- Important safety information
- Utility companies
- Council tax
- TV licence
- Registering to vote
- Furnished properties
- What is an inventory?
- What if I've moved in only to find the property is not in the state it should be in?
An inventory is a written list of all fixtures, fittings and furniture in the property with an indication of their condition. It is extremely important to carry out an inventory on the date your contract starts. Whilst in most cases a tenancy will end without dispute, the inventory will be an invaluable tool when it comes to the return of your deposit. (Please see the moving out section for more advice).
Wherever you live, if you pay a deposit, you need a detailed record of the condition of the property/room/furniture at the beginning of the contract. This inventory is used when looking at the condition of the property at the end of the letting agreement. Some deterioration is allowed (ie fair wear and tear) but if the walls are covered in Blu-Tack stains at the end of the contract, unless the inventory shows that those stains were also there at the beginning, you could get charged for repainting.
If a landlord does not provide an inventory make your own. Every item down to the last teaspoon should be ticked off on the inventory. If something does not work, note that as well and ask for the landlord to repair it. Note on the inventory general cleanliness and condition; marks on walls, carpets, mattresses, knife cuts on kitchen worktops etc. In addition we recommend you take photos as evidence of condition and contents (provided that they are dated and labelled).
It is a very good idea to check that the heating works when you first move in, in preparation for the winter.
You should all agree that the inventory is an accurate record of the property's contents and condition. All tenants need to sign the inventory. Keep your copy safe and send a copy of the signed inventory to the landlord. Ensure you have a 'proof of posting' (free) from the Post Office. Request, in writing, a copy of the landlord's signed inventory.
If you are unhappy about any aspect of the condition of the property when you move in (damage, outstanding repairs, damage to décor or the level of cleanliness) – inform the owner/agent in writing immediately and keep a copy for your own records. If you fail to notify them about your concerns you could find yourself paying for the previous tenants' damage at the end of your own tenancy.
Read our guide to important safety information you need to know when you're renting a house or flat.
A Gas Safe register qualified installer must test all gas appliances (including cookers, central heating, fires and water heaters) in any rented property every 12 months. By law this is the landlord's responsibility. Please check this before signing a contract. It is a legal requirement for the safety certificate to be handed to the tenant.
It is a criminal offence for the landlord/agent not to have all gas appliances serviced and checked every 12 months, or for them to use someone who is not a Gas Safe registered engineer. The service record should either be given to you when you move in or displayed in the property.
If the landlord/agent refuses to have the gas appliances serviced, or they do not act on concerns that you raise, contact the environmental health department at your local council. They will check the appliances are safe and can serve legal notices on the landlord/agent to have a full service carried out. They can also report them to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for not carrying out their legal obligations. The HSE have the power to instigate criminal proceedings against the landlord/agent.
In the case of a gas leak, contact Transco (0800 111 999). If there is a fault they may make the appliance safe by disconnecting the service but they have no power to request that the landlord/agent carries out repairs. If you smell gas or fumes:
- turn off the supply;
- open the windows;
- extinguish any naked flames;
- do not touch any electrical switches; and
- call the Transco on 0800 111 999.
Please visit www.hse.gov.uk/gas for further advice.
Faulty gas appliances can produce carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous lethal gas with no smell or taste. It is vital to ensure that there is adequate ventilation in any rooms that contain gas appliances. Even an appliance that has been serviced regularly can produce carbon monoxide. We highly recommended that you purchase a carbon monoxide detector (which should cost about £10). Visit www.hse.gov.uk/gas for further information.
Carbon monoxide danger signs include:
- a lazy yellow or orange flame (it should be crisp and blue);
- sooting or staining around the appliance;
- condensation in a room containing gas appliances; and
- pilot lights which frequently go out.
Carbon monoxide fumes result in blood being deprived of oxygen and can lead to brain damage. Sufferers may be unaware that anything is wrong. These fumes can kill within hours and you are very vulnerable when sleeping.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- stomach and chest pains;
- drowsiness; and
- cold/flu symptoms.
- NHS Direct 0845 4647
- HSE Gas Safety Advice Line 0800 300 363
When you are looking round a house or flat remember to check:
- smoke detectors – if none are installed consider asking your landlord to provide them or ask if you can install your own
- your escape route from each room in the house;
- if there is a fire blanket in the kitchen;
- that all furnishings have been manufactured to fire-resistant standards and carry a label stating they meet safety requirements. A landlord/agent may ask you to remove furniture you bring from home if it does not meet with the standards.
Once you have moved in, check the batteries in fire detectors regularly.
- The London Fire Brigade carries out home fire safety checks in this area.
- It will also fit a free smoke alarm where needed.
- If you or someone you know wants a home fire safety check you can request one at www.london-fire.gov.uk/homefiresafetyvisit.asp.
For further fire safety advice, visit www.london-fire.gov.uk.
Landlord/agents put in fire detection systems for your safety and the protection of their property. So please:
- Do not remove the self closing mechanisms on fire doors.
- Do not prop fire doors open.
- Never cover up or remove batteries from smoke or heat detectors. If a fire breaks out you risk death or serious injury to yourself or other tenants. The landlord/agent could sue for damage caused to their property. Usually if the battery detector bleeps, the battery needs changing.
- Most tenancy agreements prohibit the use of candles. If you ignore this and there is a fire you are at risk of being liable for the damage.
- Test smoke alarms once a week.
- Inform the landlord/agent immediately if the fire extinguisher or fire blanket has been used. If either is used inappropriately, the household could be charged for a replacement.
Landlords of certain buildings that are occupied by more than one household (e.g. houses split into bedsits) have extra legal obligations to provide adequate fire precautions and means of escape from fire.
Dangerous electrical appliances or damaged sockets can cause fire or serious injury. Although there is no legal requirement for the landlord/agent to carry out regular checks they are responsible for ensuring that the installations and appliances are safe to use.
What are the warning signs?
- Broken plug sockets.
- Plugs that get hot when they are used.
- Sparks from electrical appliances/sockets.
- Fuses which continually blow.
- Loose switches.
- Exposed wiring.
Frequently having to replace light bulbs is not necessarily a sign of problem wiring. Try a different make of light bulb (perhaps more expensive) before reporting the problem.
When you move into the property, you will need to arrange for the supply of electricity, gas, water and telephone to be transferred into your names. You will need to inform the utility companies of:
- your names – put the bill in all of your names;
- the date that your tenancy started; and
- the meter readings on that date.
This is a relatively straightforward process. For the gas, electricity and possibly water, you will simply need to give details of the current meter readings to the suppliers. There are many different types of meters for gas and electricity. Please see the meter reading guide (PDF) on how to read them. Remember to keep a copy of the meter readings.
If you are unsure who your suppliers are please see the following list of useful telephone numbers:
- Gas – if you do not know who your supplier is, please contact:
- Transco meter helpline: 0870 608 1524.
- British gas: 0800 048 0202.
- Electricity – if you do not know who your supplier is, please contact:
- Consumer Direct: 08454 040 506 or check their website.
- EDF: 0800 783 8866.
- Water – most properties in the Kingston area are serviced by Thames Water:
- Thames Water: 0845 920 0800.
- BT: 0800 800 150 to install or reconnect a line.
Make yourself aware of the rules surrounding council tax in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
- What is council tax?
- Who has to pay council tax?
- Are all students exempt from council tax?
- What if we have a group of full-time students and non-students?
- What about a student with a spouse and/or dependents?
- Council tax exemption certificates
It is a charge made by local authorities on residential properties to pay for local public services.
Most non-students and part-time students who are over 18.
Yes, provided you're a full-time enrolled student, you are exempt from paying council tax.
If you share with anyone who is not a full-time enrolled student, council tax will be charged on the house. However, it is for the members of the household to decide how the bill should be apportioned and paid as with any other household bill. From 1 April 2004 local authorities cannot bill or enforce payment from any full-time student member of the household.
The spouse and dependants of an international student will also be treated as if they are full-time students, provided they are not British citizens and are prevented from working or claiming welfare benefits by the terms of their leave to remain in the UK.
A UK student sharing a flat just with their non-student partner will be entitled to a 25% discount on their council tax bill.
The best way for a full-time student to avoid problems with their local authority on payment of council tax is to make sure that you only share with other full-time students.
You will need a council tax exemption certificate which states that you are a full-time student and which you should send to your local authority (keep a copy). You can get a council tax exemption certificate from the information point in the University library once you have enrolled on your course.
If you are unsure which borough your property is in you can check on the DirectGov website.
The contact details for local councils are as follows:
- Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames – tel: 020 8547 5757
- Elmbridge Borough Council – tel: 01372 474 474
- London Borough of Richmond – tel: 020 8891 1411
- London Borough of Merton – tel: 020 8274 4901
- London Borough of Wandsworth – tel: 020 8871 6000
Your parents' TV licence will not cover you away from home. Anyone without a valid TV licence who watches or records television programmes on any channel, as they are being broadcast in the UK, risks prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.
If you are sharing a house with other students and use a TV in your room and you have an individual contract you will need your own licence.
If you have an individual contract but a television is only being used in a communal area, then only one licence is required.
If you are sharing a house with other students and you use a TV in your own room, but the house can be treated as one place shared by all, then only one TV licence is required (a joint tenancy agreement would usually be evidence that the house is a single licensable place for this purpose).
For more information call 0844 800 6790 or visit online www.tvlicensing.co.uk.
Don't economise by not taking out insurance. It is essential.
You should insure your own possessions against theft, damage and accident. Parents are sometimes able to put you on their own household insurance, so do check. Otherwise look online for specialist student insurance companies to insure your valuable items such as computers, cameras, DVD players, televisions, music players and jewellery. It is not advisable to bring extremely valuable items with you.
The landlord must have appropriate building insurance for the property. However, this is not a legal requirement so personal insurance is indeed essential. You might also wish to ensure the contract has a clause to say that the landlord/agent will find you emergency accommodation in the event of fire, flood, etc.
Protect yourself from crime
Wherever you live it's important to look after yourself and your belongings. Here are a few tips to keep you and your belongings safe:
- Lock doors and windows when leaving your accommodation.
- Keep valuable items out of sight.
- Ask your landlord about getting a burglar alarm fitted. This will act as a deterrent.
- Use a timer for your lights. Seeing lights come on and off gives the impression someone is in.
In addition, if you own a car, consider the following:
- Park in busy or well lit areas, close to CCTV cameras when possible.
- Remove all valuables from your car – especially at night.
- Use a steering lock and/or immobiliser.
In order to vote your name must be on the electoral register with your council. If you are not already registered and would like to be, you can download an application form from the appropriate local council website.
More information on how your vote counts can be found at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
Your property should be furnished to a basic standard. Should you wish to use any of your own items of furniture, eg an orthopaedic bed, permission must be sought in writing from the landlord. Do not store the landlord's furniture in the garden shed in case it becomes damaged.