Going to university can be one of the most exciting and daunting times in your life. It’s a huge change, and it’s a step that requires a lot of planning and commitment, in addition to emotional growth as you leave behind loved ones and familiarity. Alongside your studies, the university gives you a new sense of freedom, allowing you to have independence financially, socially and personally. Included in this is the responsibility of living away from home. Although some people decide to carry on living at their family home whilst they study, students who opt to go to universities far from home have the responsibility of finding a place to live. This student survival guide will help you navigate this near experience.
In the United Kingdom, many universities allocate campus accommodation for their first-year students, often placing them with six to eight other ‘freshers’ (first-year students) in an attempt for you to make friends and settle in with ease. Campus accommodation is beneficial for first-year students, as it enables them to be close to the learning facilities and explore the surrounding areas safely.
The Ultimate Student Accommodation Survival Guide
However, after the first year, it is common for students to be responsible for finding their accommodation that is off the campus grounds, the same applies to international students who might stay for a semester or a full academic year. This means dealing with student landlords and overseeing legal paperwork, organising finances and liaising moving dates without the hand-holding aid of parents or guardians. This can be an extremely anxious process, and if it's your first time dealing with student landlords, then you may find the process overwhelming. In order to make the experience as stress-free and enjoyable as possible, We Buy Any Home have put together a small survival guide to help you.
1. Consider All Living Arrangements
Living in university halls can be a great way to settle into university life. Although being forced to live with strangers may seem like a hellish idea, in the beginning, it allows you to bond with people who are in a similar situation and create friendships without social issues such as stereotyping and scrutinising people based on appearances. However, if this is not appealing to you and you prefer to choose your place to stay in then you will be responsible for your accommodation. Keep this in mind as part of your student survival guide.
Before you put a deposit down on any old student flat/house, consider all your living arrangements. Co-living spaces are the most popular option, which includes an independent bedroom and bathroom, but shared communal areas such as the lounge, kitchen and terrace. If this doesn’t suit you, there are other options available. You can pay for a flat share (similar to campus living where you are put with a mix of students), you can live alone, or you live with other likewise students. Whatever your choice is, it’s a good idea to consider all the options available and decide which one suits you best.
2. Finding the Right Place
Your budget will play a huge role in what time of property you decide on, in addition to other aspects like transport options, amenities, and how far you are from your university. Begin to look for a property early, ideally 6-8 weeks after your course begins. This way you have varied options of places to choose from. Think about what you want from this house. Are you comfortable with a communal bathroom? Would you mind sleeping in a ground floor bedroom? How big are the bedrooms and do you need a double bed? All these things are vital questions to ask before you agree to any viewings or sign any paperwork.
3. Understanding Finances
Finance is a huge part of living as a student. The notorious joke that students struggle with money and finance management bears a sad element of truth, and due to this, it's important to be savvy with finances. Your budget is essential to figuring out which area is perfect for you, and you will need to consider other factors other than the monthly rent, such as:
▫ Are mandatory bills included in the monthly fee? (Such as water, electricity, gas, broadband).
▫ Are you going to be paying for optional features such as TV license, TV and streaming subscriptions and content insurance? Which is commonly paid in the United Kingdom.
▫ Are you exempt from council tax? (FYI: most students are exempt, but circumstances may vary).
Budgeting your finances beforehand is a great way to see what you can afford, it is a way of preventing living outside of your means. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you are living with people who are going off a significantly different budget. They may not understand your financial situation as every situation varies and not everybody may have the luxury of a job or family help. This is a key aspect of the student survival guide, don't mess around with your finance.
4. Use a Guarantor
A guarantor is a trusted individual (usually a guardian or older family member) who takes responsibility for a renter's debt under contractual obligations after they have provided ID, their address and three months' worth of bank statements.
If for one reason or another you can't afford to make payments, your debts will be passed across to your guarantor. It's extremely worthwhile allowing your guarantor to read over a copy of your contract, just to see if there is anything you may have missed. Sometimes people have the misfortune of dealing with terrible landlords, so it's worth checking things over before you end up in a sticky situation.
The guarantor figure seems to be a common request in housing contracts all over Europe, especially in France, where it appears to be stricter than other European countries. Without a guarantor, it is impossible to lease any accommodation in France. Erasmus Play housing search engine works closely with some accommodation providers that do NOT require any guarantors to tenants. These accommodation providers offer themselves as guarantors to their tenants with a NO GUARANTOR POLICY.
5. The Contract
Once the viewings and other particulars are sorted, it's time to sign the contract, which is typically called an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), it might come under different names in different countries but the principles are the same. This forms the basis of your rental agreement and agrees on details including rent payable (broken down into monthly, weekly, fortnightly), method of payment, deposits required, length of tenancy, what you are responsible for (for example water, gas, council tax), what comes with the house, and signatures from landlord and renter.
It's crucial that you keep a copy of the contract and do not misplace it- as this is what you will be expected to refer to in the case of a disagreement.
6. Other Tips
In case that wasn’t enough information, here are a few more things to consider and hacks to live by when you're a renting student:
- Take pictures of any damaged property or worn-down furniture upon your arrival and report it to your landlord in the first few hours- this will stop you from being charged for damages at the end of your tenancy.
- When looking for housemates, pick you them carefully. You may think they're a great person personality-wise, but what are they like as a housemate? Are they messy? A party animal? You don’t want to fall out with newly made friends over living habits.
- Search and compare as many accommodations as you can. Ask all the questions you might have alongside the legal documentation you need to know about this new place. This way you know exactly what you are going to be walking into on the day of moving in.
- Assess the surrounding area and ask about neighbours, read about the neighbourhood. You may live in a student house that belongs to a residential area- this may lead to crosswords if you’re partial to throwing a party.
- Ask about the finer details. What are the rules regarding sticking things on the wall? Are the mattresses fresh? Some places come with cleaners so you may want to enquire about that. Also, ask about emergency contacts and who is available in case of a lost key or late-night disaster.
With this student survival guide, we hope to have prepared you to cope with what awaits in your new adventure. Enjoy it to the fullest as it is a journey of a life time.