Staying safe when renting private accommodation
Whether it's your fist time moving away from home or not, it pays to know some easy ways to ensure that your home is secure. Feeling safe in your home is important for many reasons, especially for your personal well-being. Besides, not worrying about your safety allows you to enjoy your student experience in London and to focus on your studies
The ULHS Private Housing Guide can be downloaded or viewed online - an extensive guide to aid your private housing search and contains sections on personal safety, gas, electric and fire safety.
Here are some simple steps as advised by Metropolitan Police to maximise safety:
Staying safe in your home
- External doors: Make sure the door is suitable for external use and is at least 45mm thick. The door should be fitted with a 5 lever mortice deadlock and mounted on a frame strong enough to support the door, hinges and lock. If your door has a letterboxes, this should have an internal cover plate.
- Windows: Remember to close and lock all your windows, even if you are only going out for a few minutes. Windows should be fitted with a good lock appropriate for the window type.
- Avoid leaving valuables, house or car keys near windows and external doors.
- Leave a light on - If your home is left empty for a longer period of time, leaving alight on can help to give the impression to a passer-by that the house is in fact occupied.
- Register your property on the Immobilise register.(link to http://www.immobilise.com/) This will assist you in the recovery of stolen items. The service is free and numerous British Police forces are linked to the service.
- Never open your door until you have positively identified who is there. Follow these steps to help determining who's really at your door.
When out and about:
- Keep cash, mobile phones, MP3 players and other high value property such as laptops out of sight. Carry the minimum amount of personal valuables with you
- Keep your bags closed and wallets in inside pockets. Wear your bag across your body so that it opens on the side facing you. When sitting down in a public place, never place the bag on the back of your chair you - instead try to hook the bag strap under the chair leg
- Use well-lit and safe routes to and from locations and not short cuts - always plan your journey home before you set out. Look confident and walk purposefully to your destination.
- When travelling late at night try to sit with other passengers in busy carriages wherever possible. Otherwise, you could also sit close to the driver.
- If making your journey by minicab or taxi, always book your journey through a licensed operator. Text CAB to 60835 to get local licensed minicab and taxi telephone numbers sent to your phone - CABWISE
- Try to avoid wearing headphones - your ability to hear traffic, strangers or potential trouble is severely restricted.
- Consider carrying a personal panic alarm and carry it where easily available, i.e. in your pocket or in your hand (not in the bottom of your bag)
- When getting cash from a machine, do check the machine for any suspicious activity and cover the keyboard so your PIN number is not seen by anyone else. If you cannot remember your PIN then enter this on to your Mobile phone using a verified phone number and have the last four digits as your PIN, like "John Jones 079 1234 XXXX"
The Gas Safe Register is the organisation responsible for gas safety in Great Britain and The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 specifically deal with the duties of landlords to ensure that gas appliances are safe for you as a tenant to use.
- Ensure appliances provided for tenants are maintained in a safe condition
- Ensure an annual safety check is carried out by a Gas Safe registered installer
- Keep a record of each safety check for two years
- Provide each tenant with a copy of the most recent safety check when they move in and to each existing tenant within 28 days of a check being completed.
You should allow your landlord access to the property to carry out maintenance or safety checks on appliances. As a student, gas safety may not be your top priority, but knowing your rights when you rent could save your life.
Poorly serviced or faulty gas appliances could put you at risk from gas leaks, fire, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you smell gas and suspect there may be a leak in your property you should act immediately and take the following steps:
- Get fresh air immediately - open all doors and windows to ventilate the room. Do not turn on lights or smoke/light a cigarette.
- Switch off the appliance and do not reuse until it has been checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Shut off the gas supply at the mains (if you know where this is).
- Call the Gas Emergency Number on 0800 111 999 if you think there is immediate danger.
- Visit your GP or the hospital if you feel unwell - you may show symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to carry out the necessary repairs to the appliance (or instruct your landlord to do so).
For more information, please visit the Gas Safety Register website.
If you live in privately rented accommodation, your landlord has to meet certain basic safety obligations under the law. In addition to meeting the criteria of Gas Safety listed above, your landlord's obligations also include making sure electric appliances are safe and in good working order and carry the British Safety Standard sign. Your landlord must show you safety certificates so that you can see when gas and electrical appliances were last checked.
Here are a few tips to ensure your fire safety in the home:
- As a tenant, it is your responsibility to ensure there is a working smoke alarm fitted in your home. A smoke alarm should be fitted on each level of the property and tested regularly.
- Do not overload plug sockets and turn off electrical equipment when not in use.
- Keep candles, cigarettes and incense away from flammable surfaces, do not leave them unattended and make sure they are fully extinguished before you go to bed.
- Never use portable heaters for drying clothes. Keep them away from curtains and furnishings and switch off when not in use.
- Know your escape route - make sure you and your housemates know the quickest way out of the property and consider alternative routes in case the usual one is blocked.
- Report faulty gas or electrical equipment, frayed wires or burnt plug sockets to your landlord.
For more information on fire safety, including guidance on what to do if there has been a fire in your home, please visit the UK Government website.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, you may find yourself having to move quickly out of your accommodation. Firstly ask family, friends and colleagues if you can stay temporarily with them while you find alternative housing.
Please visit the Government website for more information on the help you may be entitled to.
University of London Housing Services (ULHS) has Legal and Housing Advisors who can make emergency appointments over the telephone +44 (0)20 7862 8880 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your situation.