Living

Before Moving In

Maintenance

Find out who is in charge of responding to problems at the property (landlord or agent) and get their phone number. Ask if they have a number for outside of office hours in case of emergencies. You should still have someone to contact for help if the landlord is on holiday or unwell. They should be contactable and/or assign someone to help you in such times.

Gas Safety

  • Your landlord has to ensure that gas-powered appliances such as the boiler and cooker are safe to use.
  • Gas appliances must be checked for safety every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • Check that you’ve been given a Gas Safety Certificate issued within the last 12 months.
  • Check that the ID number of the engineer is valid
  • If the landlord does not give you a certificate after you ask, report this to your local council’s Environmental Health department immediately

Electrical Safety

Landlords are required by law to ensure:

  • That electrical installations are safe when you move in and maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy
  • That fixed electrical installations are tested for safety every 12 months
  • That any appliance provided is safe to use and carries the ‘CE’ kite-mark.

Smoke Alarms & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Your landlord should provide:

  • One smoke detector on every floor
  • One carbon monoxide detector in any room where solid fuel is used

It’s your responsibility as a tenant to test smoke alarms regularly and replace the batteries as needed. Any safety concerns should be reported to the landlord. If your landlord is not dealing with your safety concerns, ask your local council’s Environmental Health Team for help.

You can also ask the Fire and Rescue Service to visit your home and carry out a Home Fire Risk Assessment.

You should consider getting “gadget insurance” or general contents insurance. Compare prices as there are some good deals about and they can be life-savers if your stuff gets damaged, lost or stolen. Unfortunately, students’ houses are prone to burglaries, and being a student makes you prone to losing stuff on a night out!

Do I need insurance?

How much would it cost to replace all your belongings? If you have insurance, then you could be protected from this expense in the event of accidental damage, a burglary, fire, flood or other serious incident.

You don’t have to buy insurance- this is your choice. You should also check to see if you are already covered by a policy in your family home or if the one your family home has can be extended to you. Sometimes insurance is packaged with bank accounts or credit cards, so check to see if this is the case for you.

Most students’ contracts are joint Assured Shorthold Tenancies. This means that all tenants’ names appear on one contract, instead of on individual contracts, naming individual tenants. Unless you make a separate housemate agreement, the contract requires you to split the rent equally. You can also add other details, such as how utilities are handled, into the agreement.

  • Everyone is legally obligated to split the utilities equally, even if they have been away.
  • You WILL have financial obligations before your student loan comes in - ask for guidance if you’re worried about this.
  • Try keeping a running budget
  • Most fees you could be charged by the landlord/agent (e.g. inventory, cleaning etc.) were banned on 1 June 2019, except for tenancy swap admin fees, now capped at £50.
  • If your landlord/agent asks you to pay for anything during your tenancy, tell them that you’d like to check with the Advice Centre before accepting any charges and consult us.
  • If we advise you that you are liable for any costs during your tenancy (e.g. spilt wine on carpet), then you will always have the option of asking the landlord to take the fee out of the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
  • We know you will want this set up in advance. You can set up your utilities when you move in, but we recommend you try to set up your internet account in advance to avoid going without at the start of your tenancy.
  • You can research broadband providers to find the best deals and select your contract start date as the first day of your tenancy; that way, if an appointment needs to be booked in for the installation, you won’t have to wait weeks for an appointment.
  • Remember to include all tenants’ names on the account.

Moving In

What is an inventory?

The inventory is a report that documents the state of the property when you moved in. It should list each room or area of the property, including the garden, as well as all the fixtures, furniture and appliances within each space.

The inventory should record the condition and cleanliness of everything, detailing any visible damage, disrepair and uncleanliness, ideally accompanied by photographs.

Do I have to pay for the inventory?

No. The Tenant Fees Ban 2019 means that tenants can no longer be charged for the inventory service, which is often done by an independent professional inventory clerk. This law change means many landlords are now opting to carry out the inventory themselves, which has led to many bad inventories, lacking in detail and with incorrect information. It has also led to many landlords not carrying out an inventory at all.

What is the inventory for?

Once a check-out inventory is done after you move out, the two inventories will be compared. They can then be used as evidence to show that you damaged the property or did not leave it as clean as you received it etc. This can then lead to deposit deductions.

What do I have to do?

Normally, you can be present for the inventory inspection but we advise against it during social distancing measures.

  • As soon as you move in, check the report to see if there are any mistakes or omissions.
  • Let the landlord/agent know in writing if you disagree with the report, sending notes and photos to explain why.
  • Save your texts/emails in case you have a deposit dispute at the end of your tenancy; they will be evidence of how you received the property.
What if the landlord doesn’t want to do an inventory?
  • You can do one yourself using this template.
  • Send a copy to the landlord or agent, along with time-stamped photographs, as soon as possible after moving in, ideally before moving your stuff in.
  • If the landlord does not provide you with an inventory, then they will have no evidence in a deposit dispute against you at the end of the tenancy.

There will probably already be energy and water connected when you arrive, but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything! You should set up the accounts for utilities as soon as you move in.

If your agent/landlord offers to set up utilities for you, we recommend you tell them that you’d like to handle them yourself to get the best deal. This is what most tenants do as agents and landlords often get commission for referring you to certain providers, meaning you end up paying more.

  1. Ask your landlord/agent to confirm who the current suppliers for gas, water and electricity are. If they do not know, you can find out here. In Egham, the only water supplier is Affinity Water.
  2. Take meter readings on the day you move in (or check the inventory to see if they’re recorded there). Water is not always metered, so you might instead be charged a fixed amount depending on the size of the household.
  3. Research your local suppliers to find the best deals and sign up. Include ALL tenants’ names on ALL accounts and share the account details with all tenants.
  4. Diarise your payment dates and amounts, set up standing orders if necessary.
  5. Ask for an advice appointment if you find it all a bit confusing.

If you watch or record TV as it is being broadcast live, then you will need a TV licence. You can be fined up to £1000 if you get caught without one!

Do I have to pay council tax?

If you’re a part-time student, then yes. You can check the criteria HERE. Full time students don’t have to pay council tax, but you have to prove your exemption by following these steps:

  1. When you move in, update your address with the university and download your Student Status Certificate
  2. Find out which council area you live in HERE.
  3. Send your Student Status Certificate to your council’s council tax department. Egham residents can email the certificate to counciltax@runnymede.gov.uk. Use your university email, clearly state your address and the date your contract ends.
  4. Follow steps 1-3 every September until your final year, even if you remain in the same home.
When will I have to start paying council tax?

As soon as you stop being a student- see our Council Tax FAQs for more information. This could be after the last day of Term 3 in your final year, or earlier if you interrupt your studies or if you are terminated as a student. If a housemate stops being a student during the academic year, they will become liable for the property’s entire council tax bill. If this happens, you should get in touch with the Advice Centre to guidance specific to your situation.

Get to know how bin collection is done in your new place to avoid neighbour wars. If you don’t sort your rubbish correctly, it will not be collected by the council and will pile up, attracting horrid creatures like rats!

Most fees you could be charged (e.g. inventory, cleaning etc.) were banned on 1 June 2019, except for tenancy swaps, now capped at £50. If your landlord or agent asks you for money at any point during your tenancy, tell them that you’d like to check with the Advice Centre before accepting any charges and consult us.

If we advise you that you are liable for any costs during your tenancy (e.g. spilt wine on carpet), then you will always have the option of asking the landlord to take the fee out of the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

What if the landlord is trying to make unfair charges?

Ask for advice before accepting any charges and let them know that you’re waiting for an appointment.

During your tenancy

If your landlord is not dealing with problems in the house, it can get a little complicated, so you should seek professional advice. Luckily, the SU Advice Centre has a specialist housing advisor who can even refer you to solicitors if necessary- all for free!

It’s still good to have an idea of who is responsible for what.

Landlord's Reponsibility:
  • In general: the big things
  • Heating and hot water supply
  • Basins, sinks, baths and toilets
  • The property’s structure, windows, external doors, drains and gutters
  • Gas appliances (cooker, boiler)
  • Fixed electrical installations (wiring, electrical sockets and fittings)
Tenant's Responsibility
  • Report disrepair to the landlord/agent
  • Change light bulbs
  • Test smoke alarms regularly, changing batteries as needed
  • Keep the property and garden clean and tidy.
Report it right
  • Report issues in writing- a simple email is ideal, but text messages are OK too.
  • If an issue is urgent, then report by phone but then follow up with an email to confirm what was said
  • Report the key facts:
  • What’s the issue?
  • When did the issue arise?
  • Is it affecting anyone else?
  • Keep a record of any emails or messages sent/received
  • Keep back-up copies of photos and other important files
  • Log relevant dates, and events e.g. 23/02/2020 – engineer visited to inspect property
Get help

Landlords often delay dealing with issues too long. If your landlord is not being prompt in their responses, ask for an advice appointment straight away.

You can read about tenants’ rights under common types of student tenancies below, but the best way to find out what your tenancy rights are is to send us your contract, requesting a contract check [hyperlink to contract check request template]. This is a free service we offer to all of our students.

Please note that if you have a less common type of tenancy, (e.g. license, lodger, living with family) then you will have significantly less rights as a tenant, and so it’s extra-important to get a contract check.

Below is a general list of tenants’ rights and obligations based on a typical joint Assured Shorthold Tenancy contract:

  • To have the name and address of your landlord.
  • To have necessary repairs dealt with.
  • To live in a safe home.
  • To have minimum 2 months’ notice if the landlord wants you to leave the property. (3 months during lockdown)
  • To never be forcefully evicted without a court order.
Paying rent

Most students are in a joint liability (all tenants names appear on a single contract). This means that if someone owes for rent or bills, and their guarantor can’t pay, then the other tenants and their guarantors can be asked to pay. This is why we encourage you to consider getting renters’ insurance

  • You will always pay for the month/s ahead.
  • If rent is late, daily interest can be charged by the landlord after the first 14 days and you have to refund any cost they incurred due to your lateness.
  • If you have to be chased for rent, you can be charged for each letter, visit, court costs, etc. – only to recover costs, though, as they cannot fine you or make a profit from these charges. Consult the Advice Centre before accepting any such charges.
  • Never pay in cash.
Fixed Term

Most contracts are for a ‘fixed term,’ meaning you cannot leave the contract early and you are expected to leave at end of contract unless otherwise agreed by landlord.

Notice

You must inform your landlord at least 2 months before the end of the contract about whether you are staying or leaving at end of tenancy. (We recommend no earlier than Term 2- let us know if they pressure you to renew/decide earlier- this is illegal).

Look after the property

You have a legal obligation to look after your rented home and report any problems to the landlord or agent. The landlord has to deal with disrepair in the house and pay for it unless you were neglectful or vandalised the property. Not reporting problems straight away is considered neglect.

Below is a list of dos and don’ts known to save tenants from deposit deductions, so read up and clean up!

The landlord has 2 main obligations to the tenant

Deposit protection

Your landlord has a legal obligation to place your deposit in a deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving the full amount and send you a deposit protection certificate. This ensures you can get your deposit back without unfair deductions.

Good repair

The landlord has to give the property and all the items listed in the inventory in good order and deal with disrepair promptly. They have to cover the cost of all this unless the tenant was negligent in their use of the property.

  • Be a good neighbour- see uni guidance to avoid consequences at university
  • Keep the place clean and tidy
  • Take precautions against infestation. Keep all food in cupboards with no holes- mice can eat through packaging!
  • Use a mattress protector.

To avoid damp and mould forming:

  • Ensure good ventilation- open all windows for at least 15 mins a day and Heat the house to 17-20 degrees C to avoid damp/mould.
  • Dry clothes outside as much as possible.
  • If the house is empty in cold weather (e.g. Chrismas holidays) keep heating on constantly on the frost setting or lowest setting to avoid water in pipes freezing. Otherwise, this can cause flooding when thawing.
  • Wipe away condensation.
  • Don’t pour food waste/fat down the sink or block bath/shower pipes with hair- buy chemical drain unblocker if this happens.
  • Don’t allow rubbish to build up inside or outside the house- you’ll be charged for their removal if it gets bad.
  • Don’t use plug-in heaters without written permission.
  • No smoking.
  • No satellite dish/aerial etc. to be stuck to exterior of property.
  • No naked flames of any kind, including candles.
  • No decorating, no blue-tac or sticky tape on walls to avoid damaging paintwork.
  • Don’t dry clothes in the house with the windows closed - causes damp, mould.
  • Don’t leave valuables in the property when it is empty during the holidays.
  • Tell landlord if you’re leaving house empty for longer than a couple of weeks for security and insurance purposes. Ask a friend to check in on the place for you occasionally or to house-sit for you.
  • Lock all doors and windows when property is empty to avoid problems with the landlord’s insurance.

Viewings

  • You have to allow landlord access for repairs and inspection (with minimum 24 hour notice). Agents, workmen or landlord shouldn’t let themselves in unless you can’t be there for essential repairs that can’t wait, in which case they should let you know ASAP.
  • If you have decided not to renew the contract, you should allow viewings of the property during reasonable times (daytime - with minimum 24 hours’ notice) at a time that suits you- you can refuse if the time is not convenient, but you should offer alternatives.
  • If you lose keys, you will usually have to pay for new locks and keys.
  • You do not have to allow viewings to prospective tenants before you have decided whether or not you want to renew your contract.
  • Most contracts state that you do not have to decide whether or not you want to renew until the final two months of the tenancy.
  • We advise you not to make a decision about renewing and to refuse any viewings to take place in Term 1. This is a form of pressure sales landlords and agents use to get you to renew your contract as soon as you move in and is an illegal sales tactic. Please ask us for help if your landlord/agent is doing this.
  • Once you do allow viewings to go ahead, remember that they have to be by appointment at a time that suits you and no-one should let themselves into your home.

We strongly recommend you try to resolve issues with your housemates because it is almost impossible to get out of a tenancy agreement. In fact, 99.99% of the time, the only way out is to find a tenant to replace you, which can be difficult, and even then, the other housemates could refuse to accept them.

If you need guidance for how to approach a housemate issue, you can ask the Wellbeing Team for some help in planning it.

What if a housemate has to leave uni and needs to move out?

This will have financial consequences as they will stop being a student and so no longer receive a student loan, but still have to continue paying rent. There is help available for them if they cannot afford to pay the rent. All housemates will be affected and so should ask for an advice appointment. You can have a group appointment or see the Housing Advisor individually.

If all tenants agree to advertise a spare room in order to find a replacement tenant, then you can advertise the room online. Students are looking for rooms throughout the year, but do be aware that they are spoilt for choice, so there is a chance that you will not find anyone.

We don’t recommend using sites like spareroom.com as there are a lot of fraudsters on there. We created the RHSU HouseMating Facebook Group to help you find people from the RHUL community. However, please remember that fraudsters are everywhere, so you should be careful about what information you share.