Guide to student bills

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Renting your first student house is a baptism of fire in many ways. The chances are you’ve never had to worry about things like bills before, so suddenly having to pay student bills can be daunting and something of a journey into the unknown. This guide can help with student bills, including outlining what bills you can expect to have to pay at university and what bills you don’t have to pay as a student. We’ll also offer advice on splitting bills with roommates and explain what a student guarantor is and why you’ll need one.

What utilities you need

It’s more than likely your student energy bills (gas, electricity, water and heating) were all included within your rent if you’ve stayed in university halls. But once you start privately renting a student house, this might not always be the case – although many student rentals do include bills within the rent, simply to make it easier for you.

When renting a student property, you’ll need all the same utilities you’re used to from home – water, gas and electricity. Of course, whether you pay these or they are included in your rent will depend on your landlord.

If utility bills aren’t included in the rent, you will have to split them with your roommates, which can be complicated and sometimes spark disagreements. More on that later…

Students and council tax

Some good news…

As a student, you don’t have to pay council tax. As long as your course lasts at least a year and involves 21 hours of study per week, you count as a full-time student and are exempt from council tax.

If you end up living with someone who is not a student or who is only studying part-time, you will be not be liable for council tax but they will. If you are studying part-time, you will be liable for council tax but you may be entitled to a reduction.

Broadband and TV

Due to the rise and rise of digital TV and the need for students to stay connected, many landlords now offer broadband and services like Netflix as part of a student’s rent.

However, if your landlord does not do this and you need broadband or a TV subscription, you would be liable for paying the bill. Again, it’s likely this would need to be split between you and your roommates so working out a plan early in your tenancy is crucial.

TV licence for students

If you’re renting any student accommodation and you have a TV or are watching BBC services online or via the iPlayer, you’ll need a licence.

But it’s not quite as simple as that.

If you are renting a shared house and each of you has a separate tenancy agreement for renting your room, each of you will need a TV licence to watch a screen in your rooms.

Only one licence would be required for a TV in a communal area, however, and if you are renting your property having all signed a single tenancy agreement, you will only need one TV licence for the entire property. It is possible to apply for a refund from your TV licence, however, should your tenancy end when you return home for the summer.

How much do student bills cost

How much you pay on student energy bills will clearly depend on how much energy you use.

However, larger student rental properties with more people living in them generally cost more to run per person, so if you’re looking to save money and have more control of your bills, you could consider living in a two or three-person rental rather than six, seven or eight-room houses.

Splitting bills with roommates

As we mentioned earlier, the division of bills can be a thorny subject when renting with friends.

As a rule, it’s best to keep things simple and split all bills equally between you. While some people might use more hot water and spend longer in the shower than others, you might use more electricity to cook… generally, things even themselves out over the course of an academic year.

When you move in, draw up an Excel spreadsheet outlining all your bills and the split between roommates. Start as you mean to go on, with clarity, and you should be able to avoid any tension or arguments over bills.

Switching providers

Remember, if you’re paying for utility bills at your student rental property, you don’t have to stick to your landlord’s gas or electricity supplier. You could save yourself a pretty penny by switching so speak to your landlord to see if this is possible and then set about finding yourself a good deal. The best place to start is an online comparison website.

Also, if your landlord has included broadband or a TV subscription as part of your rent and you find a cheaper one, ask them if they would mind switching and passing on the saving to your rent.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get…

Student guarantors

As a student renting a room or a property, your landlord will need a guarantor. A student guarantor agreement is put in place so, if you are unable to pay your rent, your guarantor will be asked to cover it for you.

More advice

For advice or guidance on student bills and what to expect, contact your local Martin & Co branch where one of our student lettings experts will be happy to help.

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