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Don't Rent Yet: A students' guide to housing

“Being a student is the best time of your life”. For sure, that is what every student is told during their first year and even before they come to university. However, nobody said what exactly can make it so special.

As a third year student and experienced at living in a house with lots of other students, it is unforgettable. Although it can be an utterly horrible experience, your best memories of university can be made in your humble student abode.

But this depends on many aspects, such as the housemates you live with, the house itself, the letting agency and so on. This list is not exhaustive.

It’s not my aim to instruct you in how you should live, but rather to help it run more monthly.

Firstly, I would advise against sharing a house with your best friend. Or boyfriend/girlfriend. Or at least test your friendship first.

It can be such a joy to live with your best friend but at the same time it might be such a shame to lose one of your closest friends because you are not used to living together. A student house is an enclosed space and tensions may rise as a result of university and personal stresses.

I have heard many stories of how best friends decided to rent a house or apartment together. But this excitement, as I was told, disappeared in the next couple of months. For this person in particular, this was because of some characteristics that liked in their friend before were turned upside down.

Moreover, based on my personal experience, I can say that  strangers can become your close friends during the time that you lived together as well as your best friend can become your worst enemy, because of sharing same house.

In my second year, I decided to share an apartment with my best friend. We thought we were such close friends that nothing could tear us apart. However, when the excitement and parties were over, it become obvious that we could not even stand each other anymore, and we ended up not talking with each other.

It’s a really sad story. It all happened after we discussed rules and boundaries that we would need to put in place for the apartment. I’m aware this is an unavoidable conversation for any student, but it had an impact on our friendship in particular.

When friends are beginning their experiences of living together, they think: “oh, we are best friends, we know everything about each other, it is going be fine”. No, it is not. It can turn into a huge disaster, because nobody wants to be annoying or to be annoyed about them cleaning in the early hours or even if they have nights in with their friends.

But these rules and boundaries are something that has to be established at the beginning of your tenancy, in order to make life much easier and so won’t up hating each other after all.

So this year I am sharing the house with three other girls, who I haven’t even met before, but I just found their ads on Facebook. I couldn’t even imagine that it might be such a good luck for me: we are not just living together, but we have become friends. It can be such a surprise how things can turn for you.

Also, on another note, don’t let your letting agency fool you.

Agents seems very nice people, who really want to help you to find a comfortable place to live in. However, it is very important to mention that they are trained to be nice, because eventually, their main concern is to get money form you. That’s’ it.

Lucky me, I’ve met two different type of letting agents in my two years of living in student housing. The first example (no names, of course) were awful; I would never recommend this agency to anyone. For instance, many different kinds of fees came up when signed our contract and it made the original price much higher than it seemed to be before.

Or, for example, when the agency needed something from us, they would send emails twice every day, but when we needed something from them, it was impossible to reach them. Quelle surprise!

And, of course, the most popular problem is getting your deposit back. They always try to give you less of your own money back as possible.

The other letting agency I encountered was a much nicer one. They replied to us! It was already a big plus. They fix everything if there is a problem with something in the house. So for now it is all only positivity.

Especially, when compared to my previous experience, I can see something good in small things.

The University of Sussex Students’ Union has recently started a campaign called ‘Don’t Rent Yet’. The title gives it all: simply, don’t rush into signing a housing contract. The campaign is also stressing that students should not panic: housing is available all year round. It’s worth it if you find the right housemates to wait just a little bit longer.

Sussex Students' Union - Dont Rent Yet

Sussex Students’ Union – Dont Rent Yet

Furthermore, I’d stress that you should not be shy to complain.

I used to think that it is ridiculous to bother your agent if something is wrong in the house. But don’t forget that you are paying the rent for that house and it is their job to make you feel comfortable. So don’t be shy or ashamed to email or call them if something is wrong. For example, if the light is broken, or the toilet is leaking, or perhaps the oven doesn’t work. Let them know.  It is not your fault that something is always wrong. Right?

Finally, just enjoy your student life in a house.

Student life is indeed a very special time, so it is very important that you don’t let the problems ruin the excitement. It is important to remember that only student houses can host the craziest parties, and at the same time, the student house can become a fun haven when revising for exams.

I hope my experience can help somebody not to make same mistakes. My final piece of advice: have the best time of your life, but respect others around you. Good luck.

Anna Sudnitcyna

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