You guys know I love practical tips – I don’t really beat around the bush, I get to the (honest) point of different situations and give you all the advice I have to hopefully position you as best as possible, of course always speaking from experience. Moving out during university is not easy, landlords love to exploit students, and a lot of friendships get blown to smithereens. I’ve lived it, I’ve learned from it. So below I’m getting really real – and letting you know how you can make moving out during uni as smooth a process as possible…
1. Choose your flatmates wisely
You’ll probably want to live with all of the best friends you made in first year – and although this sounds great, it’s not always practical (I was warned). I have some friends which I love, but I know I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, ever live with them. In fact I even know certain people who believe all together that you shouldn’t live with any close friends at all.
A good way to describe my immediate family is that we just don’t really care about a number of things, especially little/irrelevant things here and there. As a result of this, I’m quite a chill person when it comes to living: I don’t really mind if you leave your plate in the sink for a few days as long as you eventually come around to it, I can fall asleep in the afternoon with noise all around me – so if I decide to have an early night and you’re still up living life, that won’t bother me; I don’t mind if things get a bit messy, so long as things aren’t plain dirty and that cleaning happens eventually. Essentially… I don’t mind much. I should be living with someone who has a similar living style to me (and so should you). This means I should not someone who will get annoyed if I wash my plate on Tuesday evening when I used it on Monday morning, not someone who will roll their eyes if I don’t take my shoes off when entering the house/flat, and definitely not someone who wants to do weekly scheduled clean ups or even house meetings. No thank you. Of course, these are all extreme examples (not saying all of these have actually happened) – but they’re all true in relation to my living style. Not to necessarily say that my living style is the ‘best’ living style, people live in different ways, and you may live in a very different way to some of your best friends. However, if that’s the case – save your friendship, save your happiness, and live apart.
Flat sharing has the potential to end a lot of friendships. I saw it happen a number of times when I was in uni and even experienced it myself. So think carefully about who you want to be all up in your grill (and you up in theirs) for the next 52 weeks.
2. Don’t rush into choosing a place
I’m my second year of uni I essentially lived in what can only be described as a sh*t hole. Before I started looking for places to move out to I had no idea how many crappy places existed in central London. So when we started looking, I was genuinely shocked by the caliber of flats we came across… and the amount they costed. My friends and I were really squeezed for time when it came to finding a place, so after seeing a multitude of rubbish places, and having a deposit fall through on one rubbish place (where one of my flatmates didn’t have a door and I would have been sleeping on a sofa bed), we found a not as rubbish place, that had all our requirements (desks, doors, washing machine…) was decently priced, and within 24 hours we dropped down our deposit in a rush. This was a mistake for a number of reasons: for one, it led to me spending a year in a flat that I had to give disclaimers about whenever I had anyone round (the first time my boyfriend came round he said it felt like he was in Top Boy), and also, not doing enough research into the estate agency meant that we were royally ripped off. Funnily enough, I almost made the same mistake in third year. My flatmate and I were, once again, very pushed for time, and settled on a flat in an amazing location – but completely impractical (for example, there were no hallways, which becomes annoying when getting to your room means having to cross through the kitchen and your flatmate’s room…) We put a deposit down for this place but luckily for us (for the second year in a row now), the deposit fell through and we ended up getting a much better place for the same price in a better location. This year I was absolutely adamant on not rushing into anything – and it worked out as now I literally live in my dream flat.
3. Act in your best interests
So here’s a controversial point: A friend you’ve known for a year is not your family member (they may be absolutely amazing, but you need to give it some time…) – be smart and protect yourself. I made the mistake in second year of allowing my guarantor to not be one of my own parents. Not that they my parents had an issue in taking up this role – but we were told we only needed two to a flat, two parents offered, and I thought cool – let me not bother mine then. Oh, how naive I was. I completely appreciate that someone else’s parent took on the risk of being my guarantor – it is a lovely thing to do that they didn’t have to do, 100%. But for the rest of the year, the decision was dangled over my head: “my mum’s your guarantor so…” Let me tell you, it was a nightmare, and that was the day I decided there was no way on God’s green earth that I would ever get myself in a situation like that again. If you parents can support you, for example by being your guarantor, helping you with bills if need be, taking on some of your deposit, then don’t be afraid to ask them for help. For some reason I was under the impression that once I started uni and had moved out that I had to be a totally independent adult, but when money ran low and I did have to crawl back to my parents they thought my whole proposition was ridiculous: “you have no income and we’re your parents. You’re supposed to come to your parents for support.” You’re only young, there’s nothing wrong with getting the help of your parents such that you don’t get yourself in a situation like I did.
4. Protect yourself against bad landlords
I’ve experienced two landlords in the past and both have been quite horrid experiences. My first landlord tried to rinse us dry of our deposit when we moved out. There was a lot of back and forth, rudeness, and eventual threat of legal action. After some time our landlord realised that there had been some sort of mix up in the inventory he’d received vs. what we’d received, and decided to give us the majority of our money back (which was a little bit embarrassing given how rudely he’d approached the situation, awks…). Second year saw a similar story, our landlord/estate agency seemed pretty perfect all year (well, until the last quarter of our living there), then at the end of our contract tried to take hundreds off of us in the rudest way possible – no questions asked, no deliberating, no discussions. Again, a lot of back and forth and threat of legal action (which got them to be responsive), before I spotted that our moving in inventory was actually inaccurate, with the inventory team stating things weren’t there, that could be seen in the background of the photos they’d taken. Essentially our landlords wanted to take a lot of money off of us to ‘remove items’ (i.e. plates, cups, etc…) that were already there when we moved in! But being able to prove that the inventory team were simply incompetent meant we got a lot more reasonable payout. Unless you’re lucky, landlords will more often than not end up taking a bit of money of money off of your deposit for unavoidable things like ‘soiled’ (i.e. used) mattresses.
The best way to protect yourself is to come armed with a camera. Take a picture of, or video, everything – lights that don’t work, left over plates, broken floorboards etc. And make sure the inventory you’re asked to sign is as accurate as possible – make changes if you need to. This will avoid so much stress towards the end of the year, and ensure that you get your deposit back as soon as possible.
*For the record, not all landlords are bad! My parents are landlords and are not in it to rip off their tenants. So, you may get lucky with a nice one!
5. Don’t be afraid to bargain
I feel as though the prices on Zoopla, Right Move etc, are simply guidelines, and for two flats now, I’ve been able to bargain these prices down. Don’t be afraid to throw a lower price out there – the estate agents are trying to get rid of the flat (to get their fees), as much as you’re trying to rent it. You’d be surprised at how much better a deal you can land yourself if you try.
Moving out as a student is way tougher than moving out a professional, landlords and estate agencies love to exploit students and rinse them dry of what little money they have, and the places available to you on a student budget are also usually not that great. Make sure you read as many guides as possible to put yourself in the best position to get as much as of your money as your deserve!