With universities set to re-open in September following the coronavirus lockdown, students all over London are preparing for higher education in a very different world.
Large lecture theatres are likely to remain out of action and online learning will be a key element for many students while they are.
But as teaching does resume, students will be flocking to rental properties around London’s many universities and higher education institutes.
And with a student house comes student bills – so knowing how to set them up, pay them and the best way to split them is vital for harmonious shared living.
Student utility bills: What you’ll need
If you’re renting a student property while at university in London, you’ll need to get utilities set up.
While some landlords may include bills in your rent payments, others will not.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Electricity and gas
Electricity and gas bills in a property housing several students may be one of the biggest expenses you face when renting near your college or university.
If you don’t have a gas supply, you’ll just need to get your electricity service up and running, but if you do have both gas and electricity in your student house, you should look at a dual tariff with one supplier to make payments easy.
When you move into your student property, the first thing to do is take a gas and/or electricity meter reading and log these with the current energy supplier.
Not doing this right away could mean you end up paying a portion of the previous tenants’ bill.
Your landlord will be able to tell you who their energy suppliers are, but that doesn’t mean you need to continue with those suppliers.
Once you’ve submitted your opening meter readings, you should look online to see if a cheaper tariff is available with another supplier and switch if it is.
Common question: How do I set up my gas and electric bill?
Find out from your landlord which company supplies energy to your student house and then contact them to let them know the date you moved in and give them a meter reading.
They’ll take you through the set-up of the account and start billing you monthly for your usage.
Most companies estimate the amount of energy you use unless you send them regular meter readings, so doing this can help ensure you pay the right amount and that you don’t face a large bill when you move out.
Water and sewerage
Your student property’s water supply will be managed by the local water company.
Unfortunately, you can’t look to switch supplier when it comes to water and sewerage, so you’ll be billed according to the water company’s standard rates.
If you have a water meter, meanwhile, you’ll pay for the exact amount of water you use rather than an estimated amount.
Common question: Do students pay water bills in the UK?
Unless your landlord covers the water and sewerage bill for your student house themselves and this is outlined in your tenancy agreement, it’s your responsibility to pay for those services.
As with other utilities, some landlords will offer broadband as part of your monthly rent, but if they don’t, you’ll almost certainly need to arrange it yourself.
Broadband may, in previous years, have been seen as more of a luxury than an essential utility, but with the coronavirus pandemic meaning students will complete more learning online than in a lecture theatre, it’s now very much a must-have.
Broadband services are highly competitive, so make sure you shop around for a good deal.
Common question: Can students get free broadband?
Unless your landlord includes a broadband service in your rent, you will have to pay for it yourselves.
No companies offer free broadband for students, but many do have some great deals on services for students, so as long as you do your research before buying, you should be able to find an attractive monthly price and a good download speed.
The good news is, if you’re a student, you don’t have to pay council tax.
That’s a substantial saving on most London properties, even with your bills being split several ways.
However, you do have to let your local authority know that you’re a student and therefore exempt from council tax, otherwise they’ll assume you’re not and bill you.
Common question: I’m a student, but I live with some people who aren’t. Do I have to pay council tax?
While the property would be liable for council tax, if you’re a student, you don’t have to pay.
So, the people living in your property who aren’t students would be liable for the bill.
If one person in your property is a non-student, they would be liable for the property’s council tax but could apply for a 25% single occupancy discount.
If you have a TV in your student property, you’ll need to pay for a TV licence.
While there is no discount for students when it comes to TV licences, you can apply for a partial refund for the months over the summer when you’re no longer living in your student property.
Common question: If there are six of us living in a student house, do we need six separate TV licences?
The answer to this question depends on your tenancy agreement.
If you have a joint tenancy agreement with the other people in your student house, you would only need one TV licence to cover the whole house.
But if you all have individual tenancy agreements for renting your rooms in the house, you would each need a TV licence in order to watch television legally in those rooms.
If you have one TV in a communal area, however, and none in your individual rooms, one licence will cover you.
The best way to pay bills in a student house
The easiest way to pay the bills for your student house is to split everything equally between housemates.
While attempting to only pay for what you’ve used may seem like a fairer alternative, the truth is you could never accurately know how much energy you’ve used in comparison to your other housemates.
Student bills packages
When it comes to student bill splitting, several companies now offer students packages with one monthly payment covering their main utility bills.
Those packages usually include:
- TV licence
One package company, Glide, offers an app-based solution with the total monthly bill for all utilities split between housemates, who all pay their share from their own accounts via a smartphone app.
Other similar student bills packages are on offer from:
Now you know everything there is to know about student bills and how to split them up, you should take a look at our guide to tenant rights, which outlines exactly where you’ll stand with your landlord when you rent a student property.