06 March 2017

First student flat? 7 things you need to know

Moving in with friends for the first time is great fun, but there’s also lots to organise that you may not have had to think about when living at home or in student halls. The good news is that your parents’ home insurance could cover your contents, so you might be able to cross one thing off the list.

Because some university accommodation (such as halls) include insurance in the monthly rent, many people don’t think about contents insurance until they live with friends in second or third year.

It’s probably best not to raise the topic of contents insurance in the pub; you’re not likely to make any new friends. But it is worth knowing that some home insurance policies give all family members cover when they remove contents from the home on a temporary basis.

Ask your parents to check with their insurer whether your time at university is included before you fork out for individual cover.

Tip: It’s best to check whether you’re covered before you move in – and definitely before your first house party!

7 things to plan for your first student flat share:

1. Contents may be covered by your parents’ home insurance. 

2. Council tax may not apply. Unless you live in Northern Ireland, council tax is a tax that applies to residential properties. Almost all full-time students are exempt, but you’ll need to notify your local authority and quote your UCAS number. 

3. Switch on to utility savings. Just because the previous occupiers of your flat used one supplier for gas, electricity or water doesn’t mean you have to. Switching or changing the way that you pay your bills (from quarterly to direct debit, for example) could save you money.  

When you move in: 

  • Take meter readings and send them to your provider. 
  • Ask for a personal projection, which you can then use to compare prices on an Ofgem accredited comparison site
  • Remember that exit fees may apply when ending a contract early. 

4. Boost your broadband. If you want to switch to a cheaper or faster service there are two different processes you may have to follow, depending on the provider you're switching to and from and the type of connection you have or are looking to change to.  

Either way, your first steps should be the same: 

  • Keep an eye on your budget when deciding on your broadband package: ask yourself whether streaming movies on Netflix and using Spotify may up the megabytes you need to pay for and whether you really need to include a television subscription from a provider like Sky, Virgin Media or BT Vision.
  • Contact the provider you want to switch to. They should be able to tell you which process you need to follow. Note: Regardless of the process you follow, you have the right to cancel a switching request within 14 days of the date you entered into the new contract. 

5. Picking up the bill. If your name is on a utility bill (e.g. gas, electricity, phone/broadband or water, depending on where you live) you’re legally responsible for the whole bill – even if it’s your flatmate who hasn’t paid their share. Be clear about how bills will be paid and split from the start – a shared account that you all pay into to cover rent and bills can help.  

6. Tune in to TV licence payback. From 1 September, you’ll need a TV licence (£145.50) – even if you’re just catching up on BBC iPlayer. But if you’re moving back home for the summer and no longer need your licence, you may be eligible for a discount. 

7. Account for tastes. It can be cost-effective to split food costs when sharing a flat, but it can also lead to squabbles over one person – or their friends – devouring the lion’s share of the week’s shop. If you’re going to divide your grocery costs, consider sharing costs for the meals that you’ll cook together but keeping snacks and drinks that are quickly finished separate.

Keep your stuff safe while you study

If your parents have a Home Insurance Essentials policy with Nationwide, your possessions might be covered away from home up to the value of £5,000. Our Nationwide Home Insurance policy would cover you for up to £10,000. Exclusions apply so it's important to read the policy carefully to see what you're covered for.

This sounds a lot, but the Association of British Insurers found that the average student takes £3,658 worth of possessions to university with them, so it’s possible that your belongings may be worth more than you think. Our contents calculator will help you to tot up the total, whether you’re using your parents’ insurance or looking for your own.

Make sure that you check what your policy’s single item limit is, as any possessions that exceed this will not be included unless you speak to your insurer about them specifically.

Contents on the move

If your parents have personal possessions cover, items designed to be worn or used outside the home – think expensive sunglasses or musical instruments – should be included too.

Your insurer may have different limits that apply to bikes, and require them to be locked away safely, so it’s best to check the policy documents. Take a photo of the bike and its frame number, which is usually located under the bottom bracket, for identification purposes.

Some providers, such as Nationwide, may even cover your digital content – including music, film and games.

Your parents’ home insurance could help to keep your possessions safe, even when you’re away from home temporarily. 

Nationwide home insurance policies are underwritten and administered by U K Insurance limited.

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