What to watch out for with student housing
Moving into rented accommodation for university is the first time many people have been living away from their parents and it can be a daunting time. Not only do you have the stresses of starting a new course, and meeting new people, but finding somewhere to live can be a real hassle. Not only are you looking for somewhere close to your university, and preferably with a friendly landlord – but there are also a number of safety concerns to watch out for.
Most housing will make use of gas in some form or other, whether in the heating or the oven or both, and it is very important to make sure that these appliances are well maintained. Your landlord is responsible for gas safety and should provide you with a certificate to show this.
Whilst not a legal requirement, you might want to look into installing a carbon monoxide detector to make sure you are safe. You should also look out for warning signs of a malfunctioning gas appliance such as:
- sooty marks
- yellow or orange flames instead of blue
- pilot lights that blow out frequently
- excessive condensation on windows.
Electricity powers much of your home appliances and is mostly safe, but there are some dangers to watch out for. Make sure that there are no bare wires on appliances, and there are no burn/scorch marks around electrical sockets.
All houses should be fitted with fire/smoke/heat detectors, and you should make sure that the batteries within these devices are checked regularly. There should also a fire extinguisher on each floor of the house and a fire blanket in the kitchen as well as easy access to a fire escape route. It is worth familiarising yourself with all of these when you move into your house, as you never know when you might need them in a hurry.
Asbestos is relatively rarely a problem in houses today, but the material was used widely as an insulator between the 1950s and 1980s. Indeed, any building built before 2000 may contain asbestos. If asbestos is in good condition and is left undisturbed, then it should cause no harm. However, if the asbestos is in poor condition, or disturbed by renovation work or simply people exploring their roofs for extra storage space, then it can release fibres into the air which can be deadly in later life, as they cause a disease called mesothelioma. Today it is mostly builders and tradesmen exposed to asbestos fibres, but it is always something worth checking with your landlord before moving in as the material is very hazardous and causes hundreds of people to make an asbestos claim each year.
Pests and Vermin
Pests and vermin such as mice and rats not only spread disease but can also nibble through cabling causing electrical fire. If you live in a city then you are never too far from some form of vermin, and whilst you should be careful never to leave food out which can attract them, you may just be unlucky and have a family of mice living in your house. For mice then simply setting a few traps may suffice to catch them, but with large rats and other pests such as wasps or cockroaches may also infest in your house, you should get in touch with your landlord and discuss how to fix the problem.
Photograph by John Allan