This article will tell you what to do when you move into your private student accommodation.
Once you have found your house or flat, and have moved in, there are a number of things you need to do.
Register with utilities
One of the first things to do once you've moved into your new property is to locate the utility meters.
These are your electricity and gas meters and in some properties, a water meter too. Ask your landlord/letting agent where these are located in the house if this is not indicated on your house inventory.
Take a reading from all the necessary meters in your house and then inform the relevant utility company to avoid being held accountable for the previous tenants' bills. If you are not sure which company supplies your gas and electric (and your landlord/letting agent does not know), check out the ofgem.gov.uk website for handy contact numbers to find out who does.
If you are liable for water bills, it is worth noting that Portsmouth has two water companies, Southern Water (for your waste water) and Portsmouth Water (for your fresh water out of the taps!). This will result in two separate bills. Double check with your landlord/letting agent in case you have a water meter attached to your property.
An inventory is a list of the furniture and furnishings within the property and should describe the condition of each item listed, including the wall and floor coverings.
It is very important that an inventory is compiled, either by yourself or the landlord, as this will often be the only evidence of the condition of the property at the start of your tenancy.
If your landlord provides you with an inventory, make sure that you check it as soon as you move in and make any amendments if necessary. Try and return it within 7-10 days of moving in.
If an inventory has not been made, make your own and inform your landlord. This can be found here. Both you and your landlord must agree to the contents within an inventory and ensure that this is signed upon inspection of the items.
When compiling an inventory it is essential that you:
- State the condition of every item in the property. If the inventory does not describe the condition of a particular item, it would be wise for you to do so - we suggest using terminology such as new, fair, poor, scratched, torn and stained.
- Back it up with photographic or video evidence. This can be crucial if a dispute occurs!
- Note the gas and electric meter readings.
- Get the landlord to agree to and sign the inventory.
- If the landlord refuses to sign the inventory, get an independent witness to do so.
A blank inventory is available from the Student Housing office or you can download from here.
If the utility bills are not included in the rent, then you are responsible for paying them. Note - if any bills are included in the rent (all of them, some of them, just the one...), make sure they are listed in your tenancy to avoid any confusion. Don't forget to check your tenancy carefully in case any "fair use policy" clauses are in there!
On the day you move in, make sure you take readings. If you don't do this, you could end up footing the bill for the previous tenants. You will have meters for:-
- Gas (unless you do not have gas supplied to the property)
- Water - some properties have a water meter fitted; check this with your landlord/letting agency.
You can usually have more than one name on the bills. If only one person's name appears on the bills, remember that person is liable to pay them. Make sure you're not the only one named on the bills - everyone in the house/flat needs to be on them!
Don't forget to set up your internet/broadband too as this is very important in student homes.
If you watch live television or BBC iPlayer, either on a computer or on a normal television you will be expected to have a television licence - if you are caught without a licence you could receive a big fine.
If you've signed a joint tenancy agreement with your housemates, you'll only need one licence to cover all the television receivers in your house including tablets, laptops etc.
However, in some cases, you may need individual licences, see the TV licensing website to find out more.
Full-time students are exempt from paying council tax from the start date of your course until the end date of your course. Please ensure that you have informed your landlord that you are a full-time student and have provided them with your student identification number. For more information on council tax exemption, see this article. Landlords may also require that you fill in a council tax exemption form that can be found on the Portsmouth City Council website.
Please note that if you are a part-time student or you are a full-time student living with someone who is in part-time study or not a student, then you will become liable for paying council tax. If they are the only person in the property that is not a full time student then they may be eligible for a Single person discount. For further information, contact Portsmouth City Council.
You are responsible for your guests' behaviour. This includes noise levels and the cost of any damage which may occur if you have any parties etc.
Always inform others of the times of important dates e.g. parents coming to visit, exams etc. well in advance, not the night before, so then your flat-mates have had a fair warning of an impending quiet time.
Be sympathetic of each other's timetables, work schedules etc. particularly when it's exam time.
This is often an area that causes great conflict in shared houses. You will need to learn to accept that cleaning jobs won't always be split fairly, but generally, it all balances out.
Be spontaneous and use your initiative. If the place is a mess and you have a bit of spare time, don't sit about complaining and looking at it. Do the washing up or vacuuming yourself. And if no-one notices, don't be afraid to say 'I did the vacuuming!' (With a smile on your face).
No one making an effort? Make a rota. It's a fair system and if you work it out well beforehand, it can really pay off. It's up to you how you arrange it: you could make sure each person takes responsibility for one room or alternate all the jobs that need to be done. Even if all that person does is the communal areas it will certainly makes life easier and saves having to divide general tasks. If you are continually having arguments about the housework, consider getting a cleaner.
If you're really not comfortable with the arrangements, you must talk to your housemates about it. It might not be the easiest of things to talk about, but it's far better than leaving it, and having it all flare up in a huge argument later on.
Make sure you avoid arguments about the bin by making a rule about it. Always check if you are running close to the end of the bin liner roll, otherwise it's just a gross game of 'Bin Jenga' which isn't clever or hygienic.
You need to keep on top of your housework otherwise you will be landed with a large cleaning bill coming out of your deposit at the end of the tenancy, not to mention it will upset your landlord if you are not looking after the property as well which could potentially cause difficulties further down the line if you need a reference for another house you want to rent.
If anything in the property ceases to function or break during your tenancy, you must contact your landlord or agency as soon as possible. You will probably find a clause in relation to this in your tenancy agreement.
If the landlord or letting agency can show that the tenants have been negligent or have caused the damage themselves, then they are entitled to pass on the cost of the repair or take it out of the deposit e.g. not keeping the property clean, not informing landlords about something needing a repair such as a broken window or a leaking shower etc.
All private tenants have rights to repairs, no matter what type of contract is in place. The landlord must meet these obligations.
- Keep in repair the structure and exterior of the house
- Keep in repair the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation
- Keep in repair and working order the installation for the provision of heating and water heating
The tenants also have certain obligations that they must adhere to during their occupancy.
- Take proper care of the property - avoid damaging the property at all time
- Take proper precautions to ensure that the property is protected during absence
- Undertake minor maintenance - this includes changing light bulbs, replacing blown fuses and unblocking sinks
- Keep the property clean, including fixtures and fittings
- Notify the landlord of the need for repairs promptly
If a repair becomes necessary:
- Notify the landlord immediately, advisedly in writing
- Be reasonable with your request and how long it will take to repair - you should allow 28 days for non-urgent repairs, while urgent repairs should be attended to within one to two days
- If your landlord fails to carry out the repairs, you should seek advice from Student Housing or the Environmental Health department at the local council
Access to property - you must give the landlord reasonable access to the property to carry out all necessary repairs and upkeep. However, you have the right to reasonable notice (minimum of 24 hours). If your landlord fails to give reasonable notice, you are able to refuse right of entry.
Harassment and illegal eviction
Harassment can take many forms including unauthorised entry, threatening eviction without following legal procedures and disconnection of services.
If you think you are being harassed, keep a log of the events, try to get an impartial witness and consult with Student Housing who may be able to offer advice or mediation.
If you feel the harassment is serious, then call the police, especially if you are verbally or physically threatened. For more information see this article.
Most student properties are terraced houses or flats. This means sound travels very easily between properties and care should be taken to ensure that you do not disturb your neighbours.
Remember that heavy footsteps, loud music and late night gatherings will cause distress to your neighbours. For more information on noise, see this article.
Student and Neighbour Liaison Service
The Student and Neighbour Liaison Service is based in Student Housing.
This service acts as a link between students, their neighbours and other members of the community and helps with various problems that can arise.
Please remember to behave considerately towards your neighbours, otherwise you may have to account for your actions.