 149 fewer offences, compared to the same period last year (July to June 2008/2009 compared to 2009/2010)

Preventing and detecting robberies is a priority for South Wales Police and together we can keep our communities safe.

If you see something suspicious please call 101, or if it is an dial emergency 999.