1. Choose Your Housemates WiselyPerhaps you'll live with the same people you did in halls, or maybe other friends. Regardless, it's usually a good idea to avoid living with 'Party Pete' awesome on a night out, not so good when the night out is in your living room at 3am on deadline week, and where's his share of the rent again?
2. Make Sure You Use A Reputable Letting AgencySome students choose to find (often unreliable) landlords on free advertising websites etc. While you may save a few pounds in the short term, when your boiler breaks you could find yourself cold for a very long time after the landlord fails to appear. Choosing a reputable agent gives you peace of mind that your home is safe and if anything goes wrong, it will be fixed quickly.
3. Make Sure Your Deposit Is Held In A Deposit SchemeAs of 2007, ALL deposits on rented properties are required by law to go into a recognised scheme. A Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme protects a tenant's deposit and ensures that it will be refunded in full at the end of the tenancy providing certain terms are met. Martin and Co is the largest user of The Deposit Protection Scheme and all Martin & Co local offices hold deposits under one of the three Tenancy Deposit Schemes in England and Wales and the Safe Deposits scheme in Scotland.
4. Factor In ALL CostsGone are the 'all inclusive' student halls days. Make sure you know what is and isn't included in your rent. Internet, gas, electricity, water and TV licenses all need paying for, and utility inclusion differs from property to property.
Also remember to attain the relevant form from your university to make you exempt from council tax! If you're going all out and installing Virgin/Sky, remember the installation costs!
TOP TIP: Remember that you require a TV license even if you are only watching TV online. One license per house. Don't be left with a hefty fine.
5. Lay Out A Chores ScheduleBoring? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. We're not asking you to go all 'Monica Geller' on your new housemates but sharing the tedious tasks avoids the inevitable arguments in the long run when the one person cleaning the toilet eventually cracks. Tidy space, tidy mind etc.!
On the subject of tidiness, use common sense - be clean and don't break anything. If accidents do happen, let your landlord know as soon as possible. Treating the property, as if it were your own, will protect you when you come to the end of your tenancy and you need your deposit back.
6. Split Bills ProperlyThere's a few ways to do this:
a) Make sure bills are in everybody's name not just one person's. If they're late and in one person's name, it could affect their credit rating in future. (It may seem like miles away, but CCJs can stay on your credit file for SIX YEARS, and will stop you getting loans, mortgages or even phone contracts during this time!)
b) Set up a joint bank account all set up a standing order to pay into the account monthly (or as your student loans come in) and have all bills deducted from the joint account.
c) Share the bills - i.e. one person is assigned gas, one electricity, one Internet etc
7. Create An Inventory ListA good landlord is likely to create one for you, but it can't harm to have your own. It's amazing how much you can forget in a year. Was that sofa in the living room or dining room? Is the microwave mine or Sarah's? Did we buy the mop or was it already here? You can incur charges upon checkout if:
a) Any items are in a different room from when you moved in;
b) Any items are missing or;
c) Any items need removing once you leave Leaving an ironing board may seem like a kind thing to do, but if it's seen as litter then is it really worth a removal fee?
TOP TIP: Take photos. Despite having inventory, having photographic evidence of every item as it was when you moved in gives your that extra bit of protection when it comes to getting your deposit back at the end of the year.
8. Read Your Tenancy AgreementKnowledge is power. Arm yourself with all the information you need at the beginning of the tenancy to avoid any nasty surprises at the end.
TOP TIP: Never, ever move into a property without a copy of the tenancy agreement in your pocket. This is the only way to guarantee there'll be no surprises - and you're within your legal rights to request one.