Towards the end of Semester A, the topic of Housing began to appear in conversations with my friends. The University had already sent an email advertising on-campus accommodation for the next year but my friends had a different idea – we wanted to look off-campus. I soon began to realise I know very little about renting and the housing market. It got to a point where I would tell anyone who would listen that they should really teach this kind of thing in school. What have quadratic equations ever done for me since I finished GCSEs?
Luckily, one of my friends had experience in renting and guided our group through the process. We used a site called Uni Homes, which helps you look for student houses near your university with the bills included in the price. There are mixed ideas about renting properties with bills included, some arguing that it is just simpler and a good learning experience whilst others make the point that the landlord makes more profit as all refunds from energy suppliers etc. go straight to them. After some discussion, my group agreed to stick with the bill included option to make it easier for all of us.
Renting off-campus worked out to be roughly £90 cheaper per week than staying in university accommodation. However, one thing you have to consider with renting off-campus is those contracts will be 50 weeks long, whereas University accommodation will be between 42-50 weeks. It still works out cheaper than staying in university accommodation even with the longer contract but different people prioritise different things when looking for housing.
So you have decided to try and find a student house – great!
Housemates: The first thing you need to figure out is who you will be living with but make sure you choose wisely. You do not want to be living with people you do not necessarily get on with, people who you know are messy and are unreliable or people you barely know! I will say this now in case no one has told you yet but DO NOT LIVE WITH YOUR PARTNER. If you are dating someone at university, do not live with them, stuff happens and if a breakup happens it will be a horrible environment to live in. University is not just about having a good social life but you are there to get a degree and give yourself a boost into the working world. Be sensible.
The House: We went to three house viewings. The first house was disgusting. It was very old, looking more like my Great Nan’s house and a museum that had mutated together. The current tenants were looking after it poorly, with rubbish and food all over the floors, mould on the walls, a broken washing machine they hadn’t reported, hair on every kitchen counter and don’t get me started on the bathrooms. It was bad.
The second house was lovely, a different letting agent and landlord, this house was modern, lots of windows, the right amount of bathrooms and rooms we wanted, with a decent-sized kitchen, double beds and we got a good vibe from it. That is important, you have to feel the house, if you get a bad vibe from it then it will not work for you. The third house was very similar but the layout was different and we simply preferred the second house.
Securing the House: So, you find a house you want, the next step is to contact the letting agent. They will reply eagerly, going over the terms of the contract and what they need from everyone. You need to have a UK based guarantor, this is someone who would have to pay your rent if you don’t (so pay your rent on time!) We had to pay a Holding Deposit so the house was taken off the market, this money will then be taken off our first month’s rent. We signed a contract, paid another deposit, this one is the general deposit and we get this back at the end of the tenancy (if we don’t break anything). We also had to show our Student ID and passports for proof of ID.
What happens next: Once you have secured the house, signed the papers (ours was a digital version) and paid the deposit there is not much else to do. We got a deposit safety certificate, have arranged the dates of rent payments to fall just a few days after student finance paydays and won’t get the keys until the time we move in September. I recommend looking at your finances, working out roughly how much you will have to live on per week once you remove the rent payment from your student finance.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a very stressful process, it will require a lot of rational thinking and patience but the end result will be worth it if you take the time to do it properly.