FIRST-year students looking to rent a house for their second year are being advised to use a reputable letting agent.

ARLA Propertymark, the industry body for letting agents, says accommodation will be students' largest expense each term - so it is important to make the right decision about where to live.

"Renting a property with your friends at university is great fun and a rite of passage for many," said president Sally Lawson. "For most, this will be the first time they rent a property or make a financial commitment of this nature, so it can feel daunting when you’re starting to look.

"First and foremost, make sure you’re starting your property search with a reputable letting agent. ARLA Propertymark agents adhere to the highest professional standards and have client money protection in place so that if any funds go missing, you’re protected."

Students are also being advised to:

- Work out what you can afford. Remember to factor in bills such as broadband, TV, energy and water.

- Seek help from a reputable agent to help in the search. After finding a property, try to speak to the existing tenants about their experience of living there.

- Don’t bow to pressure. Take time making decisions and don't let friends pressure you into signing a contract for the first property seen.

- Know where your deposit is going. Before moving in, you’ll be required to pay a security deposit, usually around six weeks' rent. This must be held in one of the three government-authorised tenancy deposit protection schemes, and your letting agent must show you evidence of this.

- Keep the house clean and the garden tidy. Don't be scared to report any repair issues, and if anything breaks in the property tell your agent as soon as possible.

- Lastly, ask your letting agent for the ARLA Propertymark Student Guide, which has tips and advice to help you through the whole process from the start of tenancy to the end.