When moving into a new student house, we’re most concerned with bagging the comfiest mattress, planning the first house party and discovering how many TV channels we’ll get to spend our year procrastinating in front of. Sadly, this is where lots of us have gone very wrong. Don’t risk losing chunks of your deposit or unknowingly letting your ‘home sweet home’ become a burglar’s dream or a safety hazard. To make things trouble-free, follow this step-by-step checklist after your landlord or agent hands over the keys. Stick to this and you’ll be safe as houses.
1. GET AN INVENTORY
Before your landlord or estate agent scarpers, request an inventory. Whizz round and check every item is in the house and in reasonable condition. Make notes of any defects or missing items and tell your landlord immediately. That way you’re safeguarded for the end of the year and will avoid ball-ache disputes over what should or shouldn’t be in the property.
2. GET A COPY OF SAFETY CERTIFICATES
Landlords should get their property checked and appliances serviced annually but can be notoriously laid-back, thinking students are too naive. In fact, by law you are entitled to see safety certificates for your new home within 28 days of moving in. Ask for one before you unpack. It seems a boring thing to fuss over now, but imagine letting it slide only to discover your digs are riddled with electrical faults and hazardous stone age gas appliances.
3. FIRE ALARM CHECK
Scout around each room and double check there are smoke, gas, fire and carbon monoxide alarms fitted and working. Your landlord should have checked these before you moved in, but you can’t be sure. Hopefully all alarms are connected to the mains. If they’re battery powered – ask if you’re unsure – spend a few quid replacing the battery; if you’re in the house for a year those batteries will last your whole tenancy. How’s that for peace of mind?
4. GET YOUR LANDLORD’S EMERGENCY CONTACT
Get your landlord’s emergency contact details and, if possible, the number of the handyman they use. Put a copy of these phone numbers in the hallway by the front door or by the fuse board. Check whether your landlord doesn’t mind you going through the handyman direct if something needs looking at, as this saves time.
5. ENSURE YOU’RE BURGLAR PROOF
Get the burglar alarm code, test it and familiarise yourself with how to set and turn it off. If you’re not going to remember the code, tap it in a memo in your phone – don’t put a copy of that by the door! Students are lean pickings for burglars, especially in houses with large ground windows. Rain on that robber’s parade: take two minutes to check all ground floor windows have secure locks.
6. TAKE PHOTOS
Take a full tour of the house and check for stains, chips in the wallpaper, damage and general cleanliness issues, especially in the bathrooms and kitchens. Photograph each room from all four corners and then get snaps of the ceiling. Save and date the photos, then send them to your landlord right away. You don’t need to accuse them, just explain you’re showing it wasn’t you who caused the damage.
7. TAKE METER READINGS
Landlords usually take meter readings when the previous tenants move out but they’re not obliged. Meter readings sound hectic if it’s your first time but they’re worth cracking so you don’t end up forking out for the old tenants’ bill or receiving estimated bills each month – most definitely ‘estimated’ higher than the true readings.
On digital readers you just note down the numbers – it really is that straightforward – and on a dial meter you read it like a clock, always reading the lower number if the hand falls between two digits. You will probably have five dials, giving a five digit-long reading. Most utilities companies’ websites have explanations on their websites if you’re still stuck, or don’t be too shy to ask your landlord to show you.
8. REGISTER WITH GLIDE
In halls we take unlimited heating and electricity for granted; but sadly in a house it’s usually another thing to manage. To make your life a hundred times easier, register with Glide. It’s like magic: register and Glide will send you one monthly bill that covers all services and utilities. No fussing about with separate water, energy and broadband charges. I mean, us students lead a hard life right? Let’s not make it any more complicated.
9. GET A TV LICENSE
If you pass on this one you’ll no doubt receive a landslide of threatening letters. If you ever watch live TV you must get a TV license. Dividing the cost (just under £150) between the house won’t break the bank, but a fine of £1000 will. If you don’t have a TV then fend off the TV licensing letter onslaught by registering your property as not having a TV. All can be done online at www.tvlicensing.co.uk .
10. FAMILIARISE YOURSELF
It might seem scary being out of the care of Mum and Dad, but taking care of your house in an emergency isn’t rocket science. Check where the stop taps for the gas and water are as well as the fuse box for the electrics. If there’s an emergency and you’ve familiarised yourself then you’ll avoid a huge panic.
11. CHECK FOR STAGNANT WATER
It may not occur to you – it wouldn’t have occurred to me – but if your house was left empty over the summer stagnant water may have built up in the shower and sink. Nice. To save a nasty surprise, run the water in the shower and sink a bit before you use them.
12. GET INSURANCE
As tempting as it is to say ‘it won’t happen to me’, often it does. Coming from a student whose seen friends in tears over their uninsured stolen laptop, get contents insurance! Nearly every student goes with Endsleigh and you can register online in a few minutes. Take some time to read through different packages depending on what valuables you want to protect, but basic contents insurance protecting your gadgets will work out at about £50 a year. If you arrive home one night to find a window smashed and your beautiful new tablet nicked, you’d really wish you’d not been too stingy to get insurance.
13. ENJOY YOUR HOUSE.
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