Tips for Choosing Accommodation in the Second Year......(31 Posts)
Many posters have commented on how their DCs are starting to look for accommodation for next year, so I thought it might be useful if those of us who have older DCs could pass on some tips.
I know that as students they are adults and many think that students should be totally independent and that it is almost rite of passage to live in a mouldy flat etc. if however, you are like me and had a DD who had never had to choose a flat with friends before but needed a few pointers, then maybe we can all compile a thread of tips.....
1. Be wary of a newly painted bathroom. In my DD's experience a number of Landlords paint bathrooms before the new students look round to hid the mould. She and her friends fell for this one.
2. Do ask the current students about how much they have paid for bills etc if they are not included.
3. The current tenants do get slightly fed up of new students coming round to view their house for the following year. So my DC found that if you asked a direct question they would answer, but they wouldn't necessarily volunteer extra information about the pros and cons (especially) of the house as they wanted the contract to be signed ASAP, so that there would be no more viewing disturbing them.
1b. The LL says that they know about a problem and will put it right during the summer. Yeah right.
4. Check the inventory to see how much of the furniture is the LL's and how much is the tenants' (so it won't be there next year!).
Definitely check for mould and damp. Dd lived in a house, her room was ok, the bathroom was damp with constantly leaking shower and one of her housemate's room was black with mould and freezing cold at the onset of Autumn!
Agree with the fresh paint = hides mould.
DD2 is in a house which had had a fresh coat of paint and looked great... now they all have mouldy clothes, a massive damp problem and a LL who couldn't give a monkeys
She is going back to halls for her final year as she doesn't want the hassle..also shared bills can be a pain, and student houses tend to be cold
Get her to sit down with her flatmates and write a checklist of 'must have' (keep this list as short as possible), 'would be nice to have' and 'absolutely not if' features. Print this checklist off and take it around every house they see - it makes it far easier to compare things objectively, and it stops you forgetting to check if there's a tumble dryer or not. For the same reason, take pictures (but ask the current tenant's permission if they're there).
Don't just look at the house - look at the letting agent and landlord too. I found that asking lots (and lots, and lots) of questions about the house, their practices and so on was quite an effective technique in weeding out the shysters. The rubbish ones started to get defensive, but my second year landlord (who was really quite good as landlords go) answered them all calmly and patiently. If you're serious about a house, pop back at a later date, knock on the door and ask the current tenants what the landlord / agent is like without the LL / LA present.
Also, never rent a house that's midway through renovations. Once you've signed the contract, you're legally bound to pay it with no guarantee that they will actually finish the renovations.
Finally, shop around, and don't be pressured into taking a house ("I've got someone else coming in to sign for it tomorrow, but it's first come first served so you can only have the house if you sign today") and depending on location (and how many houses there are available locally) don't be afraid to wait until well after xmas - don't (like most freshers) get drawn into the hype about "all the good ones will be gone". Around where I am, by March the LAs are getting desperate and are willing to haggle over price for some pretty nice houses.
If you are looking at a house that is due to be renovated, make sure that there is a list of works to be completed drawn up as part of the contract. Then if they are not done, or anything else agreed, like a new washing machine, the LL is in default and will have to compensate or agree to cancel the contract.
On damp, if there are several occupants, tenants should always leave the bathroom door open when bathroom is not in use, or if there is no other ventilation, leave the bathroom window slightly ajar. (Ask for a window lock if need be.) Plus consider whether clothes might be dried in another room. That will go a long way to minimising any damp caused by condensation. That and a good bath mat and your landlord should love you.
I second waiting. Unless you are in an area with real shortages, or staying for the summer, you are much better off signing a 9 month contact in Sept than a 12 month one in June.
Always get the contract checked by someone who knows about them before you sign (often the student's union will do this).
In some Uni cities you would get a totally crap property in a crap location if you wait though, eg in Bristol. The best properties get snapped up in January and there are well known good landlords. It pays, wherever you are, to know the location you want to live in, be discerning about quality of property, budget for it, and look at the property quickly if you have to. The next lot to look round were already at the front door of my DDs 2nd year property when she and her friends were inside. My DDs group got it but I was amazed how quickly some properties let. The Uni told them to wait, but no-one took any notice. If it is a good property it will be snapped up because the market is buoyant.
The bad news was that the rental period was for a year but any maintenance was done (cheerily) within 48 hours via the resident caretaker next door. It was freshly decorated (no damp), it was well insulated hence lower bills, everything worked, had two bathrooms, bike storage, communal gardens with barbecue and within a short walk of lectures, shops, union, and everything desirable about that part of the city.
If a property is described as a party flat, leave well alone. Don't go for a flat with a bedroom in the cellar. If it looks shabby, it will probably stay that way. If it's in a dodgy area, that won't change either. Go through an agent and don't leave them alone until any outstanding work is completed. Better still, don't take on a flat that needs obvious work doing to it. Be prepared to pay a bit more for peace of mind. Take photos and send them back to Mum and Dad if in any doubt!
Lastly, it is surprisingly difficult for language students on their 3rd year abroad to look at property for their 4th year back at Uni. Try and finalise living arrangement during the Christmas holidays or earlier.
Ventilation. Lack-of causes is the biggest cause of mould in bathrooms/kitchens/bedrooms. When looking round, check for extractor fans (often auto-linked to light switches), heating in bathrooms and streaming condensation on windows.
Students can often be stupid about opening windows - a totally sealed flat will be running with condensation. If they leave windows open a crack regularly, they avoid lots of mould/smelly issues. This can be incredibly hard for them to grasp!
But echo advice as above - older/unrenovated houses are usually the worst. They may look quaint or may be cheaper, but a newer flat/house will be better insulated and have better heating/ventilation. They'll spend far less on heating bills if they dont have whopping great Victorian rooms to heat.
What about tips for choosing flatmates? I get the impression this is almost as big an issue! They need to agree beforehand how bills will be split (eg., if someone is going to stay over Christmas vac, will that person cover heating/gas on their own). It's a major hassle if you find after you've moved in that one person is a pisstaker or mummy's little darling who never heard of budgeting.
Thanks, lots of things there that I hadn't thought of. Keep them coming! Also, when we were looking for accommodation, I couldn't go with my DH&DS so made them take photos of the rooms from all angles. It meant they could compare later - and new accommodation won hands down but cost far more.
DS is hoping to sign his contract for next years house early next week.
Looking around now, you can chat to the students living in the places and get their insider knowledge. Persuading some friends to get up early on a Saturday to do the viewing though takes some doing
He has seen some terrible places though! They are looking for places with all bills included so no worries on bill sharing. Good places in his city are already going so when you find one that is good you have to move fast as thousands of other students are also looking. (1 Huge & 1 large uni in city).
When dd shared, they pulled straws for the rooms to save arguments. Then negotiated with each other on swaps etc
Get them to discuss their domestic habits, DD had 3 house mates. Dd and one other were immaculate the other two didn't know how to wash a dish or lift a cup after themselves. It cause an awful lot of aggro between them. Although they were all very close at secondary. They are still friends now but it did cause unnecessary angst.
To add to the above...
If there is a housing fair or other help provided by the Uni take it.
Check out local landlord and agent accreditation schemes.
Check the contract very thoroughly - if the Uni provides a standard or sample contract then compare it to the landlords.
Consider setting up a joint bank account for household expenses to minimise money hassles with a direct debit system.
Talk through some house ground rules before you commit to living with people!
Wish I'd seen this thread last week. I called DS as hadn't heard from him for a fortnight but he was "too busy to talk, I'm choosing a house".
He then fwded the webpage of the house he and six others have chosen (apparently the girls went to see it and liked it), and that was that. First one they looked at .
It does look good though, big living room with leather sofas, 51 inch telly with Virgin package, huge kitchen with granite worktops and 2 limestone bathrooms for £90 a week each.
I don't think it would have occurred to him to ask his parents advice
About the room allocation, the girls have decided DS has to sleep in the only downstairs bedroom because it's in a roughish area of Liverpool (Aigburth) and if they get burgled he can deal with them
Poor boy! Although I did notice that in DS's flat all the boys are nearer to the door, allocated their rooms by the owners.
apparently they want him on the ground floor because he's in the Army Reserve, a Black Belt at Karate and does boxing and MMA.
Occasionally I've come home unexpectedly when ds was in and it's been like Cato from the Pink Panther
Quite apart from choosing the house, try to get an agreement with housemates on attitudes to heating etc. DD has had a miserable few weeks as one boy has opposed any use of heating at all and no one else will stand up to him although they did balk at his unilateral decision to take out light bulbs to save power. Currently the heating is being put on for an hour, turned off for an hour, back on again for one - so all the energy is going into raising the temp only for it to cool again. It's so wrongheaded but he won't listen to reason. She's asked if they can run heating for one day, measure energy usage on the meters, calculate how much it costs and then discuss whether they can all afford it - flat refusal.
Yes fuel bills are higher but between 7 people they should be able to afford better than they currently have. It never occurred to her to talk about it before agreeing to share as it never occurred to her that anyone would think it a good idea to have no heating in a Northern British city in the middle of winter.
Fuel costs and food storage/cleaning are the biggest causes of fights.
I would make sure my DC's were compeletely confident with who they were living with and work out agreements about the above before they move in together.
I lived in a freezing cold houseshare in my student years and had to put the hairdryer over myself & my duvet to keep warm. Now I'd advise buying a space heater!
mumblechum Aigburth's perfectly safe and I certainly wouldn't call it rough. There are other areas I wouldn't
let want DD to live in.
BTW he'll love Lark Lane with all its bars and restaurants
I've been looking at rentals on rightmove with DD but they're less than £20 cheaper than her private halls and she'd probably have to pay bus fare etc.
notsoskinny thanks for the reassurance. I'm just basing it on what it was like 20 years ago when we lived in Woolton. Hopefully it's nicer now
In most university cities it is perfectly possible to find decent accomadation in August. Where do you think students who get in via clearing/insurance and don't have a place in halls live?
In general, I think being willing to live more than a 10 minute walk from the university will give more choice and lower prices!
I also second the advice that it is best to discuss attitudes to certain things, e.g. heating, bills, mess, washing up, guests staying over, socialising, parties, smoking, pets etc before agreeing to live together! Anyone who has a really draconian view on any of these things is probably not the best person to live with! Living in shared accomadation will always take a bit of compromise, and anyone who is not willing to negotiate about one issue (unless for a good reason e.g. health reasons for needing the heating on) will probably not be into compromising on others.
Definately ask the current students what the landlord/letting agent have been like (if possible), and try to get recomendations from third years, with a bit more experience under their belt about where is nice to live/what letting agencies to avoid.
Second getting the contract checked by the SU if they can. When moving in, definately check the inventory etc. This is often a way that unscrupulous landlords try to screw students out of their deposit- saying things are totally fine when they aren't. They should check it, make any needed alterations and then hand it back.
Finally, try to avoid contracts which are "jointly and severably liable" if you can. These make everyone liable for all of the rent, so if others don't pay/drop out/leave the house, then anyone still living there can be chased for their remaining rent.
Room allocation should be done by picking the keys from a bowl at random.
re room choosing - much better to do allocations by pulling numbers out of a hat, rather than actual rooms - so whoever gets number 1 gets first choice, number 2 gets second choice, etc. otherwise if people have different preferences it can result in noone getting what they want!
slow it may be possible for freshers to find individual rooms in August but many 2nd years+ want to live in a group so looking for a house in most student areas would be a real risk in August.
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