Advice before you find a property or move in

Finding a house is really exciting and making sure that you are prepared is helping in ensuring that you get the right property for you and those you live with. Being prepared when you are searching for a property can prevent difficulties in your tenancy, later in the year.

You should receive the following documents from your landlord or agent:

  • A Gas Safety Certificate issued within the last year.
  • Evidence of an electrical inspection within the last five years.
  • Tenancy deposit protection scheme information.
  • Energy Performance Certificate.
  • Information about who manages the property i.e. if the landlord or agent is responsible for maintenance/repairs.
  • Confirmation in writing if your bills are included, either in an email, letter or in your tenancy agreement.

As a prospective tenant, we would advise that you do the following:

  • Check the rules about overnight guests, smoking and pets.
  • Check who is responsible for the bills and make sure this information is included in the tenancy agreement.
  • Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be fitted by your landlord – it’s the law.
  • Get any promises of repairs or new furniture in writing.
  • Check under which circumstances you could leave the tenancy early without still being liable for rent.
  • Write an agreement about who will pay how much for which rooms.
  • Make sure any other appliances, such as washing machines, are included in the inventory and that the landlord will be responsible for replacing them if they break down.

Make sure you are happy with the tenancy agreement and don’t hesitate to question the meaning of certain clauses. You should not sign anything you are not 100% clear on! If you need any further support then please get in touch with a member of the Support Zone who can help.

We would advise that you check the following areas of your property to ensure that it is safe to live in:

Check the safety of the property

Maintenance:

Make sure you find out who is in charge of responding to problems at the property (landlord or agent) and get their phone number. Ask if they have a number for outside of office hours, in the case of emergency. You should still have someone to contact for help if the landlord is on holiday or unwell.

Gas Safety:

  • Your landlord has to ensure that gas-powered appliances such as the boiler and cooker are safe to use
  • Gas appliances must be checked for safety every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Check that you have been given a Gas Safety Certificate that has been issued within the last 12 months
  • Check that the ID number of the engineer is valid
  • If the landlord does not give you a certificate after you have asked, you should report this to Guildford Borough Council immediately.

Electrical Safety:

Landlords are required by law to ensure:

  • The electrical installations are safe when you move in and maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy
  • That fixed electrical installations are tested for safety every 12 months
  • That any appliance provided is safe to use and carries the “CE” kite-mark

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

Your landlord should legally provide:

  • One smoke detector on every floor
  • One carbon monoxide detector in any room where solid fuel is used

It is your responsibility as a tenant to test smoke alarms regularly and replace the batteries as needed. Any safety concerns should be reported to the landlord. If your landlord is not dealing with your safety concerns, then approach Guildford Borough Council for help.

You can also ask the Fire and Rescue Service to visit your home and carry out a Home Fire Risk Assessment, if you are concerned.

Insurance

Unfortunately, students’ houses can be vulnerable to burglaries and it’s always wise to protect your stuff! We would advise that you obtain “gadget insurance” or general contents insurance. It’s always a good idea to compare prices as there are some money saving deals and they can be life-savers if your stuff gets damaged, lost or stolen.

Do I need insurance?

By having insurance, then you could be protected from this expense in the event of accidental damage, a burglary, fire, flood or other serious incident.

You don’t have to buy insurance – this is your choice. You should also check to see if you are already covered by a policy in your family home or if the one your family home has can be extended to you. Sometimes insurance is packaged with bank accounts or credit cards, so check to see if this is the case for you.

Housemates

Student contracts are usually joint Assured Shorthold Tenancies (see these top tips here to follow as a tenant)

This means that all tenants’ names appear on one contract, instead of on individual contracts, naming individual tenants. Everyone is legally obligated to split the rent and utilities equally, even if they have been away. You are most likely to have financial obligations before your student loan comes in.

Before signing anything, it is worth having a written agreement with your other housemates about who pay’s what and what share of the rent each will pay (you may want to consider different rent per different sized room). Having a written agreement can help if there are disputes further down the line.

If you are in financial difficulty then we would suggest that you reach out to moneysupport@surrey.ac.uk who may be able to help. If you need further support then please email ussu.advice@surrey.ac.uk and one of our advisors will get in touch.

Check in and inventory

Inventory

The inventory is a report that documents the state of the property when you moved in. It should list each room or area of the property, including the garden, as well as all the fixtures, furniture and appliances within each space. The inventory should record the condition and cleanliness of everything, detailing any visible damage, disrepair and uncleanliness, ideally accompanied by photographs.

Carrying out an inventory is free. This can mean that your landlord may carry out a poor inventory check which is why as a tenant, you need to do it yourself as well. Once a check-out inventory is done after you move out, the two inventories will be compared. They can then be used as evidence to show that you damaged the property or did not leave it as clean as you received it etc. This can then lead to deposit deductions so always keep an eye on this!

We would advise the following:

  • As soon as you move in, check the report to see if there are any mistakes or omissions.
  • Let the landlord/agent know in writing if you disagree with the report, sending notes and photos to explain why.
  • Save your texts/emails in case you have a deposit dispute at the end of your tenancy; they will be evidence of how you received the property.
  • If the landlord doesn’t do an inventory, you can do one yourself using this template.
  • Send a copy to the landlord or agent, as soon as possible after moving in, ideally before moving your stuff in.
  • If the landlord does not provide you with an inventory, then they will have no evidence in a deposit dispute against you at the end of the tenancy.

Landlord charges

It is your responsibility to maintain and upkeep the house, and keep it in order whilst you are living there. It is really important to check the inventory before you move in carefully as anything not recorded on the inventory, could come out of your deposit at the end of your tenancy.

If your landlord/agent asks you to pay for anything during your tenancy, tell them that you’d like to obtain some advice before accepting any charges. You can either get in touch with us or CItizens Advice. You’ll want to check what your contract says, and you will want to check your inventory also before you pass over any money.

If you are liable for any costs during your tenancy (e.g. stains on the wall), then you will always have the option of asking the landlord to take the fee out of the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

Internet, bills and utilities

Setting up your internet

We are sure that having your internet set up in advance is essential for you as a studious and social student! You can set up the majority of your utilities when you move in, but we strongly recommend you try to set up your internet account in advance at the start of your tenancy, so that you don’t miss out!

In some cases, it can take several weeks to book in someone to install your internet, so booking early for the week you move in will ensure no delays.

You can research broadband providers to find the best deals and select your contract start date as the first day of your tenancy; that way, if an appointment needs to be booked in for the installation, you won’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. Remember to include all tenants’ names on the account and not just your own!

Paying Rent

We would advise that once you have your house sorted, that you set up a standing order for your rent to come out at the same time each month which can usually be set up easily though your internet banking. This way, it is unlikely that you will miss a payment.

Missing payments for your bills, rent or any other standing order, can have an impact on your credit rating and score so make sure you are paying on time.

Bills and Utilities

There will probably already be energy and water connected when you arrive, but you should set up the accounts for utilities as soon as you move in. If your agent/landlord offers to set up utilities for you, we would advise that you tell them you’d like to handle them yourself to get the best deal. To change your energy or gas supplier:

  1. Ask your landlord/agent to confirm who the current suppliers for gas, water and electricity are. If they do not know, you can find out here.
  2. Take meter readings on the day you move in (or check the inventory to see if they’re recorded there). Water is not always metered, so you might instead be charged a fixed amount depending on the size of the household.
  3. Research your local suppliers to find the best deals and sign up. Include ALL tenants’ names on ALL accounts and share the account details with all tenants.
  4. Diarise your payment dates and amounts, set up standing orders if necessary.

TV Licence

If you watch or record TV as it is being broadcast live, then you will need a TV licence. You can be fined up to £1000 if you get caught without one so don’t delay!

Council Tax

Most students are exempt from council tax, but you should make sure that it is set up properly. Click here for more advice and to check your eligibility.

Need more advice and guidance? Email us at ussu.advice@surrey.ac.uk with as much information as you can about your case, and we will do what we can to advise you.