Where to live? And other Student Accommodation queries FAQ Watch

04MR17
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If you're looking for a flatmate or advertising a space then Find your flatmates forum is the place to go. Please read this first though: (click here).

Got a question about one university in particular? We have a forum for each of them (click here).








This thread is about Applying for, and making decisions about accommodation

Post below:
Where are you living next year?
What is your advice to anyone thinking currently making accommodation decisions?
Did you find this thread helpful? Is there anything you'd add?


Included here are the following topics:

Should I live at Home or in Halls?
TSR Guide to Househunting
En-suite Bathroom Debate
Where to live in your first year at uni
Applying for Halls
Saving Money in Shared Accommodation
Privately managed accommodation FAQ

Credit for posts below go largely to Origami Bullets and rockrunride .:yep:
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04MR17
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Should I Live At Home or in Halls?


Finance

Probably the most commonly cited reason for living at home is finance, and the belief that it will be far cheaper to live at home. However, for many people it is no more expensive to live in halls. Things you should take into account include
  • Travel costs – this is clearly going to vary from person to person, but you should check out www.nationalrail.co.uk for train prices, and if you will have to take a bus include that too. Base your calculations on having to be in uni five days a week, by 9am. Even if you are on a course that only has 8 contact hours a week, you can be in for five days a week. If you plan to drive, be aware that most universities have no free parking unless you have a blue badge, so you will probably have to pay for parking too.
  • The time taken for you to travel in to / home from uni. Ensure that you calculate the door-to-door time, not just the time spent on the train. Now, what else could you do with that time? If you (say) had a one hour commute each day, that's 10 hours a week. If you were to spend 10 hours a week in a part time job, you would earn at least £61.90 (i.e. most of the cost of a place in halls), and you would have the work experience that graduate employers want to see.
  • Taxis – when you do go on nights out with friends from uni, consider how you will get back home again. You can't count on being able to sleep on someone's floor (especially early on when you probably won't know people well enough), and public transport will have stopped running.
  • Your parents may charge you rent
  • Student Finance – if you live at home, you will receive around £1,100 less per year in the form of maintenance loans
  • Bursaries – many universities include money off accommodation as part of their bursary package.

So are there any benefits to living at home?
  • Mum, Dad or whoever's at home may do your washing and cooking for you. Which is lovely and saves you time when studying, or having fun (unless you really enjoy ironing...). Downside to this is that you're probably going to have to live independently at some point, staying at home for uni just prolongs the inevitable.
  • If you have many friends who are not going to uni / living at home for uni, then it can be easier to stay friends with them. However, be prepared for people to drift as they get jobs elsewhere, go to uni elsewhere and make new friends. It's unlikely that things will remain how they were at school / college.
  • You get to see your family far more often (though you may, or may not, see this as a benefit!)

Compromise?

One option can be to move into halls for first year, and then make a decision about second and third year later on. By that point, you know what living away from home is like, so you can make an informed decision, and you will have made a group of friends that you will keep for the rest of your degree. The only potential snag to this is that some universities won't offer local students a place in halls, though this does vary from uni to uni. If this is the case, then you could
  • try and find out how likely it is that a place will become available in uni halls in the first few weeks of the year
  • opt for private halls
  • find a room in a house share

I know quite a few local students who moved into halls, and only one has chosen to move back home, which indicates to me that they prefer living away from home!


Social Life

It's not impossible to make friends if you live at home, but you are making your own life harder. There are, for most people, three main sources of friends: course, halls and societies. If you live at home, then clearly you won't have any friends from halls, and depending on the uni this may mean that Fresher's Week is something of a write off too, because most people will go out with their new flatmates. Some courses don't socialise with each other – mine doesn't, for instance. I'm a perfectly social person with plenty of friends from outside my course, but I don't know anyone from my course who is more than an acquaintance. This tends to be more common for people on larger courses where group work is not a regular feature of the degree. Societies can be a good way to make friends, but do be aware that some societies are such an intense commitment that living at home just makes participation impractical to the point of being impossible. For instance, in first year I was part of a sports society that involved practice around 3 times a week, more in summer, and often starting at 6am, plus gym sessions, plus weekends away to compete. It was hard enough when I was living in halls, but not one person who was living at home managed to get (and stay) involved. This isn't the case with all societies, as some will only want you to do stuff once a week, but the more intense societies do tend to be the ones where lasting friendships build up.

Independence

For many people, moving away from home is a chance to gain independence from their parents, and to learn life skills. Living in halls means that your mum isn't going to be telling you to tidy your room, but you will have to learn to cook and do your own laundry (which, let's face it, you've got to learn how to do sooner or later). Of course, this can lead to some mishaps (which will invariably later be told as funny stories!), but invariably communal areas will be cleaned by a cleaner, which keeps the worst of it under control. Many people cite this as being one of the more valuable aspects of going to uni.

Academia

Unlike at A Level, even when degree courses at two different universities have identical names and UCAS codes, they will invariably have very different content. This is because what's taught tends to be based around the staff's research and interests, and each university gets to set its own exams. This means that if you move away from home, then you will have far more choice between courses, and will be able to find a course that suits you best. Depending on your grades and where you live, you may be able to get into a better uni if you move away. For instance, I am from Bristol, but I didn't have the grades for University of Bristol. I did have the grades for UWE, but by choosing to move away I was able to get offers from Russell Group universities including Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. When you're actually at uni, being close to campus has the advantage of easy access to facilities such as the library. This means that if you suddenly realise you need a book, it's really easy just to pop over and get the book out rather than having a two hour round trip (which, let's face it, isn't going to happen). This may be just me, but I actually found it easier to work in halls than I did at home. This was because whilst my parents found it impossible to comprehend that coming in every five minutes to chat / asking me to look after the grandparents / similar wasn't conducive to working, my flatmates (a) had work of their own to do, and (b) understood that if my bedroom door was shut, then I was probably working and so shouldn't be disturbed if possible. Finally, at my own university (and I have no reason to believe that this isn't something that isn't replicated at other unis), the group that is most likely to drop out of university is those that are living at home, which is food for thought.

With all that said, living at home can be better if . .
  • You have significant family responsibilities e.g. you are a carer for a family member, or you have a child of your own. In the latter instance, some universities do offer family accommodation, but you may find that the support you get at home (e.g. childcare) is worth staying at home for
  • You have significant mental / physical health problems that mean you can't live independently, even with support from the university. Universities do have excellent disability support services, and can provide you with adapted accommodation, a non-medical helper, equipment and various other means of support, so I would urge anyone in that situation to talk to their university before making any decisions, but for some people living at home will turn out to be the only realistic option.
  • If you live next door to the university, then it probably will work out cheaper, but there are still all the other factors (e.g. social life and independence) to consider, though as mentioned above not all unis will give you accommodation if you live nearby.
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04MR17
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Guide to Househunting

So, you're starting to think about renting a house for second year: There are lots of things to think about, and some things to avoid. Here are some top tips to follow...

Timing
Freshers have a tendency to rush in to signing for a house, often before Christmas, fearful that if they don't then "all the good ones will be gone". This is invariably not true, it's simply caused by fear: stoked by local letting agents and landlords, eager to get their property rented out as soon as possible for the following year.

Speak to students who are currently in their second or third year about the local housing market. In many towns and cities, there is actually a surplus of student housing, and you should also remember that houses don't all come on to the market at the same time - they will usually be released over the course of several months.

There are advantages to waiting.

  • Firstly, you will know your prospective housemates better. Bearing in mind that you're about to sign a five figure contract with people that you only met in September, it can pay to wait until you know them a bit better. I know people who rushed in to a contract with their new found friends, and by the time the tenancy actually started, they'd realised that they didn't like each other that much after all, but had to live together for the next year anyway.
  • Secondly, if people are going to drop out of uni, this often happens at Christmas time. If they get through to the second semester, chances are they will still be there in second year, unless they're getting failing grades. Remember, you will all be jointly and severally liable for the rent (I'll explain this further down).
  • Thirdly, if you wait until it's past peak letting season, you can often haggle with the letting agents for cheaper rents / an extra bedroom for free etc., because they're starting to worry that they won't be able to let the house out at all for the following year.



Housemates
Choosing a good set of housemates is really quite important. Think about things like

  • Do you have compatible lifestyles, and are they obnoxious? This covers a whole range of things, from whether you want to live in a ‘party’ house or something quieter, to whether or not your future flatmate is the sort of person who will use your crockery and not wash it up afterwards.
  • If you’ve got a new boyfriend / girlfriend, don’t live with them. You’ve probably been together for about three months by the point that you’re signing for a house, and the chances of something going wrong within the next 18 months are relatively high. You really don’t want to be living with them after a break up. While you may think they're the love of your life, your love will withstand being slightly apart, if it's that strong. (Cheesy but there's no better way of putting it.)
  • Are your housemates financially solvent? Remember, you’re all going to be individually liable for the rent on the whole house, so if they don’t pay you’ll end up paying their rent for them. If they’re the sort of person who blows their whole student loan as soon as they get it, think carefully before you sign a five figure contract with them.
  • Remember the advantages to waiting, as I discussed earlier.



:eek: Help! I don’t have anyone to live with! :eek:
It’s far from unheard of to be in this situation, and it happens for lots of different reasons. You’ve got several avenues that can be explored, including

  • A studio / one bed flat
  • Going in to halls again – either university halls, if they allow second years to return, or halls in the private sector.
  • Look for a spare room in an existing houseshare. These often crop up after people drop out or just because they fell in love with a house that was one room too big. One advantage of a random houseshare is that it can provide a readymade group of friends, though of course you should make sure that you’re compatible with the group. There are lots of different places to look for spare rooms, including TSR’s Find a Flatmate forum, SpareRoom and your uni’s private sector housing service.
  • Speak to local letting agents to see if they do individual tenancies. Sometimes, particularly towards the end of the academic year, they will look to fill houses with a random group of individuals.
  • Also, speak to your friends and let them know that you’re looking for a room. They may have friends with a spare room, or who are in the same situation as you.


Agree what you want in a house
Sit down with your prospective housemates, and work out a list of features you want in a house. For instance, number of bedrooms, space for bikes, gas hobs, location and budget. You can also add features that will mean you instantly cross a house off your list e.g. damp.

Then, sort these by priority - 'must have' and 'would be nice if', trying to keep the 'must haves' to a minimum - these are the things that you literally couldn't live without and will cause you to instantly reject a house.

Make these in to a ticklist that you’ll use to assess houses objectively on viewings and make it easier to compare houses you’ve looked at. I’ve attached an example at the bottom of this post.

Viewings
You need to visit any house that you’re thinking of renting. This also applies if you’re coming from abroad. Don’t accept excuses for why you can’t view the property at this time – it’s usually a good sign of false deposit fraud. You also need to view it to check the condition of the house – there are houses that looked lovely on paper, but in reality turned out to be horrible.

Whilst you’re on your viewing, take lots of pictures – if you're viewing several houses it makes it easier to differentiate between them. Taking pictures is extra important if one of the prospective flatmates can’t make it to that viewing – you can share the photos and discuss things. Of course, you should ensure that everyone gets a chance to see the house before they sign for it – second viewings are completely normal. Some landlords/letting agencies have a policy of no second viewings, unless you're absolutely sure you want the house, AND everyone in the group has seen it, be wary of these.

Don’t hurry around the viewing. I’ve seen viewings completed in about three minutes flat, but there’s no way that you can spot everything you need to in that time.

Learn what damp smells like, and beware freshly painted walls – landlords will often paint damp walls, but the mould will only grow back through the new paint very quickly.

It’s a legal requirement that tenants should be given 24 hours notice before a visit from their landlord / letting agent. So, it's worth seeing if the letting agent is willing to book a viewing at less than 24 hours notice. If they are, then it’s a good sign that they either (a) don’t know, or (b) don’t care about the law, and that should make you wary.

Ask what furniture is included. Some may belong to the tenants, and this is especially common with things like the TV. Basic student bedrooms tend to include:
- Bed
- Desk
- Chair
- Wardrobe

Most other things, (chest of drawers, shelves etc.) don't come as standard, but you will be able to find them in many rooms you look at. Worth checking whether they are the landlord's or the tenant's, else you may end up making an impromptu trip to IKEA and end up carrying a bookcase home on the bus.

Don’t trust what they say about future / incomplete building works, because if they don’t do it there’s naff all you can do to force them into it. Work on the basis that it’s sold as seen – otherwise you might end up with a nasty surprise.



Contracts

Contracts are incredibly important documents. They are legally binding documents, and they aren’t the sort of thing that you can just get out of on a whim (if at all).

So,

  • read it in full, and make sure you understand what each clause means, and its impact on you.
  • understand that you will be jointly and severally liable (if those words are in the contract, and it’s unusual to find that they’re not) and the implications of this.
  • most students unions / uni letting schemes will have someone who can check tenancy agreements for you for free. Make sure that you make use of this service, as some of the clauses that letting agents try to sneak in are terrifying and unless you are au fait with housing law you're unlikely to spot it yourself. If the letting agent / landlord won't let you take the tenancy agreement away to be checked, this is usually a good sign that there's something dodgy about the agreement and indeed the LA / landlord themselves.
  • Just because it says it in the contract it doesn't automatically make it so. There are rights that you can’t sign away (such as the fact that the landlord must protect your deposit), and there are all sorts of unfair and unenforceable terms that landlords and letting agents can attempt to insert into a contract.
  • Remember that the contract is only a starting point - if there are unsuitable or inconvenient clauses in the contract, you can ask to have them taken out / amended before you sign. Some (inexperienced) landlords may have just fished the contract off the internet for all you know.
  • Be aware of rules like no smoking, no candles. Whilst a landlord shouldn't dictate how you live, there are various limitations regarding health and safety that you should be aware of.
  • BE CAREFUL that your deposit is returned safely. Make sure you take plenty of pictures on moving in so that any attempt to charge you for damage to the property not caused by you as tenants may be resolved.


Take a look at the end of tenancy thread too, so that you’re prepared for that.

Guarantors
Almost all letting agents and landlords will require a guarantor, which can present problems for some people. A guarantor is a person (usually a parent) who guarantees to pay the rent if it is defaulted upon. However, as student tenancies are invariably done on a joint and several basis, this means that any guarantor can be chased for the rent defaults of any of the other tenants, so your mum could end up having to pay for your flatmate Fred's financial incompetence (though it very rarely actually comes to that), which is an added reason to choose your housemates well.

Letting agents and landlords also often put restrictions on who can act as a guarantor. Common restrictions include one or more of living in the UK, being a homeowner, being in full time work or having a minimum income. However, you may find that individual landlords (as opposed to letting agents) are more willing to negotiate.

These restrictions, along with parents that aren't willing to sign, can cause problems for some people. If you're having problems, then you can consider
- negotiating with the landlord - if they don't take you, then they'll lose the whole group, and as it's all done on a joint and several basis, they could claim from one of the other guarantors anyway.
- seeing if the landlord will accept six (or whatever) months rent upfront in lieu of a guarantor.
- ask another family member e.g. aunt or grandparent to sign.
- see if your uni has a scheme where it will act as a guarantor - these are fairly rare, but one example is http://www.gold.ac.uk/student-services/guarantor/
Unfortunately, this really does pose a serious problem for many people, and for many of us the only answer is to get your parents to sign it.

Deposit Protection
Your landlord must, by law, protect your deposit in one of the three government schemes, and you must be given the prescribed information within 30 days http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_ad...ection_schemes

When you move in
Ensure that you take date-stamped photos of the property when you move in. These can be used at the end of your tenancy to prove the state the house was in when you moved in, and therefore these photos can be used to fight deposit deductions.

If your rent does not include bills, You will also need to notify the utility companies that you are the new tenants. To do this, take a meter reading (there will definitely be one for electricity, one for gas too if you have it, and possibly one for water too). Then ring up the relevant companies, give them your details and tell them the meter reading. IF you're not sure of how to find the meter, ask your landlord on move-in.

For water, there’s only one company per region e.g. in Manchester it’s United Utilities. For gas and electricity you can often find a letter on the doormat from the company. Failing that, ring a random one up and as if your new house is registered with them. If you are, great, if not then they can normally tell you who your supplier is.

With phone & internet, you’ll normally have been cut off, and will need to register anew with an ISP. You may find evidence of a previously installed internet provider. Perhaps even a wifi hub left by the previous tenants. It may save you set-up costs to stick with this provider, but consider which is cheapest for you. See here for a useful comparison tool.

NB the legal aspects of this only apply in England and Wales - in Scotland, the law is different. Nothing here is legal advice.
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04MR17
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En-suite Bathroom debate

No two university halls are the same: their assets differ according to location, price, cleanliness, facilities, etc.
One common sticking point for students is the bathroom debate here's the low-down...

Seeing other people
Even though very private business is conducted in bathrooms, a shared bathroom requires you to be out of your room, and potentially interact with people you're living next to (shocking I know). Not quite as much interaction as a shared kitchen, of course, but if you have an en-suite bathroom, this won't happen. If you're very socially anxious en-suite may alleviate some of your fears about living in halls.

Shared bathrooms are also one of many introductions to responsibilities you may not have had before when living at home. Many students won't have cleaned a toilet or shower before. Many still won't need to if your halls have cleaners. But it's always polite (and hygienic) to leave the bathroom relatively clean for the next person who uses it.

No two shared bathrooms are the same...
Shared bathrooms are cheaper, no doubt. But will the trade-off work? It depends on the hall, of course. It pays to investigate your options. Will you live in a corridor or a flat? Will there be six bums to a toilet seat or just three? It all makes a difference on the hygiene front (and you're more likely to be able to use the toilet when you're desperate if you're living with less people).

Your finances
In almost every university halls you can find it's cheaper to share a bathroom than it is too have an en-suite. If you're going to be short on money during your time in halls, think hard about whether you really want to pay extra (sometimes quite a lot extra) to get your own bathroom.

cole-slawThe BIG question you want to ask is who will be doing the cleaning?

In my first year, the shared bathrooms were cleaned spotless every morning by a lovely old lady, whilst the people in ensuites next door had to clean their own facilities.

As I'm sure you can imagine, after a while they were very jealous of our sparkling clean facilities.

If there is a cleaner included in the cost, I would definitely recommend picking shared facilities.


Mary1708I made the wrong choice for living in a flat of 10 students with 2 shared bathrooms. It's been 3 months and I literally have cleaned other people's pee, poo, pubes, and other gross things I saw in the tub/WC. The disaster is REAL.
Now I have to beg my landlord to transfer me to an en-suite room and I hope there is still a spare one.
For your health, choose the en-suite one.

Add!ction;72973232Biggest fear is someone hearing/smelling my poop.:poo:
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04MR17
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Did you find this thread useful?

Do you have any of your own tips to add to this?

Still have queries?

Post below to give your thoughts.
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CheeseIsVeg
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This is so detailed and helpful! :hugs:
Timing is a big one and if you are late to it and there's not lots left, it's always good to check facebook or something because they often advertise the odd room on there :yy:
:bump:
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04MR17
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:bump:
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RichPiana
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TheAlchemistress
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Discrepancy
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What am I tagged?
@RichPiana
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RichPiana
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(Original post by TheAlchemistress)
What am I tagged?
@RichPiana
Cause you were pondering whether to stay at home or move out.
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04MR17
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Note: Posts in this thread advertising places will be moved into the Find your flatmates forum, this is the only place on the site where user-generated advertising is permitted.
Last edited by 04MR17; 9 months ago
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04MR17
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Giving this thread a lil :bump: since it's the time of year when lots of people are looking at houses.
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limping1105
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Please share your thoughts and considerations when choosing student accommodation in the link below: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Gno...p=sharingWeare working on improving student accommodation provision!
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limping1105
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Please share your thoughts and considerations when choosing student accommodation in the link below: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Gno...it?usp=sharing

Weare working on improving student accommodation provision!
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RedheadAlex
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AHHHH!

I applied to study Veterinary Medicine at Uni of Edinburgh and Royal Veterinary College (+Nottingham and Bristol). I received offers from both Edinburgh (AAA) and RVC (ABB). Edinburgh is my firm choice, but RVC is my insurance.

Do I need to apply for accommodation at both uni's? i.e. so if i don't the grades for Edinburgh and therefore study in London I will still have accomodation.
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04MR17
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(Original post by RedheadAlex)
AHHHH!

I applied to study Veterinary Medicine at Uni of Edinburgh and Royal Veterinary College (+Nottingham and Bristol). I received offers from both Edinburgh (AAA) and RVC (ABB). Edinburgh is my firm choice, but RVC is my insurance.

Do I need to apply for accommodation at both uni's? i.e. so if i don't the grades for Edinburgh and therefore study in London I will still have accomodation.
Check the rules for both institutions. I would recommend applying for both. For RVC they might not offer you anything until after results day when they know who is coming.
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marylson_cariata
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Does working desks for working on take up a lot of space in accomodations and is it useful having them anyway?
Do you find that the desks should be multi-purpose instead of just for working?
What problems do you find with university desks and what do you like about them?
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