Finding the perfect student house
How to find accommodation for your budding student that you wouldn’t mind living in yourself…
Student living has come on leaps and bounds – no longer do students have to put up with mould, peeling wallpaper and dodgy light fittings. There are now purpose-built student complexes that offer all the mod cons, with easy access to wherever they are studying – so no excuses about not being able to get to lectures!
Moving out of home for the first time can be an intimidating and nerve-wracking experience for students. But if your son or daughter has done their research and has sorted the accommodation out early on, then you’ll both find the experience less stressful than it could have been.
There are several options open to him (we’ll keep it male for the purposes of the article) and for the first year, living in the university halls of residence – generally located on campus or within easy reach of the university – will enable him to make new friends and adapt to living away from the family home in a protected environment.
But once year two comes then this is the time to find a suitable place to stay, usually in the private rented sector and most students will choose a house or flat share at this point.
A decent place to stay
Private sector halls of residence are a fairly recent addition to the choices available to students. These properties are purpose-built and are designed around the principles of a shared house with four or five single rooms grouped around a communal kitchen. The building is usually a multi-storey block and the actual accommodation is of a similar standard to a three-star hotel with en-suite bathrooms for everyone and large communal areas. They do tend to be more expensive than non-purpose built private house or flat shares, but utility bills, contents insurance and freewire internet are usually included in the price, so your son will know where he is with his budget. Another plus is that there is usually somewhere to do the laundry which will save you having to clean your son’s entire wardrobe every term! Another plus is that accessible rooms will be available for students with disabilities.
Alternative options include a house share in a private house where the rent is paid to a landlord; a room in a private house, so your child will essentially be living with his landlord or lady, or a private flat. A more drastic but potentially profitable move would be to become a buy-to-let landlord and buy a house to rent to your son and his trusted friends.
Choose the right area
Location, location, location is all important. Knowing that your child has easy access to the university and is not having to spend hours a day travelling is vital for productive studying. But he also needs to consider where he goes out at night and how easy it will be to get home when it’s late. And ensure there are amenities like a supermarket or a decent food shop near by, so he doesn’t have to heave heavy bags for miles – chances are he will live on dodgy takeaways for three years if shopping is difficult!
If he is likely to need weekend work, then look for somewhere that has good access to an area where he’ll be able to find a suitable job.
Plus, living in an area which is full of students is not as ideal as it sounds. For one, burglaries in student houses are rife – lots of electrical equipment and a disregard for house security makes them rich pickings for thieves. Also, when you are a student, house and garden maintenance are not number one priorities and it is likely the area may be run down and a bit, well, shabby.
Remember, a deposit will be required to secure the room or house which the landlord or agent will hang on to. It is normally a calendar month’s rent, so the first month means he will be essentially paying two months’ rent. If the property is left in the same condition that it was in when the let started, then the deposit money should be returned in full, but any damages that are caused will mean money is docked.
Begin the house hunt
A good place to start is the university accommodation office – it usually provides lists of recommended local landlords and letting agents. Letting agents look for suitable accommodation on behalf of the landlord and charge for this, but the student may be charged admin fees for finding references or other related costs.
Student unions (SU) may also be able to help – some are organised to do this, while a small minority may take no interest. Most SU officers should be able to give you advice, such as where the majority of students live.
Another possible way to find your son a place to live is student accommodation websites, where landlords or agents will advertise appropriate accommodation, which can be searched for by university or area. Property and room prices are included on the sites and often there is a budgeting tool, which makes it easier to work out if it is affordable. The main advantage is that online searching is much quicker than visiting 10 to 15 letting agents.
You’ve helped your child find a house share, he’s signed the contract and now he’s moving in. But what should you, as a parent, be advising him to do next?
- Take meter readings if he’s paying for gas and electricity.
- Call the gas and electricity companies and give them the meter reading and the date he moved in. This should ensure he doesn’t get charged for energy used by the previous occupants.
- Ask the gas and electricity companies to put all the housemates’ names on the new bill. This will guarantee that just one housemate doesn’t get charged for everyone else’s bill.
- Check the house over to make sure he is happy that it’s in the state it was when he agreed to take it.
- Report any damage to the landlord instantly. This includes fire blankets and extinguishers that may have been tampered with or used.
- Check that there are enough keys for all the housemates. If not, ask the landlord to cut some extras.
- Get insurance if he hasn’t done so already. He’ll need cover for the contents of his room.
- Make sure he has the keys for any window locks. And look out for windows screwed or painted shut and ask his landlord to fix them.
- Test the smoke alarms.
- Get a TV licence – this’ll cost £145.50 a year.
- Check to see if there is anywhere to plumb a washing machine in.
Sarah says… ‘Student living should be more about enjoyment and learning, than where you live. Socialising is essential so make sure you’re sharing with like-minded people.’
The above feature was published in at home with Sarah Beeny in May 2011. Click here for more Sarah Beeny.