Choosing your off – campus accommodation can certainly feel like a nightmare- especially if it’s your first time. Here’s how to get the best out of it…
It’s that time of year again, when students start looking for next year’s accommodation. (I’m actually writing this whilst I wait for a group to look round my flat). Having been through some serious drama with flatmates and student flats, I thought I’d share my tips for moving into off-campus accommodation…
Before you Choose a House
Choosing who to live with is a strangely difficult task. Whilst your course friends and current flatmates might be people you really get on with, something happens in second year, and the people you live with matter hugely. I guarantee that there will be a falling out in second year. Everyone I know has been through it. My best advice is to live with people you know well enough that you can forgive, forget and move on. I’m lucky to have lived with the same group (minus a couple of people along the way) since first year. We know each other well enough that we’re happy to have conversations when people aren’t pulling their weight.
Viewing the house
The key thing that everyone will tell you when looking at a new flat is to check the state of it. This doesn’t just apply to student flats, but I know of more than a few student landlords who try to take shortcuts. Students often aren’t aware of their rental rights. I’ve learnt that you have to look for things like damp and mould especially- if you spot it, ask the landlords or letting agent if it’s something that will be fixed before you might move in. You’ll be able to tell if they’re fobbing you off.
Another thing to look out for is the state of the windows and radiators. In particular, keep an eye out for a draught- heating is expensive to have on all the time and you don’t want to be so cold you can’t type out an essay. If the house is draughty then it won’t hold any of the heat you put into a room- a massive waste of valuable student loan.
Moving in Day
Take photos of everything
Once you’ve signed the tenancy agreement and moved in, the first thing you should do is take photos of everything. Off-campus accommodation can be sub-standard. Document any stains, blue tack marks and loose hinges. You should report anything like a broken door or leaky toilet to the landlord or letting agent straight away. Check your tenancy agreement for what repairs you are responsible for, and what they are. If issues arise, tell them immediately. Taking photos of what it looks like when you move in prevents landlords from withholding your deposit for damage you didn’t cause.
It’s also worthwhile to take an inventory. Write down everything that comes with your room and the communal areas, and the state of them. Your landlord might provide you with one, but if not, make sure you have one and the photos to match. You should also take a meter reading, even if the landlords say they have already submitted one for you. This makes sure you are only paying for when you are in the house, not any standing charges the house may have had over the summer if it was empty.
Talk to housemates about expectations
The key to avoiding conflict is to be upfront about everything from the beginning. Have a house meeting when you move in to set out some ground rules that suit everyone. If your bills aren’t included in your rent, agree how you’ll split it. You could set up a standing order to one person monthly to pay them, have everyone responsible for a separate bill to spread the responsibility, or something else that works for your group. Whatever you choose, make sure that one person isn’t going to be short of money every month because they’ve paid every bill and not been paid back. You could agree a monthly budget, and one person could set up a savings account for it to go into. (Check out our tips for making your loan last here)
Finally, if possible, find somewhere off-campus that isn’t too far from university. No matter how good your intentions, you won’t make your 9 am if you have far to travel.