Living in University Accommodation
Living at uni is a great opportunity to be amongst friends in a fairly relaxed environment. However, do bear in mind that anyone can walk into halls and that not all visitors will be bona fide. Always remember to lock your room door whenever you go out, even if it's just for a short time (e.g. when going to the loo or visiting a mate next door).
Laptops are a prime target for burglars, however you can protect yours by taking a few simple steps:
- password protect the computer and any important or personal documents
- use a marker to security code your laptop
- make a note of the model and serial number: if your laptop is stolen you'll need this information when reporting it to the Police
- make back-ups of any large documents, such as course work, just in case
Many students bring laptops, TVs, mobile phones and other valuable items to University. If any of these are stolen or broken, you willl need to replace it so think about insuring your belongings before the start of term. Some students are covered by their parents insurance but don't assume that you're automatically covered: it's worth checking! if you are not covered then many companies, such as Endsleigh, specialise in insuring students
If you already have insurance remember to update it regularly: for example, any new electrical equipment, sports kit or bikes should be included.
When you go to view houses, take a friend or partner and keep a checklist of things to look out for. You should be shown around by the letting agent or current tenants who will (or should) be happy to answer any questions. Whatever the agent may tell you, don't feel pressurised into thing the first halfway decent place you see. If you are not satisfied with the safety of the property, don't agree to live there.
Your checklist should include the following questions:
- Do the soft furnishings meet fire regulations?
- When were the electrical appliances last serviced?
- Are there any bare wires visible?
- Are all the gas and electric appliances working?
- Are the external doors secure? (e.g. with dead locks)
- Do the windows have locks?
- Is there a smoke alarm? If so, has it been tested?
- Is there a fire blanket available in the kitchen?
- Who has keys to the property?
For a information, visit the Info and Advice Centre. The property should be insured, by the landlord, against damage (for example, caused by a burglary or fire). However, you are responsible for your own belongings so it's wise to take out personal insurance. Firms such as Endsleigh specialise in student insurance.
Room For Improvement?
The landlord of your property has some responsibility towards its security. If you feel that your house or flat is not secure, ask your landlord to make the necessary improvements. These might include:
- Window locks
- A visible burglar alarm
- A 'spy hole' in the front door
- Fencing at the back of the property
Spending money on security measures may seem daunting, and some landlords aren't too keen. However, it's a lot cheaper for them to fit a window lock than to mend a broken window. Safer properties are more likely to attract tenants and are a good long-term investment. If they need some advice, the police or city council will be happy to help.
Gas Safety and Carbon Monoxide
All landlords now have to carry out annual gas safety inspections with a CORGI registered engineer: if you have doubts, ask your landlord for a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate. There is also a Gas Safety Advice line available to both landlords and tenants: call 0800 300363 if you have any concerns or questions about your property.
All electrical appliances should be tested and most will have a label on each piece of equipment or a certificate. If a piece of equipment looks very old or
disfunctional, do not use it - alert the landlord and request a replacement.
Many landlords also hold a NICEIC certificate. This proves that the property has been subject to a thorough electrical check within the past five years. However, this is not a legal requirement and tenants cannot force a landlord to carry out such a check (it's therefore best to ask in advance!).
Carbon Monoxide poisoning is rare but extremely dangerous so be aware of the warning signs. Carbon monoxide has no smell, colour or taste and can be produced from household gas appliances. If a house is not well ventilated, high levels can occur which may lead to brain damage and suffocation.
Watch out for:
- Gas flames that burn orange or yellow rather than blue
- Sooty stains on or around your appliances
The main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:
- Unexplained drowsiness
- Giddiness when standing up
- Chest pains
If you or other members of your household are experiencing these symptoms, seek advice from your GP immediately and ensure good ventilation by opening windows whenever possible. You can also contact the emergency helpline on 0800 111999