Looking for your first student flat is one of the most exciting things you will do. Moving away from home for the first time, freedom, new flatmates… However, there are many problems that can crop up if you are not prepared. Read on to find out what to look for in your new flat.
1. Don’t Rush
Many people hurry to find their accommodation for the next academic year way in advance, but it’s sensible to take your time and make sure you get the right property for you. It is important to thoroughly research what is out there, especially if this is the first time you have lived away from home. Chat with older students if you can and ask their advice. All kinds of accommodation will be available right up until September.
2. Know what you’re looking for
Student properties come in all shapes and sizes and can vary significantly in terms of size, location and condition so figure out what you do, or don’t want at the outset. Think about who you will be living with – how much room will you need? How close is it to the university, supermarket, local nightlife..?
3. Decide who to live with
Make sure you know and get on with the people that you are going to live with, particularly if you are a first year and have only known your future housemates for a few months. If you are about to start first year and don’t have any friends from home going to the same university, consider student halls as an alternative. Many people end up living with their flatmates right through university, so it may prove to be a good way to meet friends for life!
4. Decide where to live
Often student accommodation, especially private rentals, can be quite far away from campus, particularly in cities where the university campus is spread out over a large area.
Before settling on an area, ask yourself:
- Where is the local supermarket?
- Is it close to my gym, favourite pub or friends?
- Is there public transport nearby?
- How do I get to campus?
5. Know what facilities you want in your student flat
Make sure you know what you are getting for your money. There can be large variation between houses, so think about:
- Are the bedrooms big enough and of equal size? (will prove to be very important)
- How many bathrooms/showers are there?
- Do I need parking? If there is a resident parking scheme, how do I get a permit?
- How do I store my bike?
6. Know your budget
The weekly/monthly rent is only part of your costs. Think about electricity bills, weekly food shop, books/supplies for your course, money for a night at the student union…these things all add up. Do some research before you start viewing properties so that you know what to expect.
7. Find out about the Landlord/Agent
Make sure you know who will be managing the property after you move in. Are they trustworthy and experienced? If dealing with an Agent, are the members of a regulated industry body such as UKALA or ARLA? If dealing direct with a Landlord, are they registered?
8. Decide whether bills inclusive or exclusive is right for you
Whilst arranging your bills yourself (exclusive) is almost certainly likely to work out cheaper than having bills included, some students like the certainty of having fixed monthly outgoings.
Bear in mind that inclusive rents usually have a ‘fair usage allowance’ which means you could pay extra if you use more than normal usage. Find out about the different rents for renting a property either inclusive or exclusive.
9. Make sure your landlord/agent complies with the Deposit Scheme
By law your agent/landlord must place your deposit with a tenancy deposit scheme. There are three different schemes available (these are different depending on whether you are in Scotland or England). Within 14 days you must receive information on which scheme is being used, how to get it back at the end of the tenancy.
What happens if their is a dispute? The scheme is there to protect your deposit and to make sure you get it back at the end of the tenancy. If you don’t receive this information you should seek advice from the university or the local Citizens Advice Bureau.
10. Take an inventory
Don’t be tempted to skip through the inventory and move in as soon as you can. If you don’t go through everything with a fine-toothed comb, then you are leaving yourself open to cash being taken from your deposit. It’s not just furniture and contents that need checking, note if carpets and curtains have been steam-cleaned and check the soft furnishings’ condition. In the first few days of moving in, take a note of all the problems you spot and let the agent or landlord know, preferably in a letter or email then you have a copy should things go wrong.