Are you a student living in the UK who is wondering how to sort out bills for a student house? You're not alone. Managing student utility bills, including council tax, electricity, gas, and water bills, can be a bit overwhelming at first. But fear not, Loqbox’s student bills guide will help you navigate the best ways to split the bills while keeping your credit score in mind too.
What are student utility bills?
On average, student utility bills are comparable to those of a standard home, and they can make up a big part of your monthly expenses. When you’re a student, money is often quite tight. So it’s worth getting your student utility bills and council tax right to save you money, and a lot of potential headaches, in the long run.
Before we get started, let’s outline what we mean by student house bills. They are the costs associated with running energy in your shared student property. Student utility bills might include:
Plus, there are things that are not technically ‘utility bills’ but are still considered essential for many people:
- TV package
- TV licence (this one is a legal requirement)
- Building and contents insurance (check your rental lease to see if you need both or one of these)
- Streaming services
Your student utility bills include all of the paid services that you share in your property. If you’re lucky, you may find that some of your energy bills are included in the cost of your rent, but you’ll most likely have to pay at least one of these.
How much are the average student bills per week?
It’s hard to say for sure as it depends on lots of different factors, like how big the house is, how many people live there, what energy providers you’re using, and how much energy you actually consume.
For example, leaving the central heating on all day will run up a much bigger bill than choosing to hardly ever put it on and opting for a ‘two pairs of socks’ policy on chilly days!
The best thing to do is build a budget based on the actual costs, but until you’ve been there for a while it might be hard to predict exactly how much that will be. So, we suggest that you assume the average student’s bills per week will be around £15-20 for energy bills, and reassess this amount after the first few bills come through.
Be mindful that your heating bills will be more expensive in the winter months, unless you arrange with the energy provider to spread the cost over the whole year. As students tend to only rent their student properties over the academic year, if you plan to spread the cost, you may want to highlight your tenancy end date with the utility supplier.
Do you pay council tax living with students?
One of the first things you need to sort out when living with other students is your council tax. The good news is that full-time students are often exempt from paying council tax. You need to provide your local council with a council tax exemption certificate from your university or college — and do it quickly to avoid any charges.
However, there is a caveat with this if you have anyone living with you as a ‘professional’, because they will become responsible for footing the whole council tax bill while you as students are exempt.
How to sort out bills for a student house?
Organisation is key when dealing with student house bills. It might be a bit boring to begin with but once you have everything set up it should just run with minimal effort. Here’s our step-by-step student guide to bills:
1. Decide what you’re paying for
Using the list above, decide which of these bills you will be paying for. Water, gas, and electricity are pretty standard to keep a house or flat running normally. And a TV licence is actually a legal requirement for all households in the UK if you’re watching TV, streaming anything ‘live’ from any channel, or if you ever watch BBC iPlayer at any time.
Broadband is of course really important for many people, but will you share the costs or sort out individual options? Things like building and contents insurance and streaming services are potentially things that you will organise individually, or not have at all. But remember that if you do share the costs you can often bring your total personal financial commitments down.
It’s important to know that if you decide to put all of your names on your bills or open a joint bank account to pay them, then you may find that your credit scores become affected by each other's through something called ‘co-scoring’.
This could potentially have a negative impact on your credit score if any of your housemates have bad credit or ever miss a payment for any of their own financial commitments (even something like their phone contract).
It is possible to unlink yourself from other credit scores but only after you’ve become ‘financially disassociated’ — in other words, after you’ve moved out and you no longer live with them. But it can take time to update your credit file with the three main credit reference agencies, so it’s worth thinking all this through beforehand.
2. Set up a bills account
Get everything set up in one place where everybody living in the house can access and get involved. Leaving everything to just one person may not be such a good idea. There might be one of you who loves spreadsheets and organisation, but they could ultimately start to resent it. So share the responsibilities as much as possible.
If you decide not to become named bill payers in order to protect your credit scores then a sensible course of action, and fair sharing of responsibility, could be that one person in the household could become the bill payer for the water, another for the electric, another for the gas and so forth.
You can still set up a joint email account that you all share a login and password for, to have full visibility of what’s going on with each bill. Or if you prefer paper bills, store them in a central location, such as a notice board or a folder, and make sure everyone has access to it.
When it comes to managing your money, you wouldn’t want to accidentally spend yours (or your housemates’) bill money. So to avoid this, you could open a separate savings pot that is used solely for storing your student utility bills out of sight, until you need it. This will help you budget your money each month, and it can be easily set up so that the money is transferred to your main account on a specific date (just before the bill is due). Direct Debits and standing orders are your friends when it comes to sharing the bills.
3. Shop around
To save money, see if your provider offers student discount on energy bills. Many energy providers offer very competitive deals for new customers, including cashback or gift cards, so shop around and find the best rates for you. The Snoop app is especially good for this.
Also, make sure to compare fixed and variable tariffs to see which one suits your needs and budget. It can be time-consuming getting all of this organised but it’s well worth it.
4. Make your rent count towards your credit
Opening new utility accounts can temporarily lower your credit score, and will take about six months of steady financial behaviour before it rebuilds itself.
If you want to add value to your rent during your student tenancy, why not use it to help boost your credit history? You can use a rent reporter like Loqbox Rent as part of our £2.50 per week membership, to easily do this (as well as unlock all our other credit-building tools).
Simply tell us how much your rent is, securely connect your account, and we’ll report your payments to Experian to help build your credit history.
5. Set up Direct Debits
Make your lives easier by setting up Direct Debits or standing orders to pay your bills automatically. This avoids late or missed payments and means your bills are paid before there’s any temptation to spend their money on anything else.
Can I get student bills help?
Yes, if you're ever unsure about your student utility bills or need assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to your university's student support services. They can provide guidance and resources specific to your circumstances, to help you navigate the process. They will likely be the department that helps issue you your council tax exemption letter, too.
It’s important not to let money worries get out of control so don’t be afraid to seek help.
Getting student house bills right
Managing student utility bills in a shared house doesn't have to be a daunting task. With the right plan, a bit of organisation and teamwork, you can make sure your bills are paid on time and that you're getting the best deals on services.
Remember to communicate openly with your housemates and keep track of your expenses. Happy studying!