After a year of living in halls, there’s nothing more exciting than finding the perfect student house. Whether you’re planning a year of legendary house parties or you and your housemates want to spend weekends binge-watching Netflix on the sofa, student houses can quickly become a drain on time and finances if you run into problems with landlords, estate agents or utility companies. With 10% of students struggling to get their deposit back, we’ve rounded up our top tips for anyone planning to move into a student house to keep hold of that all important cash.
1. Take photos of everything
Make sure to take photos of every room when you first move in, preferably on a smartphone that provides a time-stamp, and get shots of any problem areas or damage to the house. Any serious issues, such as mould or damp, should be reported straight away but also take photos of minor damage too, like chipped paint or a damaged worktop – the last thing you want is to be charged for the Blu Tack marks left by your predecessor and their BTS posters.
2. Write a detailed inventory
Ask your landlord for a detailed inventory of every appliance and piece of furniture in the house. If there is any dispute over getting your deposit back, the inventory is an essential record of the contents of the property so if your landlord doesn’t supply one, offer to write one yourself and send it to them. Make sure to note the condition of any furniture so you’re not charged for ‘wear and tear’ that was there when you arrived.
It’s also worth making sure you and your housemates are aware of exactly what belongs to the landlord – you’re less likely to smash a lamp during a drunken karaoke session if you know it doesn’t belong to you!
3. Check your utility providers
Find out which utility providers are being used and don’t be afraid to ask to switch if you think you can get a better deal elsewhere, but be wary of deals that look too good to be true – you may end up underpaying every month only to find you’ve got a huge bill left to pay at the end of the year! Make sure if you switch you’re not tied to a long contract, especially if you only plan to be in the house for 9-12 months. If you and your housemates are paying the bills yourselves, make sure you’re all aware of when your regular payments are required – that way you avoid any nasty surprises after you’ve just splashed out on a new pair of trainers.
4. Learn how to do meter reads
Like changing a lightbulb, learning how to do a meter reading is a boring but essential skill that marks your passage into adulthood – it’s also a handy way to make sure you’re not being overcharged by your utilities provider. Find your gas and electricity meter on the day you move in (they’re often in the basement or outside the property) and take a photo. This way, you can ensure that you’re not getting charged for the previous tenant’s bubble baths.
5. Get your head around council tax
Like meter reading, council tax is part of adulting, so you might as well suck it up and get used to it. On the bright side however, households of full-time students are exempt from council tax, but you may need to make your local council aware of this so they can consider you to be a ‘disregarded person’. If you’re in with full-time students and non-students, you will get a council tax bill each month but only the non-student tenants are required to pay. Council tax bills are calculated per household, so it’s worth bearing in mind that if you do have just one non-student among your housemates, they might be footing the whole bill themselves.
6. Re-check your tenancy agreement
Chances are you’re currently knee deep in coursework or essays so reading another long document is the last thing you’d like to do, we get it. The terms of tenancy agreement often vary however, so it’s essential that you have a thorough understanding of exactly what you’re agreeing to. Make sure you’re aware of the notice period and any other clauses that might catch you out and lead to unplanned expenses at the end of your tenancy – some landlords will have clauses on how you can decorate and others will ask you to pay for a cleaning service.
7. Chat to your landlord
There’s no need to assume that the student/landlord relationship is always a little rocky. You don’t have to be best friends, but do make efforts to be polite and show them that you intend to take good care of their property. A good relationship means they’re more likely to help you out in a tight spot and support you when you’re seeking your deposit. A supportive landlord may be willing to give you time to fix any issues around the house so you get your full deposit back, rather than charging you for damages.
Author: The Bunch
We help students share bills effortlessly.
Moving into your first home? Don’t stress about utility bills. We handle the setup and management, ensuring you and your housemates can split the costs seamlessly. Pay your share on the same day every month, and leave the rest to us.