Most students enjoy staying on campus for the first year of their university life, for the simple reason that they’ve got enough novelty in their academic life without the pressure of finding accommodation as well. However, one would be amazed how quickly time flies, and how soon they’ll need to turn their attention to their second year.
Hopefully you’ll have made friends throughout the year, but there’s a difference between sharing halls and sharing a house. There’s no cleaner for kitchens and bathrooms, and the loud music down the corridor will be much, much closer. Equally, you may have several friends who would all be equally brilliant housemates. Don’t forget that it’s not all about you, think about how everyone would get on as a group – and be wary of anyone with money problems. Living with a couple can also be problematic.
Once you have established who you are going to want to live with, then start hunting. The university itself can help with listings and pinpointing renowned student areas, which are likely to have good transport links and be close to the university. You may also be able to get a good house near other friends and course mates.
House hunting can be quite an exciting time, and visits should be relished. Agree beforehand on what is essential and what isn’t, and how much you can all afford. Factor in the additional extras such as TV licence, utility bills, internet access, Netflix and other potential attractions, but don’t forget that not everyone will want to pay for Sky Sports or contents insurance. Write down a list of questions to ask before you arrive.
Take photographs on your mobile phone as you go through the house. They will be useful later, and can help if one of the group can’t make the initial visit for whatever reason, although they definitely should go at least once before any agreements are signed.
Be honest with yourselves, because you have to live for a year in these rooms. If one room out of the five is too small and nobody could live in it, then don’t take the house unless as a last resort – it will only lead to bitterness down the line.
At the point you’ve found a property that you all like you’ll probably be asked for a deposit. This will secure the home and stop any other groups jumping in. Make sure that you get a receipt and sign the tenancy agreement, which will lay out terms and conditions. Deposits are paid into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme, which gives the renter legal protection.
Before you move all your items into the house take more photographs, particularly if there are any areas of damage or mould; these might be useful when you leave if you want to get your full deposit back, but the best thing to do is ensure that a full inventory has been completed and you inform your landlord of any issues straight away when you become aware of them. Enjoy your year, and try not to do too much damage! A few hi-jinks are probably inevitable but you’ll have to pay for any severe repairs, so be careful when the beers start flowing.
Sadly the year will probably fly by, so don’t leave it too late to start preparing to leave. Remove everything, give all the rooms a thorough clean, and repair anything that’s damaged. Take more pictures - your aim is to leave the property in the same state as those pictures that you took a year ago, which will guarantee the return of your full deposit and smiles all round.