Bills, Safety and Repairs

Bills

If the cost of the bills are not included in your rent, then you are responsible for paying them where applicable; gas, electricity and water. The day you move-in, take the gas and electricity meter readings and pass them on to the suppliers otherwise you could end up paying the previous tenants bills.

If you are unsure who your supplier is, use the following contacts to find out:

 

Gas

 

Electricity

 

Water

To obtain details of your gas supplier phone: 0870 608 1524.

To obtain details of your electricity supplier phone: 0845 270 9101.

To obtain details of your water supplier phone: 0800 052 0145.

 

It is usually possible to have more than one name on the bills. If only one person signs for the supply, then that person is liable to pay the bills. Make sure you are not the only person on the bills, or in cases where one person takes responsibility that you have evidence of payment, as problems can arise from bill paying.


Changing Suppliers

You may want to investigate changing supplier by using websites such as www.uswitch.com. Before you make a decision, check the terms of your tenancy agreement and check the utility company that you are not tied in for a minimum period which is longer than the tenancy.

Remember energy costs can be expensive so budget carefully and use energy efficiently. For more information including tips on how to be energy efficient visit www.energysavingadvice.co.uk.


Media and Broadband Services

Shop around for the best deal and always check the terms and conditions of the contract. For some services you may need your landlord’s permission.


Council Tax

Full-time registered students are exempt from council tax liability. Aberystwyth University students can request a registration certificate as proof of registration through their Student Record online. Requested certificates can either be printed immediately, in colour, or can be collected from F11 Cledwyn Building, Penglais Campus two working days from the date requested.

If you share with tenants who are not students they will be liable to pay council tax. Liability for council tax can be a complicated area, if in doubt get in contact to discuss your options.


TV Licensing

You must be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV. It makes no difference what equipment you use whether it’s a laptop, PC, games console, mobile, digital box, or a TV set – you still need a licence. From 2016, you must have a TV licence to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch-up or on demand, on any device.

For more information on TV licencing get in contact or go to www.tvlicensing.co.uk.


Contents Insurance

Your landlord is responsible for insuring the premises and their belongings, but you are responsible for insuring your own personal possessions. Student houses are prime targets for opportunistic thieves, and if you own valuables like a TV or a laptop, taking out contents insurance can offer protection should the worst happen. Remember insurance is not an alternative to being conscientious about security; if a burglar gets through an unlocked door or window your insurance company may not pay out.


Gas Safety Certificate

It is a legal requirement for landlord to have all gas appliances in rented property checked annually and to give a copy of the gas safety certificate to their tenants. If you have requested a copy of the certificate for your property and it has not been provided you can report your landlord to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Gas Safety Advice link on 0800 300363 or by visiting www.hse.gov.uk/gas/domestic/.

This is important because carbon monoxide which you cannot see, taste or smell is highly dangerous and can kill. It is produced by appliances that burn fuels such as gas; even an appliance that has been serviced regularly can produce carbon monoxide.

Consider purchasing an approved British Standard audio carbon-monoxide alarm for around £15-20. Landlords and agents do not have to provide these, although they are available from most DIY stores.


Electrical Safety

A landlord has a responsibility to ensure that the wiring and any electrical appliances supplied with accommodation are safe and in working order. This includes heaters, cookers, kettles and other electrical goods.

For more information on electrical safety get in contact or go to www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk.

If you are concerned that an electrical appliance is not safe and your landlord is unwilling to check it, you can contact the Trading Standards department of the local authority. Trading standards departments have a duty to enforce legislation which covers the safety of electrical appliances supplied with the property.

To report a concern, or for more information visit www.ceredigion.gov.uk/business/trading-standards.


Furniture supplied by the Landlord

Your landlord has obligations to tenants as to the safety of furniture and furnishings in the property. If there is upholstered furniture (including beds) in the property, look to see if it has a label showing compliance with fire safety laws. If not, ask your landlord for it to be replaced.

To report a concern, or for more information visit www.ceredigion.gov.uk/business/trading-standards.


Security

It is important to note that crime in Aberystwyth is particularly low, however the risk of being a victim of crime can never be completely eliminated. There are precautions you can take to reduce the risk. Below are some useful tips

  • Make sure your property has lockable windows and doors that where possible are fitted with mortice locks with thumb turn locks on the inside.
  • Make sure your property is secure when you go out, even if you are just popping out for five minutes.
  • Don’t leave valuables such as laptop computers or other electronics unattended and in the sight of others; more burglaries occur in properties where access is easy.
  • Take your valuables home with you over the holidays,
  • Sign-up to Immobilise - it’s free, easy and allows you to register your valuables online.
  • If you live in halls or flats don’t buzz or let strangers follow you into the property; if someone lives there, they should have a key to let themselves in.

Fire Safety

When an application is made by a landlord for an HMO or Additional Licensing Licence, Ceredigion Council will require a fire safety risk assessment and can impose conditions for fire safety.

For more information about fire safety risk assessments go to: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/housing/houses-in-multiple-occupation-hmo.

It is therefore important not to interfere with such equipment unless needed; below are some tips to ensure each of these measures keep your property safe:

  • Do not remove self-closing mechanisms on fire doors.
  • Do not prop fire doors open.
  • Never cover up or remove batteries from smoke or heat detectors.
  • Test smoke alarms regularly (where able).
  • Inform the landlord or letting agent immediately if the fire extinguisher or fire alarm has been used.

Remember you could have to pay from your deposit if equipment is used or tampered with inappropriately.

For more information on fire prevention go to: www.firekills.gov.uk.


Housing Standards

The standards of a rented home is governed by a tenant’s rights under the tenancy agreement and laws enforced by the local authority. The local authority, Ceredigion County Council, is responsible for checking standards in rented property in Aberystwyth. Some shared student houses come under the regulations for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). These include minimum standards for bathroom and kitchen facilities, room size and fire protection.

For more information go to:

www.ceredigion.gov.uk/media/3480/accommodation-standards-hmos.pdf

www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/housing/houses-in-multiple-occupation-hmo

Some houses in certain areas must have an additional licence from Ceredigion County Council, even if they are not covered by mandatory HMO licencing. If you are renting a property with 3 or more tenants, forming two or more households in and near Aberystwyth an additional licence will be required.

If you want to check if your property is licensed or think it fails to meet the required standards you can contact Ceredigion County Council’s Community Wellbeing Team on 01545 572105 or go to:

www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/housing/houses-in-multiple-occupation-hmo/register-of-licenced-hmos/

You will be able to discuss your situation and if necessary arrange for a member of staff from the Council to visit your property and make a full assessment. If action is needed to bring the property up to the required standard the Council will contact your landlord. You do not need permission of the landlord before contacting the Council.


Repairs

Landlords can be legally responsible under the tenancy agreement for dealing with repairs to the property; however this does not normally include making specific improvements unless these are written into the contact. Typical repairs that landlords are legally responsible for include:

  • The structure and exterior of the building e.g. roof, guttering, walls, windows and doors.
  • Heating and hot water systems.
  • Pipes, drains, sinks, baths, toilets and other sanitary fittings.
  • Electrical wiring.
  • Gas appliances including pipes, flues and ventilation.

They should put right any damage to decoration caused by disrepair, maintain any appliances that were provided with the accommodation and keep the property free from serious health and safety hazards. Your tenancy agreement can add extra responsibilities, but cannot remove these minimum obligations.


Pests and Infestations

Ceredigion County Council can advise on dealing with pest problems, including mice, rats and bed bugs. There is a charge for their services. Your landlord may be unwilling to pay for the service if they feel a lack of cleanliness or failure to dispose of rubbish has caused the problem. If the problem existed when you moved in, or there is a problem with the property which is contributing to the situation, you can ask your landlord to pay for (or contribute to) the costs.

For more information on dealing with pest and infestations get in contact or visit:

www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/pest-control


Redecoration

If you want to redecorate or make any other changes to the property, you must have the permission of the landlord before doing so; it is advisable to obtain this in writing.


Reporting the need for repairs

If a repair is needed, report it quickly and confirm in writing; this provides evidence of when and how you have reported the issues if you need to take further action. If your landlord or agent has their own processes, make sure you use them, but always ask for a copy of any forms you complete.

When reporting the need for repairs, remember to be specific, state the exact nature of the problem, which room, what the effects of the disrepair are and for your landlord or agent to confirm when the repair will be carried out. Repairs should be done in a reasonable time, which will vary depending on the nature of the repair. Below are some suggestions:

 

  • Emergency Repairs – within 1-2 days. Repairs that are required to avoid danger to health, risk to the safety of tenants or serious damage to buildings or tenants’ belongings; for example gas appliances, broken boiler, broken toilet and external door locks.
  • Urgent Repairs – within 5 working days. Repairs to defects that materially affect the comfort or convenience of the tenants, for example leaking roofs, minor infestations or a minor crack in windows.
  • Non-urgent Repairs – within 28 days. Repairs that are not covered by the above two categories, for example guttering, replacing window frames or cosmetic repairs.

 

Typically the landlord or agent should arrange a suitable time and date when the issue can be repaired. Unless it is an emergency, this will usually require at least 24hrs notice (ideally in writing) before they or any workmen arrive. Workmen should always secure the property when leaving and should lock up after they have finished.


When reports are ignored

If there is an unreasonable delay, write a follow-up letter or email stating that repairs are still outstanding and reminding the landlord of their responsibilities – where possible give the landlord or letting agent between 24 and 36 hours to respond. Keep copies of your emails and send letters by recorded delivery so you have proof of them being received.

If there is still no response you should seek further advice. The local authority (Ceredigion Council) has extensive powers and duties that require landlords to carry out repairs. If the repairs are not carried out in a timely and satisfactory manner after you have written to the landlord, then get in contact to discuss your options.

You should never withhold rent or seek another tenancy because the landlord has failed to carry out a repair, as you will be breaking your contact. Although you may feel justified in refusing to pay rent or finding other accommodation, your landlord could take court action against you.


What can the AberSU Advice Service do to help?

The AberSU Advice Service provides free, confidential and impartial advice and information for all Aberystwyth University students.

The Advice Service can assist you in a range of ways, including:

  • Explain the rights and responsibilities of landlords, letting agents and tenants.
  • Review and advise on tenancy agreements before and after signing.
  • Support you in the event of a dispute, liaising with the landlord or letting agent.
  • Help you to collate appropriate evidence where required to support your case.

The service is delivered by drop-ins, appointments, email and phone. We also undertake other activities and events to develop awareness of student rights and responsibilities to ensure you are as happy and health as possible during your time in Aberystwyth.

To get in touch to discuss all of your options, including what support is available to you, please contact us using any of the methods below:

Drop-in: Students’ Union Building, Penglais Campus

Phone: 01970 612700

Email: union.advice@aber.ac.uk

Website: www.abersu.co.uk/advice


Useful links


Reviewed: September 2018

Disclaimer: We have made every effort to ensure that the information in this guide is accurate. AberSU cannot be held responsible for the consequences of any action taken as a result of reading this guide. Before taking any action you are advised to visit the Advice Service.