So, you’ve made it through your first year at University relatively unscathed. If you were in Halls of Residence, you’ll no doubt be needing to sort out a new roof over your head for your second year.

Living in Halls on, or near, the University campus will have been convenient and relatively easy, but now it’s up to you to get the ball rolling in the search for new private accommodation.

Don’t panic though. There’s a huge choice of private rental properties out there. What’s more, living in private rented property, you get to choose where you live and who with. However, it’s not as simple as breezing into a room in Halls. You’ve a lot to consider and you’ll find these five things to watch out for really helpful. Crack on though as the best value accommodation gets snapped up quick.

1. Who’s having which room?

This is one of the biggies and it’s something you need to get straight right from the start of your tenancy agreement. No one bedroom is the same in a shared student house. It’s not like Halls of Residence. They come in all different shapes and sizes, each with good and bad points. So, if you all move in together at the same time into a shared house, you need to decide between yourselves who has which room. You could draw lots and leave it all to luck or you could price the larger and better rooms more than the smaller or poorer ones. You could also rotate them and change room every new term. Either way, agree form the start and stick to it to avoid any falling out with friends.

2. Is there any damp?

Many student houses can be pretty grim and damp is not unusual. Living in a damp house is not a nice experience so it’s one to avoid. We’re not expecting you to have the knowledge of a building surveyor, but when you’re looking around a property, look for telltale signs of damp. Damp, musty smells. Mould or mildew on walls, floors or ceilings that feel cold or damp. Lifting or peeling wallpaper. Condensation on windows. Dark or discoloured patches on walls or plaster. If in doubt, get your mum and dad to check out the place as they’ll spot things you won’t.

3. What’s the heating and insulation like?

There’s only one thing worse than a damp house… a cold and damp house. Ask the landlord about the insulation in the house and how old the boiler is and how often it is serviced – don’t believe them? Politely ask to see paperwork. Are the relatively new and windows double glazed? Is the water tank lagged? Are there any bad drafts? Is there cavity wall and loft insulation? You’ll be amazed at the difference good insulation and efficient central heating and hot water can make to not only the feel of a house but also the size of the energy bills.

4. Are the appliances included and do they work?

Don’t always assume that the appliances you see in a house are included in the rent. Some may, between viewing and moving in, be moved to another of the landlord’s properties. They could even be a previous tenant’s. Don’t just check if they’re included, ask how old they are and also check yourself whether they actually work. If they don’t, ensure that they are repaired or replaced before you move in.

5. Check out safety and security

Some rented properties are very well maintained and secured. However, landlords rent out properties to make money, so if they can avoid paying for things like extra locks or electrical maintenance, they might as it eats into their profits. Things to check for when viewing a house are lifesavers like a fire safety blanket and fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Ask to see the landlord’s up-to-date gas safety record for the property. Look for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and check they’re working. Is there any exposed wiring, faulty plugs or lights? Does the furniture and furnishings comply with Fire Safety Regulations (1998)? Are there keys for any window locks? Is there a burglar alarm and does it work? Are the exterior door locks strong and do they meet British Standards standards?

6. Watch out for pests

Student houses can have problems with infestations by pests ranging from flies, cockroaches and slugs right up to mice pigeons and even rats! Often, it’s caused by previous tenants leaving overflowing bins and food lying around. To check, have a look inside kitchen cupboards, on work surfaces and in areas around the bins and the fridge. If you see traps, slug tails or small droppings, then it’s likely you won’t just be sharing the house with your friends.

7. Keeping it clean

Household chores won’t be top of your list of priorities when you’re at Uni, but if you keep on top of things like cleaning, you’ll not only have a smarter, more hygienic place to live, it won’t be a nightmare when you eventually move out. Check the place includes a hoover and see if you can get the landlord to pay for a proper deep clean before you move in so you’re off to a good start. Then bite the bullet and get down to a cheap supermarket and buy a full set of cleaning products for the kitchen, bathroom, carpets and surfaces. Make sure you get plenty of cloths and a mop and bucket too. Then set a cleaning rota for your communal areas and stick to it.

8. What are the neighbours like?

It’s tricky to tell before you move in, but if you can, pop round at different times during the day and see who your neighbours are. You’re going to be separated by just a wall or floor for the next year or longer, so it’s worth checking them out. Bad ones can make your life a misery. If they’re party animals, you may end up sleep deprived or joining in. It depends which side your bread’s buttered, but it’s worth knowing what you’re letting yourself into.

9. See through any gimmicks

Some landlords might offer you incentives, gimmicks or freebies to rent their place. It could be no utility bills or a huge widescreen TV for the lounge. See through them by asking yourself why and how are they offering these. You’ll more than likely find that the rent is jacked up beyond the going rate to compensate. If it looks too good to be true, be suspicious. Landlords don’t rent properties to students out of the kindness of their hearts.

10. What’s the score with the bills?

Household bills are something you’ve probably never had to deal with before and if you don’t know what you’re doing, things can get messy and expensive. Think about it. you’re in a shared house with say three other people. One might be a big eco warrior who conserves energy, another might leave the heating on all night with the windows open. You can see why there are arguments. Splitting the bills and finding one of you willing enough to have their name on the bills, collect the money each month and pay the bills is no fun.

One alternative though is to use a bill management service like Split The Bills. They handle everything and make it simple and painless. You and your housemates select the services you need – such as electricity, gas, water, superfast fibre broadband or TV Licence – and then go online to SplitTheBills.co.uk and set up a direct debit. Everyone pays their fair share every month and Split The Bills ensures all suppliers get paid. Also, you can even choose between Unlimited or Eco Saver energy options. Plus, doing it this way, other housemates can’t affect your credit score and you don’t have to pay a month up front or get caught with a final moving out bill.

Want to find out more?

Interested in splitting your student household bills rather than splitting up friendships? Check out SplitTheBills now and make life easier for everyone in your shared student house.

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