It’s been a while since I did one of these adulting articles!
I’ve been in uni navigating foundation year, and while this has been a very ‘grown up’ experience- getting into halls is relatively straightforward. Finding a house is a little bit more of a milestone.
At the end of first term there is a mad whirlwind hysteria to sign a second-year house.
While I had every intention to delay signing, a week before breaking up for Christmas- I found the perfect house and flatmates to go with it. So I signed.
I had every intent to delay because in general terms, student landlords are the devil; and I want no part in their cons.
First of all, at least in Sheffield, there is an abundance of student houses available throughout the year. Contracts, once signed, are hard to get out of so it is really important to live with people you know will not drive you insane in the space of an 8-month tenancy. Good landlords will not pressure you.
Because landlords create such a hysteria (as a marketing technique)- naïve and terrified students who have been viciously thrust into adulthood are obviously gonna sign without checking things over. The estate agent assistant was surprised when I said I wanted to read over a mock up contract before signing. It’s really easy to get swept in hysteria- I’ve nearly fallen into the trap many times.
Students know it’s the done thing to sign early, so they will. This creates the illusion that properties are running out (when they’re actually being added in bursts throughout the year), so more people sign. Then, before you know it, everyone you like has already signed and you’re a billy no mates.
(You will always find housemates- but it doesnt feel nice to be the odd one out).
This marketing technique works in the favour of (predominantly negligent) landlords each year- and while I buckled this year, I want to add to the conversation about this being a piss take.
As mentioned, depending on your city there is usually an abundance of student properties. As they are in such high demand, landlords put the rent up because they know students will have no choice to pay them, especially if they wait to secure a property until later on in the year. So though property should be cheap due to the quantity of them, tenants end up getting unnecessarily ripped off.
Sheffield University’s welfare officer is an avid campaigner for ‘taking time to sign’- and they have really informative articles. Sheffield uni even has an agency (SmartMove Sheffield) to help students become informed and know what to look for.
As far as renting goes- you want to make sure first of all that the property is well kept.
No damp or black mould. You can ask if there is a history of these things as I believe it is a legal requirement to disclose this information.
You want to check the security of the front and black door, ensuring the locking system is good and there’s no gaps which would make the property vulnerable to get broken into.
In general terms, burglars target student areas because they know students have fancy gadgets and are vulnerable. So security is important, definitely look into the location you’re intending to live. If there is a security system/ burglar alarm that’s a massive bonus.
Also check to see if the bills are all inclusive and if all inclusive bills are a reasonable price. In Sheffield, all inclusive bills for more than about 4 people are most cost effective, because it includes gas, electric, wifi, a television licence, and water. It adds up to an average of an extra £12-15 per week, which on top of a £85 per week contract ends up being a lot more manageable.
As far as price goes, look at as many properties in the area as you can for a feel of what average rent price is. This is dependent on where you go to uni.
When you’ve found a property you like the look of- check to see if it’s a group or individual contract.
Individual contracts mean everyone is responsible for their bills and fulfilling their contract, group contracts mean there is one lead tenant responsible for getting the deposit back at the end and (sometimes) making sure rent is paid on time.
If a contract requires you to put down a guarantor- this gets many people caught out.
Guarantors are people you appoint to be responsible for paying your bills if you can’t.
There have been instances where someone has not put down a guarantor and then other guarantors become responsible for paying them out of their debt. People have been in £8000+ debt before because someone has dropped out of their tenancy with no intention of paying their owed money back.
You do have the option of finding another tenant to take over that contract, but again- this is a burden and a gamble with money that you could do without the stress of.
For this reason, an individual contract (or a contract without a guarantor necessary) may be preferable. But there are pros and cons to each and this is something that should be looked into before you’re rushed into signing.
There are companies (such as housing hand) that can act as a guarantor for you. For a set price per month/ bulk payment for a year, this company is like an insurance guarantor to make sure your parents don’t get lumbered with your financial misfortune. That could be something worth looking into.
Also, looking at the estate agents reviews on trustpilot, or checking Marks Out Of Tenancy is really advisable as you do NOT want to be rushed into signing a property that isn’t taken care of.
The only other thing worth mentioning is making sure the property has a SNUG standard, this will be advertised on their website.
Even if you have found a property, these are the things you should make sure you look at before you get excited/ hysterical and sign on an impulse.
Good luck! It will all work out in the end. Uni’s often do housemate finder fairs for those who still have no plans in January/ February- there will always be someone in the same boat as you.
Hope this helped someone.
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