So you’ve finished your first year at uni, made loads of new friends and can’t wait to move out of halls of accommodation and into your own home. It’s exciting, it’s daunting - it’s time to start looking for your own flat or student house.
Your student house
Apart from deciding who your housemates are going to be, there are a few other things to think about, such as location. It’s often cheaper to live away from city centres or campuses, but if it’s going to cost you a fortune to travel to and from uni every day, living away from the ‘hub’ of things could be a false economy. There’s also the issue of how much it will cost. Some landlords charge an all-inclusive monthly rental. With this option you know exactly how much you’ll be spending each month. However, if the rent is exclusive of bills, it’s worth checking out how much these will add onto your monthly outgoings. Council tax can be pretty expensive depending upon where you live, but if everyone in the household is a full-time student, this is one bill you won’t have to pay. To count as a full-time student, your course must last at least a year and involve 21 hours or more study per week.
There are a few other things to look into such as: tenancy agreements, your rights as a tenant, your responsibilities and how to choose the right letting agent. It’s also worth thinking about what happens if someone drops out of uni and leaves the house. Who would be responsible for paying their portion of the rent? This will depend upon whether you’ve signed a joint tenancy agreement, or if each housemate has signed individual contracts. If it’s a joint tenancy, it may be the responsibility of the remaining housemates to cover any outstanding rent. If you’ve signed individual tenancies, it will most likely be the landlords’ responsibility to find a new tenant, or to absorb the cost.
Many private landlords will ask you to provide a guarantor before they will rent their property to you. This is someone, normally a parent or close relative, who is prepared to pay your rent if, for some reason, you can’t. The landlord may want to carry out a credit check on your guarantor to check their ability to pay. The guarantor will be expected to sign an agreement which sets out exactly what obligations they are guaranteeing and in many cases, the agreement will extend to any damage caused to the property as well as any unpaid rent. As soon as the guarantee agreement is signed, the guarantor is bound by its terms and conditions, so it’s important to make sure your guarantor knows exactly what they are signing. If you and your housemates are on a joint tenancy, your guarantor will be joint too, meaning that one parent could end up being chased for rent arrears caused by someone else’s child.
Make sure you’re covered
So, you’ve found a great house, in the right location and at the right cost. The tenancy agreement has been drawn up, guarantors have been agreed and everyone’s looking forward to moving in day. There’s one more thing to consider – in all the excitement of packing up, don’t forget to look into insuring your possessions. It may not seem the most pressing thing to do, but accidents do happen, particularly in the mad rush of moving into a new home.
The average student takes around £2,000 worth of laptops, smart phones and bicycles to university. Generally speaking, there are two options; get cover via your parents’ existing home contents policy or buy your own flexible student insurance policy. As long as you still live at the family home during the holidays, some insurers will automatically give you cover for belongings kept in your student house during term time, although your parents may not be keen because if you claim on their policy, it may affect their no-claims discount. Your parents’ existing policy will cover your possessions against standard perils such as fire, flood, storm or malicious damage, but you’re only covered for theft if someone breaks into your accommodation. For example, if you have a house party, or one of your housemates invites a few people round, and your laptop or phone goes missing, you won’t necessarily be covered.
Some student contents insurance will only cover your belongings if you are living in halls, not if you live in shared accommodation off campus. Others will only cover items kept in your own locked room, rather than in communal areas. If you live in privately owned accommodation, you will most likely need something a little more comprehensive. Effective security can reduce your insurance premiums, so it’s worth checking that your landlord has installed suitable burglar and fire alarm systems, and that all windows and doors are locked before leaving the house.