Finding accommodation in an unfamiliar city, or even a familiar city, can be very daunting. Like the majority of students, this is probably the first time you have moved away from home and there are sure to be many questions that you want to ask before making a decision about your accommodation.
The LUSU Accommodation Tool Kit is a comprehensive guide to help you to find the right accommodation, ensure you ask all the relevant questions as well as know your rights as a tenant.
Living off campus can be a great part of your university experience. Some students find it is a natural step once you’ve had a fill of campus life. Moving off campus can allow you to create your own home and make a space that’s truly yours.
Making the choice about where to live and who to live with is a big decision and once made is difficult to change. This section advice you on what to look for in a property and also how to make sure you are fully protected in looking at properties and deciding who to live with and things to think about.
Things to think about
- Will you spend a fortune on travelling to see your friends or going out?
- Is there a bus route nearby?
- How safe is the area?
- Is the launderette within easy reach if the house doesn’t have a washing machine?
- How easy is it to get onto campus?
- Who do you want to live with?
Take your Time
If you’re not sure what you want to do, take your time. Don’t feel pressured into making a decision about where you want to live too soon.
Don’t panic and take the first place you look at, there is an abundance of student housing available, take your time and find the right one for you and your housemates.
Work out what different options will cost you and whether you can afford them
Always go and see any property you’re interested in, with the group you are going to be living with.
Remember to be objective – every landlord wants to rent out their house and will emphasise all the good points – you need to look beyond this.
Choosing your housemates
One of the most difficult tasks in finding a home is deciding who you actually want to live with. You never really know somebody until you’ve lived with them. So get to know people and think realistically about sharing. Are you sure you can live with them for a year? Will they clean the kitchen? Can you rely on them to pay their share of the bills?
Key things to think about in relation to your group are:
- Know your limits and preferences beforehand – do your potential housemates have any bad habits?
- Are you willing to share a bathroom and with how many people?
- Do you want to live with people of the same sex or in a mixed household?
- Will you be willing to supply utensils, etc. that may be shared?
- What is your attitude to tidiness? Does everything have to have its place or can you cope with clutter?
- Are you an early bird or a night owl?
- Do you all have a comparable income? Some tensions can occur when some of the group go out pubbing and clubbing a lot when others can hardly afford to eat
- How many people do you want to live with and how do you feel about various lovers and friends moving in? It’s easy for groups of four and five to extend as partners move in.
Living with others
Even the best property can be a miserable place to live if you are sharing with someone you don’t like. Before you commit think about the following factors that influence the success of sharing responsibility and personal space, even with a long-time friend:
- Noise. Do you need peace and quiet to study? Do they?
- Cleanliness. Are their habits going to conflict with yours?
- Who will be there. Who are their friends and significant other? Who else will be spending time in your home?
- Comfortable with them. Do you enjoy their company? Do you feel safe around them?
- Responsibility. Can you trust them to pay their portion of the rent/utility bills – where not included in the rent?
- Major personality conflicts. Can you handle living with them 24/7 in a confined space?
- Do they respect you? Are you happy to share your privacy, and your belongings?
Deposit: A refundable upfront payment to the landlord to cover costs that they might incur during your tenancy that they aren’t legally required to cover
Letting Fees: Non-refundable payments that need to be made upfront
Guarantor: Someone who signs an agreement to say that they will cover your rent if you are unable to pay
HMO: A House of Multiple Occupation, with three or more unrelated tenants. These often have to be licensed as they have to meet certain safety criteria
EPC: An Energy Performance Certificate, a legal requirement for properties with joint contracts, which shows how efficiently they use energy and how much they cost to heat
Gas Safety Certificate: This demonstrates that gas appliances are working safely, and this should be rechecked each year
Before you sign, are you happy with:
- The property?
- The landlord/agent?
- The people you are moving in with?
- The cost?
- The terms of the agreement?
It’s much easier to say ‘no’ before you sign so think carefully before you sign on the dotted line.
Joining an existing household
If you are thinking of joining an existing household, you’ll want to ask even more questions. So invest a bit more time viewing the property and meeting your potential housemates to help you make an accurate assessment.
Be sure you meet all your potential housemates and consider your decision carefully. Your observations of them and presentation of yourself will be more reliable if you take your time and perhaps seek to arrange a second viewing before making a commitment.
Listen to your gut instincts; they are often right. Write down your observations so you can re-evaluate them later.
Have a frank discussion before signing contracts, living together can make or break some friendships. If you sign too early, you could be tied into a contract sharing with people you don’t really want to. However, if you get it right, you’ll have a great time living off campus together.
If you’re living off campus then we really recommend getting a bus pass. This will help save you loads of money on making the trip onto campus, and avoid the difficulties of parking. If you buy a bus pass in Michaelmas term you’ll get a Purple card discount on it too. In term time there is a bus about every 10 minutes to town and they stop in various places around Lancaster. It is worth checking the local bus routes when viewing potential houses and flats.
When the time comes to move out, there are a few things to think about. See our guidance on moving out of off-campus accommodation.