Living in your house
Living in your house can be the hardest part of all, you will learn how to clean, how to get along with others, how to manage your own space and how to negotiate amonst other things!
As soon as you move in, and preferably on the date the contract starts, you need to take a meter reading for the gas, electricity and water (if it is on a meter- find out!). This reading must then be give to the current supplied- ask the landlord who this is. If you don't take the reading you are likely to end up paying for utilities that other people used.
How to read a meter
Gas and electricity meters can look very different. Sometimes they are inside the house, and sometimes outside. You might have to hunt around for a bit to find your meter. The Citizens Advice Guide gives good information about how to read the meter.
Once you have read it, ring the supplier and let them know 1. the date you took over the tenancy 2. the names of ALL the tenants (if you only give your name only you will be responsible for the bills) and 3. the new meter reading.
Not all properties have a water meter. The landlord should know but if there is no meter your house will have set water rates that you as tenants are probably liable for (check your tenancy agreement to confirm this).
We do recommend that you find out where the water stop-cock is in case of a leak! You could be liable for any damge (and the cost of the water) if there is a leak so the quicker you can stop one the better.
This is normally for you as tenants to arrange. Occasionally a landlord will include this in the rent, check your contract to confirm what your situation is.
Students must be covered by a TV Licence if you:
- watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or live on an online TV service
- download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand.
This applies no matter what device you use, whether it’s a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or Blu-ray/DVD/VHS recorder.
The TV Licensing Authority has full details.
You do have to pay the full amount but will be eleigible for a refund if you go home during the summer.
A license currently costs £145.50, but a fine can be up to £1,000; please don't take the risk!
If you have a separate tenancy agreement for your room, you will need to be covered by a separate licence.
If there's a joint tenancy agreement for the whole house – a common type of shared house arrangement – you will probably only need one licence between you. But, if your accommodation is self-contained, e.g. you pay for yourown utilities or have your own entrance to the property, you may need your own licence.
If you're still not sure, check advice for tenants and lodgers to find out more.
Utilities- All inclusive
All inclusive tenancy agreements are very popular with letting agents and tenants, but there are some things you must be aware of if you have one of these deals.
- Check your agreement to see if there is a utilites cap.If there is you will need to keep a very close eye on how much you are using to make sure you do not go over this cap! Ask for the meter readings from when you moved in and keep checking them evey month to work out how much you are using. If you are not sure what all the figures mean, come and talk to us, we can help you further.
- Have you signed an agreement to have your name put on the bill? If you have, be very careful! Get the agent to supply meter readings at the start of the tenancy and ask them to confirm each time they pay the bill otherwise you could end up liable for the money and not them! We would advise against agreeing to this but we know it happens. If you are in this situation you might want to come and talk to us, to make sure you know what to do if things go wrong.
We do see many students who have had problems with all-inclusive contracts. Take time to read your agreement carefully and if you don't understand anything, come and talk to an adviser. It is easier to sort things out at the start than try to resolve problems later in the tenancy agreement.
For information on how to read meters, please see the other section on not-inclusive utitilities above.
Paying the bills
This is always the tricky part.
It is probably best to start by knowing what you should not do and then working out what you will do around that!
What you should not do...
- You should not set up a joint bank account with all the other housemates- Why? Because this links you all financially and in years to come can have a negative impact if one of you runs up large debts and gets a bad credit rating. This may seem rather vague and unimportant but potentially the effects could make it difficult for you to get creidt later such as a credit card or even a mortgage.
- You should not put only one name on the account- put as many as the company will allow. If you are the only person on the bill then you are the only person the company will pursue should you not make all the payments. You need to spread the risk.
- Ignore bills or assume someone else has paid them. Always open letters addressed to The Occupier because that means YOU! If you leave bills to mount up, they normally get bigger as the company will add charges to them. With energy bills, you could have the service cut off and that would mean more expense to you having it reconnected.
What you should do...
- Sit down as a group and discuss how bills are going to be paid- renting a house is a very responsble thing to do, you have to take if seriously.
- Keep a file, either a real one or an electronic one that you all have access to and can see the statements as they come in.
- Decide who will be responsible for collecting money from all the housemates and pay the supplier. This person does not have to do it for all the bills. You could make one responsible for the gas, one for water etc etc
- Pay promptly when the person who is responsible for collecting the money asks you. You are all students on limited income; no one can afford to sub the others.
There are companies around who will pay all the bills for you. They can work well but we have also seen students who have had problems. It is worth knowing that these companies do charge more for the supply as they have to make their money somewhere.
You normally have to ask the landlord's permission to switch supplier, but they cannot reasonably withhold the permission. There are websites that will help you compare and decide if you can get a better deal, so it is worth shopping around to see if you can save some money.
These can be REALLY confusing, even when you have been paying your own bills for a long time! Click on this link to see an example energy bill, which will help you find your way around your real one when you need it. Alternatively, our advisers will be happy to help you understand your bills.
What is disrepair?
The legal definition of disrepair is that there is damage that needs to be put right. Some of the most common disrepair problems in rented properties are:
- damp and mould
- excess cold, often caused by inadequate heating or boiler problems
- blocked drains
- burst pipes and blocked toilets
- roof leaks
Your landlord is responsible for keeping your home in good repair, and any repair must be carried out within a reasonable time period. What is classed as a reasonable period of time will depend on the nature of the problem and repair.
All furniture supplied by your landlord must comply with the Fire Safety Regulations: all furniture coverings and fillings should be made from fire resistant materials. These requirements cover:
- sofas and armchairs
- beds, headboards and mattresses, futons
- loose and stretch covers for furniture
- cushions and seat pads
- Normally, furniture that complies with the regulations will carry a label. If the furniture in your accommodation does not carry a label, it may be that it does not comply with the Regulations. You should ask your landlord to replace it, unless they can prove otherwise.
If the landlord has supplied electrical items then he must repair or replace if they become faulty. It is also worth checking that they are safe.
How to get repairs done!
Check who is responsible for the repairs. As a tenant, you are responsible for general maintenance such as replacing light bulbs and checking smoke alarm batteries etc.
Notify the relevant person immediately when a problem arises. This can be your landlord or the letting agent if they manage the property. If you call them or go into the office, confirm the conversation in an email to them so you have a record of when you reported the problem. You should state what the problem is and request that the repair is carried out. Keep logs and evidence of the disrepair, such as photographs.
If your landlord/agent agrees to do the repairs, then you should arrange a date and time for the work to be done.
If the landlord/agent does not agree, or says they will repair and then do not follow through, come and see an adviser.
Alternativley, you could consider:
- Contacting Environmental Health Officers (EHO) who can inspect the property and require your landlord to carry out the repairs.
- Take court action as your landlord is in breach of contract and the courts can order your landlord to carry out the repairs. If you wish to pursue this option then you will need to see a solicitor.
- Carry out the repairs and recover the costs of the repairs by deduction from future rent payments. If you are considering this option then seek advice first from the Student Advice and Support Service as there is a specific procedure you must follow.
We have many students come to us with issues beltween housemates. This is is always a difficult situation and how much we can help depends on the individual situation. Make an appointment to talk to an adviser in confidence.