1. Choosing your housemates
It’s all well and good wanting to live with all the people you’ve just become bezzie mates with. We know that a nine-bedroom house always seems like a good idea at the time. But logically, imagine how much washing up nine people would create… “Shotgun not” springs to mind. Choosing your new housemates is a serious pursuit. The guy that seems like a laugh and goes out 5/7 nights of the week won’t be as hilarious when he’s waking you up all the time at 3am. Once you’ve signed a contract, it isn’t easy to back out of. Make sure you’ve got the essentials covered before you move in: how you’re going to split the bills, make sure the new place is close to your respective campuses and whip up the dreaded cleaning rota which makes for a smooth transition when moving in with new people.
2. When to start searching
A lot of student accommodation gets snapped up pretty early in the academic year. The earlier you begin to house hunt, the more choice you will have out of the properties available. We suggest you start looking in November for the following academic year, especially if you do decide to go through with that nine-bedroom place. With most student places being between 3-5 bedrooms, if you’re looking for more or less than that, your options will be more limited the longer you leave it.
3. Construct a budget
Can you really afford that city centre penthouse apartment? No matter how nice the place is, staying inside a realistic price bracket is fundamental when choosing your next student accommodation. Establishing a budget based on your student finance allowance and any extra money you may earn from a part-time job means you can easily see what you can and cannot afford. We doubt your parents will appreciate coming to rescue after you’ve signed up for a house share you can’t maintain the rent for.
4. Pick an area in the city
Generally, student houses tend to be close to the university and close to a decent supermarket or two, which is why many ‘student areas’ form in a city. What amenities you wish to be close to is an important factor to consider when searching for your next home. Different areas of the city will also have different vibes, some quieter and some busier. You can delve deeper into the different areas of the city in our useful area guide. Keep it as a reference, and use it to make an informed choice on where in the city you’d like to live.
5. Brush on the legal bits
You will have to sign a contract. You will think, “Why are there so many pages?” You do have rights as a tenant and you can speak to people before you sign all of the documents, like the Student’s Advice Center at your university. The tenancy contract is a legally binding document, because of that we recommend you don’t sign it until you have viewed the property and are sure you want to live there. Like we’ve said, once you get in it’s pretty difficult to back out.
The contract will specify how much your rent is, when it should be paid, whether it needs to come from one bank account and if utility bills are included or payable separate. It may also include any instances where you will be charged extra fees, such as: replacing lost keys, late payment of rent or calling out the landlord for problems caused by the tenants.
This section normally takes up a large part of the tenancy contract. Here you will find what you are responsible for when it comes to the home you’re about to sign for. As a tenant, your responsibilities typically include general maintenance, keeping the property clean and tidy, behaving in a respectful manner towards neighbours and, finally, how the property is to be handed back at the end of the tenancy. Read these clauses carefully and ensure you fully understand them before signing the contract.
In the contract it should state what the landlord is responsible for. This will normally include any major house repairs and maintenance, and ensuring the safety of gas, electric and fire at the property. According to Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, a landlord should give 24 hours notice before entering the premises, unless it is an emergency.
Typically, your contract should acknowledgement receipt of the deposit, which should be similar in price to a month’s rent, and how it will be returned to you at the end of your tenancy. If the contract doesn’t say anything about this, then get your landlord or letting agent to amend the contract or provide you with a written receipt.
6. Have a look for yourself
Perhaps the most important part of house hunting is to see the property for yourself, and preferably during daylight hours. This will give you the best idea as to whether you can see yourself living there. By seeing it in person, and not just through images on the Internet, it’ll also give you a chance to ask the current tenants about the house/landlord and any issues they’ve faced.