Keeping a happy home

Bills

Unless specified or included in your contract, you are now responsible for all utility bills for the duration of your tenancy. Clarify if bills are included in your rent with your landlord/letting agent and check the contract. If they aren’t included, you will need to budget for these yourself. Alert the utility companies of your moving in date so that you don’t end up footing the bill for the previous residents. If you are unsure who your utility companies are, ask your landlord/letting agent. Remember to put all tenants names on the bills.

Tip: why not set up a joint bank account for all your house bills? Agree on a fair and equal amount to contribute to the account and when this money will go in. Then all bills can be paid directly from the joint account instead of from one person’s bank account. Ask your local bank about arranging this.

Welsh Water is the main provider of water for Wales. Students are billed for the time they are tenants of the property. For example, if you sign your tenancy contract from 1st July 2013, they will bill you from 1st July 2013 until the date your tenancy contract ends. You will still need to pay throughout the summer even if you aren’t living there, unless agreed with your landlord or letting agent. The charges shouldn’t be high as you weren’t using water, however there are still service charges to pay.

If you live in a metered property, you will be billed based on the water you use. You will be billed every six months, or when they are in your area. Welsh Water will aim to bill on an actual reading. If they are unable to read the meter, they’ll send an estimated bill.

If you live in an unmetered property, you will be billed from the date your tenancy starts (e.g. 1st July) until 31st March. From 1st April a new bill will be issued for the next 12 months and you will be responsible for this until the end of the year, or until you move out. You need to let Welsh Water know when you are moving out and they will send another bill.

Welsh Water contact details http://www.dwrcymru.com/ 0800 052 0145

When you move into your new home, you will need to find out who your gas and electricity suppliers are. Ask your landlord or letting agent. When you know who they are, give them a call and tell them you are the new tenants in the property, giving them the date you moved in. This will ensure you aren’t billed for the previous tenants. Make sure you put all housemates names on the bills.

If you are not happy with your suppliers, you may be able to change them. There are many different companies out there with different rates.

Most students choose to have TV and internet broadband in their home. Unless provided by your landlord, you will need to provide a TV. Work out with your housemates who will provide this for the living room. Students tend not to have telephone landlines in their properties as they all have access to their own mobile phones. However, it’s important to think about your requirements, both individually and as part of your group. Talk to your housemates about what package you would like and look at lots of packages before signing up. You should know what is available to you and which deal is best for what you want. Broadband comparison and advice websites can help you with this.

To ensure you don’t get charged for unnecessary damage, use existing broadband and TV installations to prevent new holes being drilled into the walls for cables. However, if you do want to install new products, ask for the landlords’ permission first and get this in writing.

Every student using a TV receiver to watch live TV or record television programmes (including online on a PC or laptop) needs a licence. If your house is on a joint tenancy then you only need to get one licence. Individual licences are only needed with individual tenancies.

For more information and to buy your TV licence online visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk

Most students studying at Cardiff, Cardiff Metropolitan and the University of South Wales will be exempt from paying Council Tax. This is not an automatic exemption; you need to get a Council Tax exemption certificate from your University. When you have this, send it to:

Cardiff Council
Council Tax Section
PO Box 9000
Cardiff
CF10 3WD

More information Council Tax Student Exemption

Problems in the house

Damp and mould is a common problem in many student houses for two reasons; either the tenants aren’t heating and ventilating the property efficiently, or there is a defect in the property.

Black mould growth and condensation in your home is a sign there’s too much water in the air. As the winter approaches, you will notice more condensation in your rooms. Condensation can lead to damp and mould if not dealt with correctly. There are many factors involved in the cause of condensation and mould, the main ones being no air circulation in rooms, due to windows and doors being kept shut.

How to deal with a current damp/mould problem:

  • Wash the area thoroughly
    Use non-ammonia soap or detergent in hot water and scrub the entire area affected by the mould. Wet the surface first with detergent solution before scrubbing. Remember to wear rubber gloves when using detergent. Ask your local shop for the best product to use. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely.
  • Rinse and dry
    Use a damp cloth to rinse any residual detergent off the treated surface.
  • Disinfection
    Disinfectants are intended to be applied to thoroughly cleaned materials and are used to ensure that most micro-organisms have been killed. Therefore, do not use disinfectants instead of or before cleaning materials with detergent. To disinfect, put a small amount of household bleach in hot water. Wet whole area and keep on area for 10 minutes.
  • Clean up
    Discard any loose materials where mould growth cannot be removed or has been ingrained into the material. Bag and discard mouldy items. Place a fan heater near the affected area to dry out the treated materials. Dry for 2 -3 days.

Caution: bleach should be handled with extreme care! Wear gloves and make sure the area is well ventilated. Bleach fumes can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, so make sure the window is open after applying bleach to an area. Bleach can also damage clothing and shoes so be careful.

After removing mould, follow these steps to stop it from happening again!

Avoid condensation / mould by:

  • Aerating rooms as much as possible to help prevent mould growing on walls, by opening windows. (But only when you are in, don’t leave windows open when you are out – this is a security risk!)
  • Keep radiators on a low heating for a longer period of time rather than blasting out heat for a couple of hours. This will ensure heat is built up in the room and stored in the walls.
  • Ensure you mop up water on windowsills and open your window, as this will turn into mould if left. Water on windowsills and condensation on windows are signs that windows need to be opened!
  • Cover pans when cooking, don’t leave kettles boiling, and dry clothes outdoors (in the winter dry clothes inside but open windows to remove moisture).

Your landlord has the right to take necessary costs from your deposit at the end of the year if it is evident that damp and mould was caused by the tenants so please follow the advice given here.

If you feel that you are doing everything you can do to remove the mould and condensation issue and feel that work needs to be done in the property then please contact:

Housing Enforcement, Cardiff Council
privatesectorhousing@cardiff.gov.uk 
029 2087 1762

For more information, download the Damp and Mould poster or read Cardiff Council’s information brochure

Rats and mice are common unwanted guests in areas that have a lot of rubbish/waste. They will eat almost anything that humans eat so ensuring there is not a readily available supply of food is paramount. They will gnaw and rip open food packets and contaminate food with urine and droppings. They can transmit diseases to humans and cause structural damage in the home, which is why they need to be controlled.

As tenants, you can help prevent infestations by taking 5 simple measures:

  • Take away the food source
    Clean up any food debris or waste after meals. Rodents only need a tiny amount of food to survive, even crumbs can satisfy them. Never leave any food out, keep all opened food in sealed containers and keep bin lids closed.
  • Use your waste collection service correctly
    Get to know your bin days; this is your chance to get rid of potential food sources for mice. Ensure household waste is put out regularly for collection on the correct days so that it does not build up in your house or garden. Food waste and recycling bags are collected weekly and black bins/striped bags fortnightly. Red striped bags are ripped open by mice/birds because of the food inside. Using your food waste caddy correctly can help prevent this.
  • Keep inside and outside your house clean and tidy
    Walls don’t make much difference to mice – they can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps. Clean up any ripped open bags quickly to prevent mice from having a feast!
  • Do not feed wild birds or other animals – you may be feeding rats as well.
  • Ensure your property is in good repair so that rats cannot gain access to it. Drain inspection covers should be in place and not damaged. Look for holes around pipes into the property or vents that aren’t fixed properly or broken. Report any problems to your landlord/letting agent.

Rats and mice are clever, but they do leave signs that they are in your home. Find out where they are coming from so you can solve the problem. Look for small holes in rubbish bags/food packets, droppings and gaps in walls/floorboards. Rodents tend to come out at night to look for food so listen out for scuttling/scratchy noises.

If you’ve seen any of these signs and believe you may have an issue with rats or mice, it’s important to get rid of these unwanted guests quickly, as they multiply fast! Take these steps:

Contact your landlord or letting agent to let them know about the problem. They may wish to control the infestation themselves, use a private company or enlist the services of Cardiff Council.  Find out more about the council’s pest control service.

Cardiff Council’s Pest Control team provide services to advise, guide and treat cases involving unwanted pests. They can be contacted on 029 2087 2935 or by email: PestControl@cardiff.gov.uk

If you have agreed with your landlord that you will set traps yourself, you can do the following:

  • Break-back traps may be used and these should be placed next to walls where mice tend to travel.
  • The trap should be baited with chocolate, biscuit or cereal.
  • Use several traps and examine them daily, removing dead mice as soon as they are discovered. Mice are clever – Don’t set traps off for no reason as the noise could scare them and they’ll know what you are planning!
  • All traps should be handled with care.

Laying poison:

  • Mouse poison can be bought from hardware stores and most garden centres. Always select the most suitable type.
  • Put the poison in a safe and secure place to ensure children and pets cannot get to it and eat it.
  • Wash hands after use.
  • If in doubt, call the Pest Control service.

When it comes to the end of your tenancy agreement, you should receive your bond back, however disagreements may arise between landlords and tenants regarding how much of the tenants’ original deposit they should get back. As tenants, you should get your full deposit back if you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement, don’t damage the property, and pay your rent and bills. You may believe you have done all of these things, but your landlord might not agree. It is important to treat your student house with respect; this is now your home. However, if you believe you are being treated unfairly you can do the following.

If you disagree with your landlord about how much deposit should be returned, then your Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme offers a free dispute resolution service. This is why it is important to make sure you know your deposit is being protected by a scheme.

If you’re not sure whether your deposit has been protected, ask your landlord or contact the approved schemes:

Deposit Protection Service
0844 4727 000

MyDeposits
0844 980 0290

Tenancy Deposit Scheme
0845 226 7837

For more help or information contact Cardiff Council Advice Hubs, or your University Accommodation Officer or Student Union Advisor