Moving out of your student flat? Beware the small print
When you rent a property – whether a room in halls or a shared house – you sign a legal contract that sets out rules for you and your landlord. Ignoring the small print may cause problems throughout your tenancy, but can bite particularly hard when you move out.
If you haven’t done it recently, go through your student housing agreement. Some rules will affect when and how you move out, so you should always know what these are:
- Any notice period or, in halls, when you have to leave.
- Your responsibility for communal spaces.
- Rules about cleaning and inspections.
- The process for returning keys and reclaiming your deposit.
Once you’ve given notice or have a leaving date, works backwards about four weeks from moving day. This will give you time to get organised, compare prices and avoid extra fees.
Four weeks to go
Decluttering now will save space, sweat and money several times over. Go through the property and mentally sort your stuff into:
- ‘Don’t use, need or want it.’ Sell whatever you can. Your uni or private halls may have a recycling or charity scheme, while some charities will collect bagged donations and furniture with notice.
- ‘Needed, but not right now.’ Paid storage is less hassle than carting bulky items back again next term (your uni may have discount codes). Home storage – if an option – is worth considering for seasonal clothes and limited-use items. Start boxing everything else.
- ‘Everyday essential.’ Study items and kitchen gear can be packed closer to moving day. You’ll need important documents, toiletries and other items to hand, so leave these for last.
Don’t forget to plan for car space, for your budget if you’re paying for removals, overseas travel, a baggage service, or storage. Either way, go through the list again and make sure everything you pack earns its place.
Three weeks to go
Get the ball rolling on transferring, pausing or cancelling household services (if the latter, ask about refunds for owed credit). Include gas, electricity, water, broadband, phone, TV licence, streaming services, and anything else your household pays for and/or isn’t needed outside term-time.
Two weeks to go
Forget “it looks fine to me” – to get your deposit back in full, you’ll need to leave your place in good order. It’s easy to find out exactly what that means:
- In uni housing or private halls, ask for the excess charges policy. Failings include things like not wiping surfaces or emptying bins. A fee of £5-10 per bag of rubbish collected is typical, but even light cleaning tasks – which you could have done for free – will cost more.
- In private accommodation, ask for the final inspection checklist, a similar list of tenant obligations.
- Dig out the original inventory: things the landlord has provided, and in what condition. You’ll need to account for everything on the list when you leave.
Go around the property with these documents and note what needs doing. This might not be much if you paid for cleaning upfront or have to organise professional cleaners (book that now), but remember you’re still responsible for everything else.
One week to go
Blitz any remaining cleaning, repairs or replacements. Don’t get carried away, though: check if it’s your responsibility, and report it to the landlord if not. Take photos as you complete jobs in case you need to dispute unfair deductions later on.
The Post Office can redirect mail, but it’s not free. Asking the new tenants to forward things is an option, but don’t rely on it for important or confidential post. Your best bet is to be thorough about updating details with banks, businesses and student finance yourself (here’s a checklist).
Requesting a landlord inspection for moving day is a last chance to flag and fix anything you’ve missed. Otherwise, apart from removing belongings, the only jobs left should be light work: take meter readings, put rubbish out, turn off sockets and return your keys (and get them signed for).
Shared spaces (kitchens, corridors, bathrooms) mean shared obligations – even in halls of residence or when tenants have individual contracts. Crucially, this means everyone shares excess charges, too. Coordinate leaving dates if you have to, and collaborate to avoid paying unnecessarily.
- Ruth Bushi is an editor at money advice site Save the Student
By Ruth Bushi