Nightmare landlords, rising damp and a drug cartel next door...
The Badlands of student renting are the stuff of horror films, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. We’ve got some top tips for savvy student house-hunting to help you survive the ordeal of student renting…
1. Check for damp
We cannot stress the importance of this enough. Damp is not only ugly and makes everything smell a bit funky; it can also ruin your belongings and cause some serious health issues. When you go for your viewing, keep an eye out for any mould patches on the walls or ceiling. Be sure to look next to windows, behind curtains and wardrobes in particular too.
Top tip: If the house smells like paint- be aware. Student landlords are well known for using a lick of paint on their properties just before viewing season starts, rather than getting to the root of the problem and sorting their damp out.
2. Research your letting agency
Talk to people about the letting agencies you’re thinking of renting with. Most of them manage the properties for the landlord, and chances are if there are any problems with your house they’ll be the ones sorting it out. Find out how the lettings agents approach things like routine maintenance and emergency callouts, making sure you go with one you can trust. There are a lot of certified student lettings agencies out there - it’s worth checking in at the Students’ Union to see how they rate them.
A cautionary tale: when I was picking my house for third year, I went with a notoriously bad lettings agency run by a druglord who wrote their contract in Comic Sans. That should have been enough of a warning sign in itself... Months later – and a week before we were due to move in – I got a distraught phone call from a sobbing housemate who’d just opened our door for the first time and found mouldy food in the fridge, and a dead rat in the middle of the kitchen floor. The year that followed was characterised by constant problems with damp, a broken shower that took 2 months to fix (we got very good at using a kettle and a measuring jug to clean), and a wall that would have been more appropriate as a water feature.
The agency didn’t do anything about it, tried to charge us to fix multiple problems that weren’t our fault, and insisted that our house was immaculately clean at the end of our tenancy or they wouldn’t give us our deposit back – a courtesy that was not extended to us when we first moved it. The lesson: research your letting agency and don’t get landed with crooks.
If renting privately: Private landlords can be great and very hands-on (I once rented from an adorable elderly duo)…or you might never hear from then once the tenancy agreement has been signed. Approach with caution and always look for impartial reviews.
3. Talk to the current tenants
No one has a better idea of what your future house is like to live in than the current tenants. They’ll be able to tell you about all the little quirks that won’t be obvious in the fifteen minutes you’ll take to look around. They’ll also be able to tell you more about noisy neighbours, or the landlords and how quick they are to fix problems.
4. Pick your new housemates carefully
This is a biggy. Yes, that hilarious girl from your new Shakespeare module may be your new bestie and town-buddy, but are you still going to be friends after she keeps keep banging on your front door at 4 in the morning and she can’t find her key because she’s gurning too much and the guy she brought back is too drunk to help? Probably not. Annoying housemates are the worse.
And please, never – and we mean NEVER – move in with a group of friends AND your boyfriend/girlfriend or potential future lover. It may seem like a great idea – we all love new relationships and the idea of sex on tap – but is it really a good idea, if you’ve only been going out since Freshers? Think about it: you’re now committing to at least another year of this relationship. If you break up before then, someone’s going to have to sleep on the sofa and eventually start the messy job of finding somewhere new to live. And in the meantime, your housemates have to cope with your shouting matches and post-breakup wailing. It’s not pretty.
5. Keep it clean
Once you have all settled in and the honeymoon period is starting to wear off (did you just find Dave’s dirty congealing mug in your room again??) the most important thing to remember is that keeping the place clean will massively improve everyone’s quality of life, as well as keep the landlords happy. And at the end of the tenancy, you won’t have to spend a blood-curdling 48 hours trying to scrub mould out of kitchen cupboards to get your rental deposit back. Trust us- deposit wrangling is where post-uni friendships go to die.
What’s your top tip for surviving renting as a student? Tell us your thoughts below!