There are many aspects that you need to be aware of at the start of your tenancy.
Paying rent and providing guarantee forms
Under the terms of your tenancy agreement you will be expected to have paid your first instalment of rent and provided guarantee forms. If any payments or forms are outstanding you will almost certainly be denied access to your house.
For almost all tenancies the students are responsible for the payment of the utility bills. If your tenancy includes any bills you will already know this, as it will be reflected in your rent and will have been agreed before you signed the tenancy agreement. Where the relevant bill is included in your rent, the applicable section below can be ignored.
If you want a telephone landline for internet access we advise you to make arrangements as early as possible. The reason is that if there is a line to your property already and you take it over immediately you stand a reasonable chance of avoiding a reconnection charge, which is more than £120. If there is a gap between customers the likelihood of the reconnection charge is higher.
Gas and electricity
Each occupier has a choice of supplier. The normal practice is for the supplier(s) used by the last tenants to write advising you they are the "default supplier(s)" and asking for your contact details. At this stage you have the option to stay with the same supplier(s) or make your own arrangements and choose another. If you prefer, you can choose your own supplier(s) immediately. The supplier(s) you choose will help you with advising any previous supplier(s). You should read your meters on moving in, but where we manage the house we will have a record. Even if you stay with the current providers, you must contact them to provide your details. There are two reasons for this. First of all, unless they have the names of the occupants some suppliers will charge higher unit rates. Secondly, by using utilities without registering your name could technically be classified as theft.
Nearly all student houses are billed a fixed water rate (ie they do not have a meter). This will not apply if you house is relatively new. You can provide your details to Yorkshire Water via their website www.yorkshirewater.com.
Even if your landlord provides a television, tenants are responsible for the purchase of a television licence unless stated otherwise in the tenancy agreement. If you are on one joint tenancy agreement you only need one licence no matter how many televisions you have or whether or not locks are fitted to your bedroom doors. Please remember that the ability to receive broadcast signals matters, so a computer with television access via the internet counts. Further information can be found via www.tvlicensing.co.uk/
There are many options for internet access and you probably know more about the latest choices than we do. Nowadays, it seems that the decision boils down to whether to arrange for shared access to the property (eg via landline, cable or satellite) or personal arrangements (eg linked to a mobile telephone contract). If you do decide to share internet access to the property it is important that the group members are honest about their likely use; so if you need high capacity you subscribe for an appropriate contract from day one. It seems that many internet contracts are for a minimum twelve month period, so there is little to be gained from delaying your access arrangements. In summary, for an internet supply to the property you need to consider:
• initial hardware / set-up costs;
• monthly subscription cost;
• connection speed;
• usage limits;
• length of contract;
• cancellation notice period.
Full time students can apply to be exempt from council tax. The admissions staff for your course will be able to advise you if you qualify for exempt status and provide an exemption certificate if required. However, most exemption applications are now dealt with via the internet, see:
Your landlord is responsible for taking out adequate insurance for the building. The buildings cover will be for major damage such as fire, third party vandalism etc, but usually will not include accidental damage. Usually, landlords do not insure the contents as tenants are responsible for most damage to these.
It is accepted that tenants are not responsible for any breakdown or damage arising from normal use or fair wear and tear. However, tenants could find themselves asked to pay for damage such as broken windows, or a shattered washbasin or damage to the furnishings, such as spilling drinks on carpets.
Please remember that a request for the tenants to pay for damage is not necessarily a claim the tenants have deliberately caused the damage. You might cause damage either by genuine accident or negligent behaviour. The test that applies is whether the damage arises as a result of reasonable normal use of the facilities or not.
You are fully responsible for your own personal possessions and no landlord's policy will cover these, even if loss arises from an event the landlord is insured for. For example, if the house is severely damaged by fire and the landlord can claim on his buildings policy, you cannot claim from your landlord or his insurance for your own possessions that are lost.
We mentioned above that usually landlords do not insure the house contents. This is because the likelihood of an insured loss (eg fire) is remote. Similarly, you might decide that you are unlikely to suffer a significant loss and decide not to take out general insurance. However, you will have a few key items which are sometimes moved around, such as a computer or a bicycle, which are more valuable and more likely to be lost. You have a few choices:
• To not bother with insurance, running the risk of loss from accidental damage or theft.
• Check the policy covering your parents´ home as this may provide cover or allow an extension of the policy for a small extra premium.
• Take out your own policy.
If your property is within a residents' parking zone, you will need a permit to park on the street. Permanent permits are available for your own car, or visitors' permits valid for a day for occasional parking. Full details on obtaining permits and the cost are available at:
Arrangements for moving in
If we are managing your house we will contact you about making arrangements to move in. Where we have been asked to act on a tenant find basis only, you need to contact your landlord to make the necessary arrangements. We will have sent you an email with a copy of your contract and contact details for your landlord.
Staying or leaving?
It helps if you give some indication of likely occupancy during the summer, in particular if you are all going home immediately or if the property will be empty for a significant length of time. There are various reasons for this:
If the property is not adequately cleaned by the group moving out, but the house will be empty all July and August, the cleaning can be postponed. This would mean the house will not be dusty again by the time you return.
Most landlords are aware of some improvements that could be made to their houses, eg redecoration or replacing some furnishings. If they know the house will be empty, or almost empty, they are more likely to have the work done.
If the house will be empty for some time, arrangements will be made to visit periodically to check it.
If you are not staying in the property, we recommend that you only leave low value items such as spare clothes, text books, course notes etc. Any high value items, in particular laptop computers and other electronic goods, should be taken home. Furthermore, we recommend that you leave your possessions packed until you return.
Fridges, freezers and curtains
If fridges and freezers are going to be left empty and turned off, leave the doors propped open to prevent mould and nasty odours developing. For similar reasons, it does no harm for the doors of dishwashers and washing machines to be left open. Finally, leaving the curtains closed is a clear advert that the house is empty and may contain items of value. It is far better to put any boxes upstairs and leave the curtains open.
Constructive feedback on this information would be welcomed. If you have any comments please email email@example.com giving details of your suggested corrections or additions and clearly stating your name and interest (eg first year undergraduate student, postgraduate or student welfare officer). Your comments will be considered when the article is next updated.