Things to consider when living in a student house
There are various issues to consider whilst living in rented accommodation. These may include cost of renting, managing bills and your budget, and dealing with repairs.
Please take a look through the RUSU Advice Service Living in a Student House booklet for more information.
If you are responsible for paying utility bills, you will need to arrange for these to be transferred into your name. Agree with housemates before you move in how you are going to share payment. It is a good idea to put all tenants’ names on each bill, and then everyone has equal responsibility for making payments.
You could set up a separate bank account for utility bills or consider alternatives like a budget card plus, available from the Post Office. This allows you to pay in money to be used for household bills. Make sure you budget for your expenditure each term- for example: utilities, phone contracts, food, travel, rent etc.
Find out from your landlord or agent who supplies gas and electricity, take meter readings on the day you move in and contact the suppliers with bank details
You may save money by switching supplier but check your tenancy agreement to see if there are any rules about this. You may have to ask permission from the landlord or switch back to the original supplier at the end of your tenancy.
Remember that water usage is not always metered- check to see if you are paying an estimated amount based on the number of people living in the property.
If you have rented a property where bills are included in the rental payments, make sure this is stated in the contract.
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Your contract should set out who is responsible for different repairs or general maintenance of the rented property. The law also implies duties on landlords to keep the property safe and in good repair, even if these are not stated in the contract.
Depending on the type of agreement you have, rights and responsibilities vary. It may not always be easy to determine who is responsible for certain repairs. However, in general, landlords are responsible for:
- Heating & hot water supply
- External structure- windows, doors, drains and gutters
- Fixed electrical and gas installations ( wiring, sockets)
- Basins, sinks, baths and toilets ( sanitary installations)
Tenants are usually responsible for:
- Changing and replacing light bulbs
- Periodically testing smoke alarms and changing batteries if required
- Keeping the property ( and garden) clean and in good order
You must inform the landlord or agent as soon as possible if any repairs need doing. Repairs should always be reported in writing, so follow up conversations in writing or with an email, including the date, and remember to keep a copy.
If the landlord doesn’t carry out the repairs, or if problems such as: inadequate heating, blocked drains or toilets, damp and mould, or pests affect your health, it may help to take a more formal approach. You can contact the Environmental Health Department at your local council. They can carry out an assessment of hazards in privately rented accommodation under the Housing Health & Safety Rating System and can order the landlord to carry out repairs if necessary.
If you have a fixed term contract, your landlord cannot simply evict you for reporting disrepair. Seek advice from RUSU Advice Service if you are unsure of your rights.
Take a look at the Shelter Guide which provides information about the rights you have if your rented home needs repairs.
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Disagreements are a normal part of life, especially if you are living in a shared house. Falling out with housemates is one of the most common housing issues for students, and can make the shared living experience a nightmare! However, if handled correctly disagreements do not have to be the end of the world.
One of the best ways to deal with any problems is to talk about them. Here are some tips on how to have a productive discussion:
- Involve anyone affected but try not to take sides or gang up on one housemate. Think about nominating a key speaker rather than everyone vying to be heard.
- See if there is anyone neutral who is willing to sit in with you while you all have a chat.
- Meet up in a neutral place to stop either party feeling at a disadvantage
- If there are problems involving several housemates on one side and a single housemate on the other, think about asking the individual housemate if there is anyone they’d like to bring for support. This person does not need to get involved, but having someone else there can stop people from feeling intimidated or defensive.
- Have a small list of rules that you agree on before you begin, such as ‘only one person to speak at a time and others to listen’, ‘everyone will treat all ideas and opinions offered with respect’ or ‘no one will raise their voice’. Sounds obvious, but going through it all beforehand helps people feel reassured and helps you work from a more logical approach.
- Prepare a list of what you want to talk about before you begin so you don’t get side-tracked. Bring along any information you think would help inform discussions.
- Think about any compromises and options you are prepared to consider beforehand.
- Try and stick to the facts/ practical side when presenting information or discussing options, and be careful of how you phrase opinions.
- State at the beginning that anyone can pause the chat for a quick time out break if things start to get upsetting.
- Your tone of voice can influence how the other person receives the information so try and keep it low and calm.
If none of the above tips have helped, consider using the Student Mediation Service
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Most students have good experiences of living in shared houses but sometimes problems do occur.
Your rented house is your home and if the landlord does not live in the property, he/she cannot enter let himself/herself in without permission. If your contract allows inspections; access for repairs; viewings for prospective tenants or purchaser, then you can usually insist on 24 hours advanced notice, unless in an emergency.
If you live in the same house as your landlord, you do not have the same rights. However, you can still let your landlord know how you feel.
RUSU Advisers, based in the ARC can also offer advice if you are having problems with your landlord.
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You can read more about your rights and responsibilities when living in privately rented housing on the Shelter Website
You can also pick up a copy of the ‘Living in a Student House’ booklet from the Students’ Union Building which gives lots more helpful information.
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