As your first year draws to a close, you may be one of the thousands of students that are preparing to move into a private house or flat after starting your University life living in halls of residence.
By now you’ve likely got your contract signed and finished arguing about who’ll get the box room, but moving into private accommodation introduces a whole range of other uncertainties and responsibilities, particularly regarding your finances, so we’ve put together this guide to help.
- Sort your bills, and try starting with easy one – water
Having bills included in your rent, or using a bill splitting service, is popular with many students, but these come with extra costs. If you’re willing to do a bit of admin yourself, often just by making a few extra phone calls and setting up a few standing orders between your housemates, you could save hundreds of pounds over the course of a year.
The easiest bill to organise first of all is for water, as United Utilities are the only water supplier in the North West. All you need to do is contact them to set up your account, you can even create an online account to submit any future meter readings with ease.
- Shop around providers for your other utilities
Gas, electricity, TV, and internet are next on the list, but there are a huge range of suppliers to choose from for these. Looking for alternative suppliers and switching is an easy way to genuinely save £100s.
Use some of the many price comparison websites (you could compare with several sites to see if what’s available varies, and then look up the supplier directly to check you’ve got the best price) to find the best value supplier for each utility, or try an easy app like Voltz to find the cheapest energy. Should you need to find out your current electricity or gas supplier before switching, check with Electricity North West or call the Meter Point Administration Service on 0870 608 1524.
- The final boring bills
Based on your viewings habits it may not be necessary, but if you are watching live TV or the iPlayer you’ll still need to purchase a TV license.
Similarly you may not need to pay council tax, as all student only households are exempt, although this doesn’t mean you don’t need to do anything as in halls. Whether you’re after a full exemption or just a discount, you will still need to inform the council online. If you are asked for any further evidence or an exemption certificate, you can get this from the Student Services Centre.
- Communicate with your landlord to save money in future
To help you get all of your deposit back at the end of your tenancy, it’s vital to agree a full and proper inventory with your landlord once you move in. An inventory is a document recording the condition of the property and listing the items within it, this can be checked if there are any unnecessary deductions from your deposit when you move out. It’s a great idea to include photos as well, and take similar photos when you leave.
You should also make sure that this deposit is protected in a tenancy deposit scheme, which is legally required if you have an assured shorthold tenancy (compensation may be due if it’s not). This ensures the money you’ve paid is secure, and will be protected if there are any disputes.
- Share the household responsibilities
In halls you may have had a cleaner and generally not co-operated with your flatmates to look after the place, but now you’ll be in private accommodation with people you (hopefully) like, it’s worth working together to make sure you have somewhere nice to live.
You can save money and time by buying products you all need for the house (loo roll, light bulbs, scourers, cleaning products…) together, whether by just taking it turns or setting up a shared account. When it comes to using some of these items, rotas for cleaning etc. may be too much you, but it’s important to make sure everyone contributes, and no-one leaves things in to soak so long they get mouldy.
- Love thy neighbour
Although there are always non-students nearby to be mindful of, living in private accommodation will feel less like a student bubble than halls. It’s necessary to consider those around you, and be a good neighbour.
This isn’t to say it only goes one way, and you should make the most of your right to a peaceful home that may be affected by non-students and other students alike. Whoever they are, it’s a great idea to try being a real life adult and introduce yourself to the neighbours, so you can hopefully get along and stop any issues before they arise.
You can also play your part in the community in a small but significant way by registering to vote, and then doing so! In halls this would have been done automatically, but you can still easily register online so it’s no fuss.
You can find even more information on managing your money and accommodation, as well as contact details if you have any further questions, from Student Support and Advice and Manchester Student Homes.