Advice

The ultimate student housing guide

Esther Kearney puts together a comprehensive guide for what to do and when to do it in terms of student housing

As students, many of us might feel a tad out of our depth when it comes to things like owning or renting a property. For the majority, this will be the first time ever doing anything of the sort, making it crucial to do some research before making that leap of faith.

I went along to one of the Students’ Union chats on housing to hear the advice they gave to first years about to enter the terrifying battlefield that is finding and maintaining a property.

Special thanks to the folks at the Students’ Union for allowing me to tag along and ask questions as well as Nottinghamshire Police for sending me some useful links.

“Lenton is the most popular area but also slightly higher in price”

Stage One: Where?

There are numerous options when it comes to life after halls. To be fair there is even the option of staying in university accommodation. There are private halls in the city centre or ones closer to campus that have close links to the university such as Raleigh Park, St. Peters Court and Broadgate.

Although if you are interested in a change of scenery, be it with a group or independently, then the choices vary from anywhere in the city with the more popular (and closer to campus) areas for students being Lenton, Dunkirk and Beeston.

In the session they discussed Lenton being one of the more popular areas but also being slightly higher in price. They suggest the average rent to be between £75 and £85 for most properties and I have to say that I myself live in Lenton and pay £85 a week without bills. Some personal benefits to living in Lenton would be that it’s close to both university and the city and the bonus of having the Savoy and supermarkets nearby. It’s also pretty much student central and most of my friends live nearby.

“Beeston has a nice town centre and plenty of restaurants and shops around”

For Dunkirk, I have no personal experience but the SU folks mentioned that it’s extremely close to university, so being late shouldn’t be an issue as you can literally roll out of bed and be there in five minutes.

Beeston is where I lived in first year at Albion House and I absolutely loved the atmosphere there. It has a nice town centre and plenty of restaurants and shops around. You’re also a stone’s throw away from the canal and the Attenborough Nature Reserve. The only cons would be that it’s a bit further away from city and campus, and the houses are a bit smaller.

The student union associates were very helpful in advising people to consider bus stops when choosing a place to live, especially if they’re a medical student or perhaps based at a different campus to University Park.

Stage Two: When?

A lot of the time estate agents may give you the impression that you have to move quickly to secure a good house, but the reality is that there are apparently more student beds in Nottingham than there are students.

“The only reason to rush would be if you were trying to secure a 7-10 bed house”

The reps suggested that people shouldn’t start looking until after January exams. Firstly, because the two spikes for drop outs occur either as soon as people get to uni or over Christmas. The bottom line being that you don’t want to have signed a legally binding contract for something that’s still uncertain. That and the fact that friendship groups may change. The only reason to rush would be for if you were trying to secure a 7-10 bed house, as these are rare and tend to get snapped up quickly.

Stage Three: House Viewings

Head to SU Advice in Portland and pick up their leaflet “Finding a New Place”, then turn to the page with the check list and use this as a guide to ask questions when looking around properties. Ensure that you visit a wide variety of properties and ask the tenants their opinions and questions about the place. Remember that they’re your most reliable source of information!

Stage Four: All the Legal Bits

Always, always ask SU Advice to check over your contract! This is something that was heavily emphasised at the meeting and probably one of the most important points to take away. I remember my friends and I contacting the SU to look over ours and it is one of the easiest and most helpful things to do. They can tell you if everything looks okay and underline any grey areas that may be on the sketchy side.

“Really good agents/landlords will take the time to go over all the legalities”

And whilst we’re on the topic of contracts, why don’t we have a little look into what they entail. If you have a joint contract (as is most common) then you and your housemates are all responsible for the total rent. Making it especially important that you get on with the people you live with because if someone unexpectedly drops out it may be left up to the rest of you to either fill their position or make up that rent.

It is also important to know who is looking after your property. Really good agents/landlords will take the time to go over all the legalities, whereas bad ones will want you to sign as soon as possible and get you out the door.

When it comes to signing you will probably be expected to pay a deposit for damages upfront and the first rent instalment. Remember that most fees (e.g. admin) are negotiable. Most of the time agents are getting a lot of money for very little effort. The law hasn’t yet put a cap on fees but states that estate agents have to be transparent.

“always get it in writing”

Stage Five: Any Problems?

There are numerous ways to go through reporting things, especially if your landlord/estate agent is being unresponsive. If you do have an issue such as broken furniture or mould in a room, then the first thing to do is to take pictures and let them know via email.

Another point is always get it in writing. If an estate agent has told you something is going to change/ be fixed in person, ask them to email it to you as well. This way you have evidence.

If problems persist then you can contact the SU for advice or even report them via the City Council’s website and they can evaluate the situation and potentially get involved.

Stage Six: Final Tips

  • When it comes to bills be wary of companies that pay them for you as they often have high premiums. Also, if your property is inclusive of bills, be wary of caps as if you go over you will normally have to pay the excess.
  • If you feel you have been unfairly charged for damages then the SU can advise you on how to challenge this.
  • You can be fined for poor waste management i.e. leaving your bins out on the pavement after bin collection.
  • You can receive fines and warnings for noise complaints.
  • Parking permits cost £70 but you can only have three per house.

Useful Links

https://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/advice/housing-advice/

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/student-housing/students-in-private-rented-accommodation/student-housing-living-in-a-house-in-multiple-occupation-hmo/

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/student-housing/students-in-private-rented-accommodation/student-housing-problems-with-repairs/

https://myaccount.nottinghamcity.gov.uk

 

Esther Kearney

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Image courtesy of Tim Green on Flickr. License here.

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