Even though I claimed that I’ll start a series that will give you tips and some information on housing and writing applications, applications are all I have been writing about. So I decided to finally write what I’ve been aching to write for months. A guide on how you can avoid renting a crap property (Pt 1) and if you already did, what you can do about it (Pt 2). I know it might already be too late for this years students but it might be of use to the following. (This took ages to write.)
Note that I am going to focus on renting a shared house as you already get enough support from the company/university if you have any troubles with student accommodation.
This is the “first” step after you have gone to an agency or checked various websites. You arrange a viewing to be able to see the actual building in reality. I greatly recommend doing that as friends of mine that didn’t had got quite big shocks when they arrived at the house after not viewing it.
Even if you feel like you are intruding into somebodies privacy, you have to be aware of the fact that usually you only have one viewing so you need to make sure to have seen everything of the house. I made that mistake and once I moved in I noticed so many flaws that I wished I never signed the contract.
Be sure to check for:
- The quality of the windows – single glazed or double glazed
- Mould in the bathroom or the rooms
- The ceilings – wet spots, holes or mould
- If you have a porch its state
- The state of the garden
- Things that seem very strange, for example if somebody stuck a piece of cardboard on the wall there might be a hole hidden
- The state of the kitchen
- If there are bins and cleaning utensils available
You’d be surprised how many things that you consider essential might be missing. In my case there are neither bins available nor brooms. We even had to buy a microwave ourselves.
Another thing you should take advantage of is that if there are any of the current tenants at the viewing they are usually more than happy to answer any questions. Ask them about the landlord, the agency, the bills and of yours the house itself. Some possible questions are:
How much time does it usually take to get anything repaired?
Is the landlord/agency reliable?
Do they respond to enquiries immediately?
If I had the opportunity to travel back in time I would certainly do all that, because in past I was too embarrassed to ask anything an did not know what type of questions to ask. I only paid attention to the size of the rooms and the price, nothing else.
Prices of housing in Birmingham varies extremely. And the price is not always only related to the size and location of the property, it might not even be related to the quality/sate of the house. I have friends that pay much more and have a even worse house than I do, some others that pay less and have bills included and amazing house, and of course some that pay a huge sum but have a really great house. What mean to say with this is that the price does not have to reflect the property’s quality.
I currently pay in a 3 person house per person:
- Rent: 65 £/week which is 282 £/month this excludes any type of bills
- Bills: in total ~ 77 £ per month
- Water: ~15 £ per month
- Gas & Electricity: ~ 40 £ per month
- Internet: 17 £ per month
Bills included or separate
Now this certainly is a hard choice as it completely depends on the people you are living with. I initially chose separate bills because I was confident that I’d pay less since I am aware of how much energy I use. But since am currently living with 2 gamers one with his own Hi-Fi system & TV and the other that never turns off his PC or any type of electronic device I certainly chose wrong.
Therefore be sure you know what type of people your flatmates are and consider how much you use. Then you’ll be able to choose. The cost of included bills varies strongly too though, they’ll either be offered by your agency or you can sign up with a company that provides this. The offers usually range from 10 £ – 100 £.
If you are an international student i is also very important to know that electricity in the UK is far more expensive than Gas you need to consider what type of power source the boiler, cooker and oven use, which also influences the choice of the bill type.
This is very important when you want to sign a contract you are usually quite sure that you want to take the property, BUT be sure to know all the faults that you noticed and MAKE the agency put them into the contract as conditions. If you don’t they are not obliged to fix anything or provide you with anything. And any promises they made are not guaranteed to be fulfilled.
Once you received the contract make use of all the services for support you are aware of. If you are student at the University of Birmingham you can have you contract checked at the Guild & Living. I certainly regretted not asking for advice in that stage because I could have saved myself a lot of stress and pain.
Very important for international students:
Most agencies require a guarantor which is based in the UK, so you need a friend or family member that lives in the UK to sign a guarantor form for you. Otherwise they usually charge double deposit. To avoid that you can rent a property directly from a landlord as these usually don’t require such form.
Some helpful pages
University of Birmingham property search - very reliable as these landlords have a good track record with the university
SHAC – another page from the University of Birmingham, again very reliable
Accommodation for students – no guarantee for good landlords but a great amount of choice
Home for students – a good way to find new flatmates
Mixing events – every year the University of Birmingham hosts these events in addition to housing fairs to help you find flatmates
MLAS – Check if your landlord is accredited
I hope this helped you a bit in Part 2 I’ll tell you how to solve problems in a house you already rented.