Moving out of halls and into a house? Here's what to look for
Living in halls when you're a fresher can be great fun – but most students look at a shared house in the second year.
Teaming up with your new-found mates and looking for a place to live is an exciting prospect – and living together will be an adventure. You’ve seen Fresh Meat, you get the idea.
But it pays to be cautious when looking for a shared house, you don’t want to get stuck in a dump with the wrong crowd.
Here are some key things to consider as you prepare for life in your own house.
Choosing your housemates
The people you live with will have a huge impact on your experience, and getting a group together is not always straightforward.
“Choosing to live with people after knowing them for only about six months is pretty intense and a hard decision,” says TSR member She-Ra.
“My advice is to be honest [and] make it clear who you want to live with rather than leaving it too late and hurting others' feelings,” adds Aarora.
If you have a large group of friends who do you pick to live with? If you’ve not met that many people in the first year how do you find housemates? Tip – check the TSR accommodation forum!
Consider what you want from your house share. Do you want to live in a party house or do you want to have a place that’s neat and tidy? That will affect your decision.
You’ll certainly find out a lot about your housemates once you are living with them, as TSR user WilliamsQI discovered.
“Most of the time everything is fantastic. However, they have a different definition of clean than I do.”
How much will it cost?
Rents vary a lot. But remember that the rent isn’t the only thing you’ll be paying. There will probably be bills – gas, electric, water, TV licence and internet – to consider. You may need to set these up, and if they are in your name make sure that your housemates don’t take advantage.
When working out what you can afford consider how much you’ll have to live on AFTER rent and bills.
Try to stay on top of your costs – pay into a kitty. Landlords and utility companies expect to be paid on time. And if you have a pre-pay meter for gas or electricity keep it topped up. You don’t want a black-out in the middle of the night.
You’ll also need to get a deposit together before you move in. Usually a month’s rent.
What is the house like?
Make sure you visit your flat or house before you commit to anything. Just like on Tinder, photos don’t always tell the whole story.
You're going to have to live in the place so make sure it’s up to scratch. What are the locks on the front door and windows like? How do the drains smell? Are there signs of damp or even rats and mice?
Charly369 was unlucky enough to have a bad experience while renting and offers this advice: “My advice to anyone would be: do a thorough sweep of the house from top to bottom. Check the toilets, the shower/bath, the corners of every room for damp, the walls, the bannisters (oh yeah our bannister fell apart), do research on the area before you decide on anything.”
Other things to consider are locks on the bedroom and bathroom doors. What appliances are there? A washing machine can make a big difference.
Who is the landlord?
The landlord or agency will likely want references from you before they hand over the keys – but it pays to do a bit of due diligence on them too.
Who you are dealing with can be key. Jelly1000 says: “I'm paying more than most people I know but I've had a brilliant landlord the last two years IMO and it’s been worth every penny of the extra money to know that if something is broken it will be fixed right anyway.”
The university housing office should be able to put you in touch with reputable landlords. It’s worth checking if they are part of the national landlord association scheme and if you have tenancy deposit protection.
They should also be able to provide electrical and gas safety certificates, and are legally obliged to have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted.
Never, ever, sign a contract without reading it properly. Most university housing departments will be able to look at the contract for you.
If you have any questions about it then talk to the landlord and ask for an explanation. Remember you can ask for clauses to be added or taken away. If they are evasive or defensive it could be a sign that something is wrong.
Also check the length of the tenancy. You don’t want to sign up to pay rent for an entire year if you are leaving after nine months.
Remember, once you’ve put pen to paper that’s it. As Grassflow points out: “You have signed to say everything in the agreement was fine, you agreed to it and made it binding with your signature.”
Location, location, location
The area you live in “has more value than you realise before you move in”, says MagicNMedicine. “Proximity to supermarket/shops is a real goldmine in accommodation when you're a student.”
Other things to consider are public transport links, how close you are to lectures, your favourite bars and hang-outs and people you know.
What looks like a bargain may turn out to be in a dodgy part of town, so check crime rates.
There are other unexpected considerations – like whether you are living next to a football stadium, like Craghyrax. “Check out the area thoroughly. My first rental was around the corner from Carrow Road stadium, and I didn't notice until after taking the property because it wasn't in sight of the house.”
What do you need to provide?
Most rentals are furnished to some degree but double check if you need to provide furniture. The stuff you see when you visit could belong to the current tenant.
You’ll probably need to provide some kitchen equipment, but it’s a good idea to assess that when you move in otherwise you could end up with four kettles and five toasters.
Getting your bedroom sorted is crucial. Doodle_333 recommends two sets of bedding so you don’t have to get it all washed and dried in one day. “On top of that you can think about other optional things e.g. cushions, throw/blanket, pictures, speakers etc.”
If furniture is provided then try to look after it. Any damage may be taken out of your deposit.
And be careful when you are decorating your room, says Sr90. “We all had posters up in one of our student houses and Blu-Tac always leaves a mark when you get rid of it. One of my housemates got charged £40 PER WALL… Two of us actually ended up repainting our rooms so the same didn't happen to us.”
Getting this back can be tricky, as Claireestelle can testify: “We got caught out recently, make sure you thoroughly clean the place before handing the keys back. We lost a bit of our deposit all because I didn't sweep the floor well enough.”
Keep records so you don’t get hit with unexpected bills, says ThePricklyOne.
“Take time and date stamped photos of the property showing the condition before you leave.
“Also get photos of meter readings and receipts of last payments, so you are not hit by someone else's debts.”