Caxtons is urging students looking for last-minute rental accommodation to use a regulated lettings agency to avoid being exploited or living in a neglected property.

With thousands of students looking to return, or start, university in the next few weeks, the rush is now on to find accommodation before term begins. According to the government's Higher Education Statistics Agency, around half a million students in the UK rented privately last year, which equates to 29 per cent of all students.

However due to time and financial constraints, and lack of local area knowledge, many students can fall victim to unscrupulous private landlords who charge too much for poor accommodation.

A significant proportion of students will also register with unregulated lettings agencies, which means they won't be fully protected throughout the letting process and tenancy.

Caxtons' student lettings manager, commented: "Currently there is no compulsory regulation of lettings agencies, which means anybody can set up as an agent without any relevant qualifications, training or accreditations.

"In towns and cities with high student populations we regularly see a large number of unlicensed agents who view students as an easy target.

Bronwyn Fleetwood  Bronwyn
Bronwyn Fleetwood

Life is tough, very tough. Most of us have had some first hand experience of the economic squeeze during the past four years

– and belt tightening has become an art form as well as a way of life. But what if you run out of cunning plans to keep the wolf from the front door? What if you can no longer meet your monthly financial commitments? What if you can't pay the mortgage?

Alan Stewart BSc FRICS MCIArb, Director & head of Residential Lettings & Management at Caxtons says think carefully before selling up. It may be better to consider letting your home – undoubtedly a very valuable asset – while you rent a smaller property for considerably less. This way you will retain your home and ease the pressure on what is probably a desperate situation.

If you think that becoming a 'reluctant landlord' is for you to allow time for the property market to recover and economic-hard times to abate, then there are a number of issues to explore.

If you have a mortgage, it is sometimes possible to let your property without the complication of changing your mortgage and becoming a Buy-to-Let landlord. As long as you obtain permission from your lender by way of a 'Consent to Let', then you will not breach your mortgage agreement. What is more, you will usually remain on your existing mortgage arrangement and pay your current interest rate. Every lender is different though and some may impose additional charges so be sure you understand exactly what you are signing up to.

alan stewart 8403 SQU

Caxtons' staff undertake the Three Peaks Challenge.

In June, three intrepid members of staff from Caxtons Gravesend office set off on a journey, battling with the elements and their own inner voices. The task was to complete the Thee Peaks Challenge.

According to the official website, 'The National Three Peaks challenge is to climb the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in 24 hours.' This involves climbing around ten thousand feet and walking almost 26 miles, not to mention travelling 460 miles between the peaks!

Well informed and suitably kitted out, Tony Martin, Mark Laherty and Richard Birch set off in high spirits, boarded a coach and headed for Wales.

Tony Martin said "Strangers soon became familiar faces, and as you would expect from a national challenge, people had travelled far & wide to take part in the event. The team mentality was very encouraging, with people swapping stories, sun-cream and Haribo on our way to Snowden."

The weather was kind to them on their first ascent and the spectacular views made up for the fact that the round trip from bottom to summit and back took six hours. They were feeling "pretty positive" about their next challenge at Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

Scafell proved the most psychologically challenging. Arriving around 10pm on Friday, their climb was through the night with no sunshine to warm wearying bones or illuminate stunning views. In the early hours of Saturday morning, deprived of sleep and having clambered through fields of boulders in the pitch dark some people hit 'the wall'. But not our boys, they carried on, reached the summit and made their way back to the coach and on to Scotland.

Ben Nevis, the largest mountain in the British Isles, beckoned them.

They arrived on Saturday afternoon, and despite the prospect of a further 8 hours walking through difficult terrain and snow they carried on in high spirits.

Tony said, "For me, Ben Nevis was the highlight of the challenge and reaching the summit felt like a huge achievement. We had made it."

Neil Chatterton, Caxtons' managing director said, "The team conquered three mountains in less than 36 hours. They raised over £2,000, which when added to their group total raised over £70,000 for Meningitis Now. The whole company is incredibly impressed by their determination to conquer this challenge and joins me in congratulating them.'

A show reel of their journey can be seen by following
Three Peaks 2

The intrepid three
Richard Birch, Tony Martin and Mark Laherty