Going to university is undoubtedly an exciting experience, but it is one which also comes with a lot of responsibilities. For many students, this will be the first time they have ever lived away from home, often in a completely new part of the country.
The majority of first year students arriving to study in a new and unfamiliar city tend to opt for university halls for the first year. This can provide an easy transition into university life, with accommodation close to the campus and the chance to meet plenty of other students who are also new to the area. From second year onwards, nearly all of these students will look for private housing for the remaining duration of their course.
There are many differences between private student housing and university halls and the former usually comes with more responsibilities to consider. For example, in some university halls, students will have their main meals provided. Once you are in a student house with your friends, it will of course be up to you to feed yourself!
Another important thing to consider are utility bills. In halls, they will be covered as part of your overall accommodation package. But when the time comes for you to share a house with a few of your friends, it will usually be your collective responsibility to ensure the bills are paid.
Here at Pat Robson and Co. we offer a service for students which takes care of their utility bills, allowing them to save time and money. It also helps to overcome many of the potential issues mentioned below, such as nominating an individual housemate to pay the bills from their own account.
For more information about this service, click here.
Finding out your current supplier
Your landlord or student lettings agent will be able to tell you who your current energy suppliers are and this may also be mentioned in your rental agreement.
Another way to find out is by using this handy tool by the Energy Networks Association.
Here you can enter your postcode to see what information they have regarding who is supplying gas and electricity to your student rental property.
Splitting the bills
The decision of how to split the bills is one you will have to make with your housemates. Usually the bills will need to be in one person’s name, which means one housemate will need to be nominated and the others will pay their share each month, ahead of when the payment is due.
There are some useful free applications such as Splitwise and Splitoo which can really help with the process of splitting bills.
Alternatively, a good old spreadsheet can be created to track who has paid and when they paid.
How to pay utility bills
The person nominated to pay the bill will usually have two options to choose from:
Direct debit: This option allows for the amount to automatically be taken from the account when payment is due.
Manual payment: When the bill arrives in the post, the nominated housemate can manually pay it before it’s due.
Bills will usually be sent monthly or quarterly, depending on the agreement.
Some properties may have a prepayment meter. This means that the electricity or gas will need to be paid for upfront and topped up accordingly, similar to a pay-as-you-go phone.
Check your tenancy agreement to see what it says about changing supplier. If the bills are being paid directly by the occupier (i.e you or your nominated housemate) then you may well be able to change the supplier if you decide to do so. Ensure you talk to your landlord and/or letting agent if you decide to look elsewhere for a gas or electricity supplier. They will be able to give you advice regarding your tenancy agreement.
If your rental agreement includes utility bills, this means that the landlord is responsible for paying the bills and your monthly rent paid to the landlord will cover your share. In this case, the landlord is the one who will decide which supplier to use, rather than the tenant.
Tips for reducing your utility bills
You and your housemates can reduce the size of your bills by considering the following tips:
- Use energy efficient lightbulbs, such as LEDs, when they need replacing
- Cook together to reduce the amount of time the hob/oven is being used
- Consider wearing an extra layer of clothes when it’s a bit cold instead of automatically turning the heating up
- Turn off the lights when you leave the room and electrical appliances when not in use
- Do your washing when there’s enough to fill the machine, rather than several small loads
- Dry your clothes outside rather than using a tumble dryer