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Student renters: what you need to know

Written by: Ruth Bushi
From avoiding scams and doing research to looking for student-friendly broadband contracts, here's some essential advice for all student renters.

Don’t be rushed

“I wish I had been told as a fresher that Oxford is highly unaffordable,” says 2nd-year student Roz. “This means finding accommodation for the next year can be very competitive and stressful.”

Unfortunately, this kind of pressure can lead to snap decisions or leave you vulnerable to scams – so find ways to give yourself breathing space.

First off, always have your next move in mind (even if you’ve sorted a place for this year). Do your research, then get paperwork and deposit ready early.

If you run out of time or options, talk to your uni’s accommodation or welfare office for assistance or advice. Definitely shout up to them if anything seems off about adverts, potential landlords or requests for money too.

Once you’ve found a place, don’t just take it on trust. Read the contract carefully, do your own inspection (with photos) and flag up any flaws. Don’t be rushed into shortcuts!

Look for student-friendly contracts

Twelve-month rental agreements are pretty common – but these can mean paying for an empty house during vacations. Your landlord may consider a summer discount or shorter tenancy, so it’s worth making the case.

Securing cheaper household bills often involves fixed-term contracts too, though some providers do nine-month or rolling offers, especially on broadband. While longer contracts can be cheaper, factor in how long you’ll actually be there to see if it’s really a saving.

On that note, while all-inclusive rent can seem like less hassle, you lose the flexibility to shop around for cheaper bills, pause services, or pay less during off-peak months. Price it up for yourself.

Share where you can

Split a pizza with mates and you all get the cheesy goodness but pay less than going it alone – and that’s a tactic that works for all kinds of expenses, from the gas bill to Netflix or bog roll.

The biggest savings are in splitting rent and bills rather than living solo, or by sharing shopping and cooking costs with housemates.

In halls of residence, look for ways to share costs before deciding what to pack for uni. Essie, a 2nd-year student in Huddersfield, explains: “If you can, make friends with your flatmates, discuss who’s bringing what, and just use each other’s stuff (with their permission of course). It makes it cheaper all around, plus you’re not clogging the kitchen up with three kettles and 10 mixing bowls.”

Agree house rules

Ah, the joys of leaving home. Or, as 1st-year Exeter student Morag puts it: “It came as quite a shock to me when I had my flatmates leaving their dirty pants on the kitchen table, stealing my food and screaming at 5am.”

Late-night noise and mess are the biggest cause of arguments but, depending on your situation, you might also want ground rules about sleepovers, dirty dishes, or fridge raiding.

Either way, talk things over before minor bugbears become all-out war – ideally, do it at the start of the year before things get personal.

This isn’t just about keeping the peace: singing from the same hymn sheet helps you all get your deposit back, or avoid communal fines for antisocial behaviour.

Whether you need help finding a place to live or dealing with nightmare neighbours or lazy landlords, there are people who can help! Talk to your uni or SU advisors first, or have a look at Shelter or Citizens Advice.

Guest post by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the student money advice site

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