Before you move in
You've found your perfect home and you're ready to sign on the dotted line and move in – here's what to expect next and what to do before moving day.
Paying your fees
When you find your perfect home, you'll have more than just your monthly rent to think about. Before you get your foot in the door, you'll need to pay a number of fees and charges.
But generally speaking, when you sign up to a property, you should expect to pay a damage deposit (no more than 5 weeks' worth of rent) and the first month’s rent up front.
The descriptions below will help you understand what you're paying for and why.
This is a one-off sum paid to the landlord (or accommodation agency) to guarantee your tenancy. It's non-refundable, so you shouldn’t pay it until you're absolutely certain you'll sign the contract. If you're happy to proceed with the property, the holding deposit amount will often go towards the damage deposit amount.
Under new legislation brought into place under the Tenant Fees Act, letting agencies and landlords cannot charge additional fees to any tenants who signed their tenancy agreements on or after 1 June 2019. More information about this can be found on the government website.
Signing your tenancy agreement
Tenancy agreements are a highly specialised area of law, and this is only a brief guide to contracts – so if you need more information, please seek professional advice. Our Student Housing team also offer a free contract checking service.
Your landlord is not required to provide a written tenancy agreement, but all landlords registered for advertising on Portsmouth Studentpad will. In any situation, you should always ask for a tenancy agreement, because it states the terms and conditions of the tenancy, and this is crucial in case of a dispute. Your landlord must provide you with a copy to read before you sign it and take on the property.
Joint tenancy agreements
Joint tenancy agreements are contracts where all persons intending to share a house commit to one agreement and have shared responsibility. It's a common type of contract offered by landlords, and there are important joint tenancy implications to remember. You can tell if you're on a joint tenancy if all the tenants’ names are listed on one agreement, not on separate agreements.
If someone leaves during the tenancy period, they and your household will normally be expected to find someone else to replace them – but the person who leaves is still obliged to pay rent until a replacement is found.
All tenants have shared responsibility for the rent. Remaining tenants are expected to cover the rent if someone leaves during the tenancy and no-one else moves in. In such situations the landlord would generally approach any remaining resident tenants for outstanding rent.
If you're renting a room in the same house where the homeowner (or a direct relative of the homeowner) lives, then you'll be in a set up known as ‘lodgings’. As a lodger, you'll be living in the house under the permission of the homeowner. You should expect to agree to and sign a set of basic house rules or a more formal licence agreement, at the very minimum. You'll also more than likely sign a fixed term tenancy agreement.
You'll still be expected to pay a damage deposit in most lodgings accommodation. This is typically 2–4 weeks’ worth of rent, but there is no set rule. As you're not classed as a tenant (and therefore don’t have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy), your deposit can't be protected in one of the Deposit Protection Schemes – so if you pay a deposit, make sure you get a receipt to confirm the payment and exactly what it's for.
What to look for on your tenancy agreement
There are certain things that must be included on your tenancy agreement, otherwise it could be deemed invalid. If you aren’t sure of anything, please get in touch with Student Housing, but here are the main things to check for:
- Landlord’s name and address: always check that the landlord’s name and address (or their managing agent’s details) are clearly shown on the agreement. You're entitled to know this information, so if a landlord (or agent) refuses to provide it, ask why and if they continue to refuse, the best advice is not to sign the contract.
- Name(s) of the tenant(s): if you're signing a joint contract, all tenants’ names should be on it. If the contract is individual, only one person should be named as tenant and the rent should be for one person only.
- Property address: always check that the full address of the property is entered on the agreement and that it's correct.
- Tenancy length: the majority of agreements will be for a ‘fixed-term length’ from a minimum of 6 months, up to 12 months. Check how long your agreement lasts.
Once you've got the keys
You’re almost ready to move your laptop, sports kit and books into your new home, but there are still a few things left for you to do. Here’s some helpful advice for when the big move is about to begin.
Making an inventory
An inventory is a list of furniture and furnishings that come with the property. It must also describe the condition of each item listed, including the wall and floor coverings.
It's very important that an inventory is compiled, either by yourself or the landlord, as it's both evidence of the condition of the property at the start of your tenancy, and an important item of proof at the end of it, in the event of a dispute over your deposit.
If the landlord won't provide you with an inventory, create one yourself and ask someone to witness and agree its contents. Back it up with photographic evidence and get the landlord to agree to and sign the document.
Setting up your utilities
One of the first things to do when you move into a new property is locate the meters.
If you're not sure where they are, ask your landlord or agent. You’ll have a meter for electricity, gas (if installed at the property) and possibly water too.
Take a reading from all of them and then inform the relevant utility companies. If you're not sure who supplies what in your house, check with your landlord or agency.
If you're liable for the water bills, Portsmouth has two water companies – Portsmouth Water for fresh water and Southern Water for wastewater – so you’ll get two separate bills.
Remember: all tenants on the contract are liable for the utility bills from the start date of the contract until the end date, even if you are not living in the property anymore.
Confirming you don't need to pay council tax
If you are a full-time student and you only live with other full-time students, then your house is exempt from paying Council Tax while you are on your course.
If you live within the PO1 – PO6 postcode area of Portsmouth, the University will automatically let Portsmouth City Council know that you are a student and may be exempt from paying Council Tax. If your landlord asks for confirmation that you're a student, you can request it from the University.
If you live outside the PO1 - PO6 postcode area, or in a different town or city, then you'll need to request confirmation you are a student from us and send it to your local council yourself.
Dealing with your landlord
Whether you live in a shared house or lodgings, you’ll have to communicate with your landlord. Here are our tips for dealing with your landlord if you have any issues:
- Be polite, honest, patient and willing to compromise – communication is key and if you treat your landlord (and their property) with respect, they'll respond in kind.
- If you're having an issue that isn't being resolved, don’t be afraid to bring up the subject again in case it's been forgotten – just don't continually bombard your landlord with texts, emails or calls as this will make them less inclined to help.
- While compromise is important, there are some things you should never compromise on – like if you're genuinely freezing in your home, you should feel confident to ask for something to be done about it immediately.
Being a good housemate
Living in a shared house with friends can be a great experience, but you don't need to be best friends to be good housemates. Respect is what matters most, so be considerate, a good communicator and prepared to compromise – you can’t expect to move into a shared house and have everything just the way you like it.
Organise together how you'll pay household bills, start a cleaning rota for communal areas, and consider starting a household ’kitty’ for items everyone uses such as toilet roll, cleaning products and milk.
Consider how you live and how the others like to live too – because things can break down over lifestyle differences. You're not going to agree on everything, and sometimes you'll find that your social life and academic timetable is out of sync with your friends: they may have plenty of free time just when you don't, and that can create tension unless you're all considerate and understanding of each other.
It also pays to be really open about the big and little things that matter to you.
For example, you may be a vegetarian and you may not want meat to be cut on your chopping board, even if your housemates promise they'll wash it thoroughly afterwards. Rather than waiting for something like that to happen and then dealing with the fallout, let them know up-front that your chopping board is for veg only.
Preparing for fire safety
Your landlord is responsible for making sure your new home meets fire safety standards. But you and your housemates are responsible for making sure you don’t create fire hazards in your home. Follow our ten top tips for making sure you're prepared for fire safety and know what to do in an emergency.
- Plan and practice an escape route with your housemates
- Make sure there is a fire alarm on every level of the property – if not, ask your landlord to fit them or permission to fit them yourself'
- Do not cover, obstruct or remove batteries from smoke detectors
- Do not smoke inside your property
- Always stay with your cooking when using the cooker, hob, grill and microwave – don’t cook if you’ve been drinking alcohol, especially late at night (1 in 4 injures from house fires started by deep-frying occurs between 10.00pm and 4.00am)
- Don’t put anything metallic in the microwave
- Never cover your room heater with anything
- Ensure all electrical appliances are switched off before you go to bed and don’t overload plug sockets
- Don't leave charging devices on soft surfaces like a sofa or bed
- If a fire starts, get out, stay out and call 999
Being a good neighbour
The University is in the heart of the city, so when you become a member of the University, you'll become a member of the local community too.
It might be the first time you’ve had neighbours of your own that aren't students, and it's important that you have a good relationship with them.
Here's our advice on making a good impression: