Top tips for students starting university
Starting university means that a lot of students will live independently for the first time and this at times can prove a bit daunting. To make things a little easier, Sam Lane and Kate Knapton have pulled together a list of advice and things to be aware of as a student - be it moving into your new home, getting a job or buying a new appliance …
- Landlord harassment – The law protects tenants from landlord harassment – whether they change your locks, cut off your utilities (such as gas, water and electricity), interfere with your possessions or are generally threatening. If you have experienced any of these things, seek legal advice immediately.
- Deposits - Before you move into your new student house you may have to pay a deposit. Your landlord is legally obligated to protect and return it unless any damage has been done. If they don’t, you could potentially receive up to three times the deposit amount through Court.
- Contracts - If you sign the contract and then decide you no longer wish to live in the property, your landlord has the right to claim for the remaining rent money.
- Eviction – Your landlord has to give you two months’ notice if he wants you to vacate the property. If he doesn’t then you can sue them for illegal eviction.
- Zero-hour contracts - If you decide to get a part-time job whilst at university you will most likely be on a zero hour contract. This essentially means you work when needed rather than at set times, providing flexibility for you to work around your studies. By law your employer is not allowed to incorporate an ‘exclusivity clause’ into your contract, so you are within your rights to work elsewhere or pick up shifts from workmates.
- Holidays - As a part time employee you are entitled to the same holiday as full time employees (5-6 weeks). However, holiday is given on a pro rata basis for part timers.
- Getting the sack – Annoyingly, contract or not, your employee can sack you on the spot if you do not have two years continuous service. The only exception to this rule is if there is an element of discrimination or whistle blowing, in which case you are in your rights to make a statuary claim.
- Be wary of social media – Remember, whatever you put on social media is out in the public, meaning your employer, university or lecturer will be able to see this.
- Minimum Wage – On the 1st of October, the national minimum wage will increase to £5.30 per hour for 18-20 year olds, so make sure your employer is paying you this.
- Protection – You can get protection via Consumer Rights against rogue traders, problems with contracts, faulty goods and poor service. If you have experienced any of these things, the first step is to make a formal complaint to the company. If this doesn’t go anywhere, go to a Legal Ombudsman as a second port of call -they investigate complaints about organisations for free.
- The contract - If you buy something, be it a washing machine or a holiday, you automatically enter a contract. From this contract the seller has agreed to ‘statutory rights’, which is their legal obligation to protect you from fraud, poor quality, misrepresentation or economic loss.
- Second-hand goods - If you're buying second-hand goods from a private seller instead of a shop your rights are not nearly as strong. The one exception is if you can prove the seller lied to you, in which case you may have grounds for a claim.
- Check, check and check again! – If you are making a big purchase such as a laptop or appliance, make sure you check the item fully before committing to it. Ask as many questions as possible beforehand and ideally take someone with you that has more knowledge about the item you are purchasing.
- Pay a little extra – It’s sometimes worth paying a little bit extra to have the security of knowing that an item should be reliable and will last!
- Lost receipt? – If you lose your receipt, don’t panic as you can still take back a faulty item if you can prove you bought it there. All you need is bank or credit card statement.
- Fraud and Scams – Always be on high alert for scams and frauds. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! For example, if you get an email from a ‘friend in need’ asking for money, or an alleged landlord asking for money before you’ve seen a house – do not acknowledge them!