Over the last three years I think I’ve had probably ever worst-case scenario occur when it comes to student accommodation, from disgustingly unhygienic housemates leading to me leaving the house, useless landlords to money grabbing estate agents. Around this time of the year it’s time to start thinking about where you’re going to be living next year if your university does not provide accommodation throughout your degree. It can be a daunting/confusing/exciting experience, so here’s a few of my tips.
Be careful who you choose to live with.
It’s true when they say you don’t really know a person until you live with them, especially in en suite halls where all their horrid habits remain behind closed doors. Make sure you trust the people you’re living with, when bills and rent come in you don’t want to be chasing someone to pay up, especially if you have a joint tenancy.
Be happy with the place you’re looking at
Only you know if you’ll be happy somewhere. Before you go house hunting sit down as a group and each explain what you’re looking for, do you want a double or single room? A dining table? Somewhere to place your bike, or park your car? Don’t feel pressured into going for the first house you see as you’re worried you won’t find somewhere. You need to see a few first to get an idea of what’s on offer. A friend wanted us to go for the first house we saw….there wasn’t even a door on the oven and a current tenant was suing the landlord – how alarm bells weren’t ringing in his head was beyond me!!
If possible, have the current tenants show you around
Ask them how much they pay for bills each month. What is the landlord like, when something goes wrong are they approachable/do they actually fix things? What are the neighbours like? They might be able to tell you the quickest way they get to Uni / town, or how safe it is living in that area. Are you able to put things on your walls?
Check for these when viewing a place
– Mould / damp, landlords rarely ever bother dealing with it and most of the time blame the current tenants for it. If it’s there now, it’ll reappear when you’re in the house. You don’t want to throw out your own possessions or put your health at risk.
– Smoke alarms
– What furniture / appliances are included?
– Does it need any repair works – peeling paint / things broken. Will these be done before you move in?
– Check to see if there’s any indication of pest…not kidding. I was in a house that was infested with rats and slugs, let’s just say it reflected the type of people I lived with and after two months I told them where to go!
– Is there a gas safety certificate?
– Any agency fees/admin costs?
– Will the deposit be held in a deposit protection scheme?
– Will I need a guarantor?
Do NOT hand over any money before you have signed something, and check what you’re signing!!!!
If you take anything away from this post, take that sentence. The amount of freshers who have gone to the union because the landlord has given them a horrible contract, but they’ve already signed and given their deposit. Too late, you’ve signed yourself up to 12 months of whatever is on that paper! These aren’t just the same T&Cs you ignore when signing up to a website online, it’s your life for the next year.
Don’t let a landlord bully you into giving your deposit first, if they tell you there are many others who want the house and it’s the only way to secure it – run, just run away in the other direction, you’ve just seen the true colours of that landlord. If you’re interested in a place ask the landlord if you can see the contract. Don’t feel pressured to sign it as soon as it has been handed to you. Go away together, read it through, highlight anything you disagree with or are unsure about. Most student unions have a housing service and are willing to check through your contract and check to see if the landlord has been blacklisted by them. It’s highly recommended that you do this for your own benefit. Only then once you’ve signed the contract give the landlord/agency your deposit, make sure you have a signed copy of your contract as proof of payment/for reference and that you receive a document about your deposit protection scheme.
At the end of the day, if something doesn’t feel right or is too good to be true – then it probably is. Stick with your gut instinct and don’t even feel pressured to do something you’re not comfortable with.