Other than a serious hangover and an inability to clean anything, what are the risks that you might face from your student days and in particular your student accommodation?
Many student houses are not massively well maintained, or they may be a conversion of an older house, and that often means that problems such as mould are rife. Mould can be a serious risk to your health and studies have shown that otherwise healthy people can end up with respiratory tract problems as a result of indoor mould exposure.
Action: mould thrives in warm, damp conditions so make sure you keep the house well ventilated. If you’re cooking then open a window, turn on the fan when you shower and dry wet clothes outside or in a dryer if you can. If the mould is not being caused by anything you’re doing but by a problem with the building itself then take photos or mouldy items to the landlord/agent and ask them to fix it. If they don’t, make a call to the local Environmental Health Department.
Called the ‘silent killer’ carbon monoxide has been responsible for 677 deaths over the past two decades and almost 5,000 ‘near misses.’ You can’t taste, smell or see carbon monoxide so it’s almost impossible to do anything about it until it’s too late. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea and vomiting, vertigo, memory loss, weakness and headaches. As these could all simply feel like a bit of a hangover too, you can’t rely on your own detection systems when it comes to carbon monoxide, you need a house alarm.
Action: The law now requires all residential landlords to provide carbon monoxide alarms or face a fine of £5,000 per property so you are well within your rights to ask for one.
Student houses tend not to be the most secure of buildings and are often targeted by burglars who know students are out at lectures during the day or at home during the holidays. Check you have a good, solid lock on the main door and that there are locks on all the windows – at the very least, the ground floor windows. You can also check for locks on bedroom and bathroom doors and make sure they’re working or make it a condition of the contract before you sign that they are replaced.
Action: Understand who you need to contact if something happens – in an emergency, it’s always the police, but if it’s something like a lock that needs fixing then contact the landlord or agent.
What is your plan if there is a fire in the house? It sounds geeky but it’s good for you and your housemates to have one. Remember that many fires start in the kitchen so that’s an important place to do a quick check last thing at night to turn off appliances, stub out cigarettes and check the oven hasn’t been left on.
Action: your property should be fitted with smoke alarms – this is now a legal requirement so ask the landlord or agent for them if they aren’t there.