Research by Ombudsman Services, which mediates between consumers and businesses, found that over three quarters (78%) of students have been left out of pocket by unfair charges by landlords or utility companies, to the tune of up to £249 a year.
Students are forking out extra for incorrect energy bills, bills left unpaid by previous tenants and damage they did not cause.
Of the 1,500 students surveyed, however, only a quarter of those with a dispute actually complained. The remainder said they were afraid, embarrassed or couldn’t be bothered to resolve the problem they had encountered while renting.
But armed with the know-how, students can fight back against unfair charges and poor practice from service providers. Here are our top recommendations on how to avoid your student loan being eaten away:
1. Understand your tenancy contract: When signing up for a new place, make sure you give your contract a thorough read. This will give you the information you need if you want to end your contract early, and it will set out damage fees and liability.
2. Check your deposit is protected: Landlords or letting agents should arrange for your deposit to be held in an independent tenancy deposit scheme. This safeguards your deposit until the end of your contract.
3. Review your inventory: An inventory lists furniture and any other items that come with your contract. It’s also where you can agree with your landlord/letting agent any pre-existing damage. This ensures you’re only liable for damage from your tenancy start date.
4. Get prepped for ‘rent day’: Sounds simple enough, but some letting agents/ landlords can charge a late fee if you miss your rent due date. Set up a standing order so making a rent payment in time doesn’t slip your mind.
Students in full time education don’t need to pay council tax. If you receive a council tax bill once you’ve moved in, contact your local authority
Utilities and bills
5. Record you meter readings: When you move into new digs, if you’re responsible for paying the bills, jot down the figures on your gas and electricity meters. Inform your energy provider with your up-to-date readings so your bill can be accurately calculated.
6. Shop around for energy: Loyalty doesn’t pay when it comes to sticking with the existing energy supplier at your new home. Double check your contract for any stipulations that may restrict you from changing your supplier, and if there aren’t, there’s likely to be a better deal elsewhere. Click here to run an energy comparison quote.
7. Find out the flexibility of your broadband contract: When signing up with a broadband provider check the length of your contract. Some tenancies only cover nine months, so try and haggle for broadband for the exact amount of time you’ll be there for. Similarly, work out how easy or possible it is to transfer your broadband to a new address should you move.
8. Protect your contents: Multiple laptops, mobile phones and other devices all add-up, especially when sharing accommodation. Discuss with your housemates what valuables they have and search for a contents insurance policy that’s tailored to your home’s set-up.
9. Register for council tax exemption: Students in full time education don’t need to pay council tax. If you receive a council tax bill once you’ve moved in, contact your local authority so they can update the records for the property.
10. Record repairs and correspondence: If you notice any damage to your home or request a repair, make sure you keep a paper trail. If there is a dispute when it comes to refunding your deposit, this evidence could be vital.
11. Work out a budget: Tally up all your incoming and outgoing payments and work out how much you need to survive per term. While the overdrafts on student current accounts can be a handy buffer during those broke end of term weeks, if you go over your limit your bank will add charges to your account.
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