Becoming a student is most people’s introduction to living away from home and organising livings costs. There are many types of bills you may need to be pay for, which can be stressful. Use this guide to find out exactly what bills you need to pay for, and how.

Types of student bills:

FAQs

TV licence

You must own a TV licence if you plan on watching any television that is being aired live – this doesn’t just mean live television such as football, but anything that is being aired by broadcasters at the time. However, with modern devices and services, TV licensing has adapted to include other offerings. It’s important to check to make sure you aren’t breaking the law.

Below is a table that shows what you need a licence for:

Type of service

Do I need a licence?

Live TV (any channel)

Yes

BBC content (including catch-up shows on BBC iPlayer)

Yes

Catch-up content on channels other than BBC (e.g. ITV Player)

No

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV and other streaming services

No

BBC radio

No

You can purchase a TV Licence from the TV License website.

How much does a TV licence cost?

As of May 2019 – the annual cost of colour/live streaming TV licence is: £150.50

How to pay

You can pay for your licence via:

  • Direct debit/credit card
  • TV licensing payment card
  • Cheque
  • PayPoint

TV license can offer you a payment plan, so you can pay in full, quarterly, monthly or even weekly.

Do students get TV licence discounts?

Yes, but only if you go home for the summer.

If you purchase a TV licence in September but go home around the end of May/June time, that’s three months where the TV licence is wasted. TV license understands this and now offers a refund of around £37 for the final quarter of your TV licence.

You will need to have purchased a TV licence by the end of September or early October at the latest in order to be eligible for a refund.

Energy bills

Energy bills include both electricity and gas. You can pay from them separately, using to different suppliers. Alternatively, you can purchase both from the same supplier, commonly called dual fuel. Here is quick step-by-step on how to set up your energy bills

  1. Note the meter reading – on the first day, ensure you mark down the meter readings. The current supplier will need it for when the charge you, up until the day you swap supplier
  2. Find who your current energy supplier is: When you first move into a property, it will currently be supplied by the provider that the previous tenant chose. On the day you move in, you are responsible for paying the current supplier. If you wish to change, you should do it as soon as possible.
  3. Give your current energy supplier meter readings: They will use the meter readings to correctly charge you, moving forward.
  4. Find the best deal: You will almost certainly find a better deal than your current supplier. Shop around!

For a deeper explanation on how to set up your energy bills licence, visit our guide: How to find your current energy suppliers and set up your bills

Water bills

Water bills are one of the easier bills to manage. Water is a public service run by the government, so no need to hunt for the best deals or faff around with different companies. Water bills cover both the running water into your home and the sewage system that runs through it too.

You will find that your house will be on one of two tariffs:

  • Metered – these are similar to standard meters for gas or electric. It will record the amount of water your home uses and charge you accordingly.
  • Standard – A standard tariff is based on a government survey that estimates approximately how much water your house will use. This is usually the cheaper option of the two tariffs.

If you are a full time student, you will be expected to pay the water bills in full: Once every quarter, if you are on a standard tariff or once every six months you are metered.

Water bills in Scotland

If you live in Scotland and in a household that is solely occupied by students, you are exempt from paying your water bills. You may need to clarify this with the water company to ensure you aren’t charged. You can find contact information on the Scottish Water website.

Find out more about different types of water guides, visit our guide: How to set up your water bill

Broadband

Broadband is where students can either find themselves with a fantastic deal or in a terrible situation. Broadband is one of the most competitive areas of business, and from that comes some fantastic deals for the consumer. However, there are many parts to what makes a good broadband deal – not just the price.

What you need to look for in a broadband deal:

  • Connection speed – The more people using the internet, the faster you want the service to be. Don’t automatically go for the cheapest, low Mb option.
  • Data allowance – You will want to always go for unlimited allowance in a shared house. Everyone will be watching Netflix, gaming and general browsing. These activities eat into data allowance and you don’t want to run out before the end of the month.
  • Contract length – The standard broadband length is 12 – 24 months. You may be able to get a 9 month contract
  • Special offers – Broadband providers may off cashback, free gifts or vouchers as a way to tempt new customers. Use this to your advantage and get the best deal you can

For more information about broadband bills, visit our guide: How to set up your broadband bills

Rent

Paying for accommodation is a must – everyone needs a roof over their head. Quite often, rent is the biggest expense for students. Often students are faced with the choice of living in all-inclusive halls or non-inclusive housing. But what’s this difference?

All-inclusive student accommodation

All-inclusive accommodation is when your rent and your utility bills are combined, including internet, electric, gas and water. TV licences can be included but they are often left up to the students to decide whether they want to pay or not.

Pros and cons of all-inclusive student accommodation

Pros

Cons

  • Single payment avoids any confusion
  • No need to organise the different utility companies
  • Bills are split individually so you don’t have to chase your housemates for money
  • All-inclusive is often a more expensive option – you’re paying for convenience
  • There will only be a few all-inclusive accommodations in your city which reduces where you can live
  • You may be stuck with bad supplier because the landlord may have a deal with them

Non-inclusive student house

Non-inclusive is basically a standard house with a standard way to pay for your bills. You will pay rent to your landlord and pay the bills to your various suppliers. It is up to you to organise the bills however you would like. Whilst it might seem like an added stress, it could provide you with added freedom and cheaper bills.

Pros and cons of a non-inclusive student house

Pros

Cons

  • Often is the cheaper option if you choose to look for your own suppliers
  • Can use bill splitting services to help reduce the stress
  • Flexibility to choose the right supplier for you
  • Need to save some money? Use less heating or electricity to save on your bills
  • You will have to deal with bills yourself, unless you use a bill splitting service
  • May have to chase housemates to pay for bills

FAQs

Do students pay council tax?

A property is exempt from council tax if all tenants are:

  • full-time college or university students
  • aged 18 or 19 and in full-time education
  • on an apprenticeship or trainee scheme
  • under 18

If you and your housemates are all full-time university students, your household is completely exempt from paying council tax. If you share a house with someone who does not fall into one of the above categories, you’ll need to pay council tax.

Student halls

Student halls are automatically exempt from council tax and you shouldn’t receive any letters from the government about paying it.

Independent housing

If you live in independent student housing, the government may write to you about council tax. It might be that the house used to be occupied by people who weren’t students, or a simple mistake. It’s worth asking the landlord beforehand.

If you do receive a letter, a simple phone call to the council to explain your situation will more than likely sort out any issues.

How to ensure you’re exempt from paying council tax

Step 1: Go to your local council’s website

Every local council in the UK has its own website. You can find out who your local council is by going to the Gov.uk website and typing in your postcode.

Once you’re on the right website, look for the Council tax section and then the Discounts and exemptions page or a Student section of the website. You can also try and search the site for “student council tax exemption” (there’s usually a search bar in the top-right corner).

Step 2: Fill in the exemption form

You should be able to either download an exemption form and fill it in by hand, or complete the form online. Doing it online is the quickest and easiest way to apply.

The council will ask for proof that you’re a student. You can prove this with either your:

  • student email address
  • student ID number
  • student certificate (which you should be able to get through your uni portal).

Once complete, submit or post your exemption form, and you’re all done.

Do students get any discounts on household bills?

Household Bill

Do I get a discount?

Gas

No. There are currently no deals available for students

Electric

No. There are currently no deals available for students

Water

England – No. You must pay your water bills.

Scotland – Yes. You won’t have to pay your water bill if you live/study in Scotland. However, you must be living in a household solely comprised of full-time students

Broadband

Some broadband providers offer limited student discounts on their products. You may receive shorter contracts or cheaper prices. This will often be for a specific duration and you will have to pay full prices after a certain period

TV licence

No. If you are intending to watch any live television, you will need to purchase a TV licence.

Am I liable for previous tenants’ bills?

You’re only liable for the costs you’ve incurred since moving in. This includes the following bills:

  • Gas
  • Electric
  • Internet
  • Water
  • Council tax (in some cases)

The first thing to do is to take meter readings on the day you move in. The best way to do this is to take pictures on your phone—this way you can prove exactly what the meters showed and the date on which you took the images.

I’m receiving demand letters for the previous tenant. What should I do?

Anything prior to your tenancy start date is not your responsibility. If you start receiving demand letters from any previous suppliers, you’ll need to contact them and explain the situation. As further proof, you may also want to get your landlord/letting agent to confirm the date your tenancy began.

You should talk to your student advice service for your university. Alternatively, Citizens Advice can offer you information and support during these situations. They are a charity that provides free, independent and confidential advice on your rights and responsibilities.

Do students have to pay for medical prescriptions?

The NHS charges for certain services, including:

  • prescriptions
  • eye tests
  • dental treatments
  • travel costs when receiving healthcare
  • wigs and fabric supports

As a student, you can be exempted from paying for these treatments if you’re:

  • under the age of 19, or
  • on a low income

If you’re under 19 and in full-time education, you can apply to be exempt from paying for these treatments. You’ll need to provide your local medical practice with evidence to prove this is the case.

If you’re on a low income, you can apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). This will cover the costs for the treatments mentioned above. To qualify, you must earn less than £16,000 per year. This includes student loans, so if you receive any loans you’re unlikely to be eligible.

Related content

Average costs of students bills

Student bills set-up checklist

How to split student bills

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