So, you’ve lived in halls and want to move on to bigger and better things? Or you don’t fancy the twenty-people-to-one-kitchen-and-bathroom scenario? Then consider renting through a lettings agency.
Location, Location, Location
It’s a cliché, but the area you choose to live in is probably the most important factor in choosing a rental property. After all, it’s going to be your home for the next year. As a student renter, you need to balance a few things out; you want to think about safety, but the more upmarket the area, the higher the rents are. You want to be near to the university, but perhaps also to the nightlife and shops. Think really carefully and research the part of the city, town or village that you are considering moving into, because once you sign that contract, it’s too late to change your mind. If your parents are helping you to pay your rent, then agree a budget with them and visit a few local lettings agencies to see what is on offer; any good agent should be able to recommend areas and properties which match the most important criteria on your property wishlist.
Find a Friend
Having your own space might be a key reason for you to move out of halls and step out into the big wide world of non-student specific rentals, but you are going to get a lot more for your money and have a lot more fun to boot if you can club together with one or more friends to share a tenancy. If you do go down the flatsharing route, though, choose your housemates wisely; after all, you will be spending a lot of time with them! Make sure you choose a property where you all have some personal space. Ensure that you all go together to view the properties that take your fancy and don’t make a snap decision without consulting everyone involved as this can lead to lots of arguments later. And remember to be fair; draw lots on who will have which bedroom, make sure you all pay an equal share of the rent and bills and cut each other some slack – even the best of friends can be trying at times!
Consider the Outside Costs
You’ve found a property that is perfect, and your future housemates love it too. But it’s right at the top end of your monthly budget. Should you take it? Well, the answer is that you should sit down together and work out how much you can genuinely afford to pay each month for all your living costs – that means rent, bills such as electricity, gas, water, TV licence and contents insurance (students are usually exempt from council tax but do check with your local authority), food, text books and other course-related fees and expenses, unforeseen problems such as your laptop breaking down, travel expenses for visiting the family… and your leisure time spends, of course! If you think you can afford the rent when you’ve calculate your monthly expenditure, then go for it! Don’t forget, though, that most agents will also take a hefty deposit and administration fees to set up your tenancy, so your first month renting will most likely also be your most expensive.
Renting through a lettings agent or private landlord that is not geared specifically towards students can be pricey – but rental prices aren’t necessarily set in stone. If you really love a property but just can’t quite afford the rent, then why not see if you can get £25 or £50 a month knocked off the asking price? Sometimes this scheme won’t get you anywhere and it’s not down to the agent to decide if your offer is acceptable or not; agents represent individual private landlords who have total control over whether they accept or decline an offer. It’s always worth asking, however – and the worst answer you can get is “no”. Be careful not to be cheeky, though; landlords won’t take kindly to offers that are far below the asking price, and putting the landlord’s nose out of joint for the sake of saving the price of a takeaway curry or two each month may mean the difference between securing the property you want and losing out altogether when the landlord decides you are not a good bet as a tenant.
Get Yourself a Guarantor
If you’re a student, most letting agencies will insist that you have a guarantor on the contract. This basically means that someone who is working full time takes on the legal responsibility to pay your rent if you fail to pay, and it is a way of ensuring that the rent gets to the landlord even if you’ve spent all your student loan on beer! Most often, a parent will stand as guarantor for their child, but any willing adult who is earning enough to cover your rent payments as well as their own living expenses can stand as guarantor (your agent should be able to advise you on how the rental amount that your guarantor can afford is calculated). Often, if two or three students are living together, then more than one guarantor is put on the contract, splitting the cost of the rent that they are liable to pay. Sit down and discuss the details of the arrangement with your guarantor before they sign the contract, though; if you’ve agreed that all or part of your rent will be paid from your student loan, then honour this agreement and don’t fritter all your cash away. After all, student life is both about fun and growing up – and your parents or other guarantors will respect your independence and adult status a lot more if you stick to the rules that you’ve established between you.
Read Your Tenancy Agreement
That piece of paper which the agent makes you sign on the day you move in is more than just an autograph; the Tenancy Agreement acts as a long list of rules and regulations establishing what you must and mustn’t do during your tenancy. For example, if getting a dog is important to you, then make sure you sign up for a property that allows pets (and many don’t – so take this seriously as you could be breaking the contract). Make sure you understand how your deposit is held as well; your agent should make it clear which Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) your money will be held in (your deposit must, by law, be registered with a national TDS). Also be clear on the procedures you need to follow both at the beginning and at the end of your tenancy – agents will normally expect you to leave the property as you found it, or you might end up paying a hefty chunk from your deposit for cleaning bills and repairs. So make sure you and all your housemates have read the small print before you stick your name on the paper and hand over the cash.
And, Finally, Have Fun!!
This may be the first home that you can really call your own, away from Mum and Dad and the rules and regulations of halls of residence. Of course, you must respect the property and, particularly if it’s furnished, be careful not to cause damage as you will have to pay for anything that you break (beyond the fair wear and tear expected during a tenancy). But it’s also your first chance to live the way that you want to – making the living room a gaming haven with your favourite games console if that’s your thing, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, or finding little knickknacks to brighten up the property and give a personal touch. It’s amazing what a difference a few bright cushions, vases or towels can make. Get your friends and family round and show off your new home – and be proud that you’ve taken a real step towards independent adult living with your first proper rental property.