Once you’ve found a house in the private sector and you’re ready to move in, there are a few crucial steps you should take before you can truly relax.
Complete your inventory
This document is used to record the state of everything in the property (from the walls in each individual room to the sofa cushions to the shower curtain). Existing damage should be noted on the inventory and if it isn’t, the charge for it could be deducted from your deposit when you leave.
Therefore, don’t neglect this document when you move in. The very first thing you should do is take the checklist and photograph everything as it is when you arrive. Make any notes on the inventory if damage is not noted or it’s lacking in detail. Then, make a copy and send to the landlord within 7 days.
This way, you can prove what was there when you arrived and what has happened since you moved in. The more thorough you can be with your inventory, the better.
Take meter readings
You should be told where your gas, electricity and water meters are when you sign your contract or when you move in, but if you haven’t been told just call the agent or landlord and ask.
Before turning on any lights or boiling the kettle for a cup of tea, you should take a picture of the meters.
This is so you can set up your bills later and not be charged for any utilities the previous tenants have used.
Set up a standing order for your rent
Your lettings agent or landlord won’t be able to take your rent payments by Direct Debit – you will have to set up your payments by standing order soon after you move in. To make sure you don’t fall behind on rent, always send the payment to the specified bank account a few days before the amount is actually due. Then, if there’s a weekend, bank holiday, or glitch in the system on payment day, your rent will still go through. It’s also a good idea to set a start and end date for the standing order so you don’t overpay at the end of your tenancy.
You can set up standing orders in branch at your bank or by using online banking. Some online banking calls standing orders ‘regular payments’.
Check your safety
All external windows and doors should be lockable, even those on the upper floors. If not, ask your lettings agent or landlord for the keys.
And make sure you establish rules for lost keys with your housemates – you should never leave the front or back door open because somebody lost their keys on a night out or in the library.
Order your internet
Depending on who you go with, broadband can take as long as 3 weeks to arrive and be installed, so you want to minimise the amount of time you spend waiting for Internet – try planning in advance and book an installation date for the day the first person moves in, or maybe the day after.
When picking a provider to go for, read the small print – most main providers will have deals on for 18 months which is no good if you only have a 12 month contract (and leaving early can incur charges). There is often a charge for line rental (having a home phone), which most students don’t need. Shop around and find the best one for your home – NowTV and Virgin have flexible student-friendly options.
Organise your bills
Many contracts have a clause that says you are not allowed to change your bills provider without permission, so make sure you check for this first if you want to shop around for the best prices on bills. Once you know you have permission to switch, it’s easy to change providers – they do all the work for you.
Note the difference between fixed rate and variable rate tariffs –
Fixed rate tariffs mean that you will pay the same unit rate for your energy for the duration of the contract – this doesn’t mean that your bill won’t fluctuate throughout the year. It just means that the charge per kilowatt hour stays the same.
Variable tariffs mean that suppliers will offer a low price to start with but then this could (and probably will) increased later on based on the energy market. So, if you use exactly the same amount of energy at the start of your tenancy in July as you do at the end of your tenancy in June, you are likely to pay more for the final month’s bill (June) than the first month’s bill (July).
Claim your council tax exemption
Full-time students don’t have to pay council tax, but you have to prove that you are a student. Simply scan in everyone’s student ID cards and create an account to upload them at: birmingham.gov.uk/info/50181/student_council_tax_discount_or_exemption
You can also update your term time address on your my.bham portal.
If one of your housemates are not full-time students, you are entitled to a discount on your council tax. If two or more of your housemates are not full-time students, there is no excemption and you will have to pay the full amount.
Figure out if you need a TV license
It may seem like an expense that you don’t want to pay but if you intend on watching live TV as a house or watching catch-up on BBC iPlayer, you do need a TV license. You’ll get letters about this and they are very aware of the student population around the University, so if you don’t need one just let them know at tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/topics/telling-us-you-dont-need-a-tv-licence and the letters will stop!
Get basic contents insurance
There are likely to be some pretty expensive items in your bedroom – just think how your life would be impacted if you had your laptop stolen or your phone was damaged. Getting contents insurance costs so little but can make a big difference if the worst happens. Plus you can often get good deals and freebies with your policy.
Register to vote at your new address
This is so easy and should not be missed – having your say is so important. So, if you are eligible to vote in local, regional or national elections, register your details at your new address at gov.uk/register-to-vote. You can even tell them that this is your term-time address and keep your home address as well.
Have a whole house meeting
This is probably an awkward thing to do when you first move in, but before you start celebrating the new academic year do try to find time to sit down together and have a meeting with all your housemates in one room.
In that meeting you can discuss all the above things, and make sure that everybody knows what’s expected around keeping the house clean, putting out the rubbish, emptying the dishwasher, and safety and security.
If you just talk to people about it, then you will all know what to do if somebody starts getting lazy and not pulling their weight – otherwise issues could continue and you may fall out over them when all that was needed was a simple chat.
Now that you’re all settled in, you can start enjoying your new home, and community, has to offer.