What you should ask your landlord before moving in to your student home

There's a lot of competition for student housing, and in the rush to secure a home for your next year it's easy to overlook issues like finance and safety. But it's important to find a home where you can feel safe and comfortable, and to be aware of your rights. So what should you ask your landlord before you move into a student home? There are a lot of questions to ask, but be sure to check the following …

1. Costs & deposit - what is included in the rent?

Find out everything about the financial issues. How much will the deposit be? Are bills included in the rent? If everyone in the house is a student, you should be exempt from council tax. Be wary if the landlord wants payment in cash; paying by bank transfer means that there is a record of your payments.

2. What happens if someone moves out?

Check what happens if one of your housemates moves out. Will the rest of you be responsible for covering the rent until you find a replacement? Will you have to advertise for a new housemate, or will the landlord find someone? You may prefer to be able to choose the new person yourselves. Your parents will probably have to act as guarantors, so they will want to know where they stand, and if they will be liable for the extra rent should one of the housemates stop paying.

3. Do they have safety certificates?

You might be more interested in how close the house is to the pubs, and how big your room is, but it's important to live in a home that's safe. Ask the landlord when the gas safety checks were last done, and ask to see the certificates. Also look for a smoke alarm and CO2 detector. If your landlord doesn't bother with these things, walk away - it's not worth risking your life.

4. Can you see the contract?

In the rush to find a home, don't neglect to check the contract carefully. It might be a boring legal document, but you should read it through and familiarise yourself with the contents. You're signing a legal document, and should know all the details. This will avoid any nasty surprises later on, and help you avoid any unscrupulous landlords.

5. What will you have to do to get your deposit back?

You don't want to give your landlord any excuses for retaining your deposit, so ask them what you will have to do to get your deposit back at the end of your stay. Get their requirements in writing; they may want the house professionally cleaned. They should carry out an inventory when you move in and at the end of your contract; check it very carefully and query anything you don't agree with.

6. Who deals with problems?

Whether it's the landlord themselves, or an agent, you need to know who to contact when there's a water leak or the front door is stuck. Have their number saved in your phone. Know your rights if they avoid fixing any problems - you don't want to be stuck without hot water or heating in winter.