7 realistic rental tips if you’re moving for a school place

Whether you think it is ethical or not, many families choose a rental property and time their move to put them in a favourable position when applying for schools.

The admissions process for both primary and secondary places is based around a set criteria and although the distance from your home to the school gates isn’t at the top, it often counts when a school is oversubscribed.

There is, therefore, much manoeuvring and jostling ahead of the application deadlines, with parents desperate to secure the right address before they fill out the form. For many, buying a property within the catchment of the best schools can be impossible in terms of cost and timings.

Property sales can take up to four months to reach completion once an offer has been made (and longer in more complex circumstances), which leaves parents at risk of missing the application deadline. Plus, properties closest to the best schools often carry a price premium.

An alternative is to move into rented accommodation, as the set-up costs are a fraction of the costs involved in buying and the entire moving process, from a viewing to collecting the keys, can be concluded in a matter of days, if the tenancy is straightforward.

There are, however, a number of serious points to consider if you are thinking of renting a property with the specific aim of applying for a school place. Here is our list of top 7 tips and hints:-

  1.     Check a school’s catchment area before you start your property search: sometimes the catchment will be an irregular shape and not a circle, so the house right next door to the school may still be out of catchment. Some schools only take from certain parishes or postcodes, while others adjust their catchment every year, based on the volume of applications.
  2.     Establish the application closing dates: the Government’s official school application website states the primary school application process opens in September and closes on 15 January. When it comes to places at secondary schools, the deadline for applying is 31 October.
  3.     Rent a property well in advance: local councils do have rules about families whose moving timings are suspicious. They may want proof that you have lived in a rental property for a minimum period before you apply for a school place, so ensure you are moved in well before the closing date.
  4.     Don’t assume a buy-to-let address counts: there have been cases where families have used the address of a buy-to-let property they own that falls within a school’s catchment on the application form. A local council will want an owner-occupier address on the form and could send an officer to the property to check the status of the person living there.
  5.     Be mindful of a short let: the most popular of schools are hot when it comes to parents who take out a short let agreement just to have an address within their catchment. They may not accept applications where the tenancy length is six months or less, unless the family can prove all ties with their previous property have been cut.
  6.     Be prepared to evidence your move: if you have started renting a property quite close to the school application deadline, be prepared to provide your local authority’s admissions department. You’ll need a solicitor’s letter confirming you have sold a prior residence or proof that you have given notice on your current rented property, plus a signed copy of the new tenancy agreement, together with the start date.
  7.     Stick to the rules: if there is a suspicion that a local council’s application rules have been broken and no validation or proof of a legitimate address is provided, the school application could be declared void.

Our local knowledge will help you choose the right rental with a favoured school in mind. Talk to us about timings and availability today.