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By Simon Thompson
 
     

It’s that time of the year again, and everyone is at it: house hunting. We’re here to help you along the way.

You’ve organised a million and one viewings, and you can’t discern one house from the other, so how do you make that final decision that is going to make and break your next year of university? It’s all in the details.

Check out the questions below that you need to be asking to sort the top notch student pads from the seriously dodgy dwellings.

How much is the rent and what does that cover?

This might seem like an easy one, but you might find it hard to compare a £90 a week per person house with bills included, with a £70 a week house where bills are not included.

Check out how much your bills might cost with glide.co.uk, a handy website where you can split all your bills, including broadband and TV license, between you and your housemates. You might find that you can save yourself some money by not including bills in the rent you pay, however, it all depends on the situation and your group’s general approach to bills. If you’re all a bit hopeless at splitting bills or if you would all like the peace of mind of being able to put on the washing machine, whack on the dishwasher or have hot showers whenever you like without worrying about the cost, then bills included is probably the thing for you!

What furniture is included with the house?

You don’t want to turn up on moving day and find that the lovely memory foam mattress you’d been prepared to stretch your budget for was actually the previous tenant’s. Save yourself a nasty surprise, and always double check. Look over the itinerary of the house to make sure you are aware of what is included in your renting contract. If you’re not sure what’s included in the house, then ask! Drop as many questions as you want onto the landlord and make them work for your hard earned money and student loan, it might be a good idea to ask for a copy of the inventory to look through before signing on the house to see what will be yours when you move in, and what will be taken away…

Is there a damp or pest problem?

This might not be the sort of information that your landlord is going to volunteer, so it’s important to ask. If they say yes, you might not want to write off the house immediately.

If you've got a strong stomach then ask what exactly they’re going to do to tackle the problem. If they have a flimsy, quickly put together answer then ascertain that they are going to be doing nothing to tackle the problem and leave the house be.

Trust me, you do not want to be moving out your house because of pests during exam season!

Can you test the shower?

No, I don’t mean hop in for a quick scrub right then and there. This might seem like a strange request, but if you’re going to have to put up with a weak dribble for the next year of your life, you will certainly want to know about it beforehand. It might get frustrating having to stand under the shower for 20 minutes waiting for the soap bubbles to rinse out of your hair.

It's also a good idea to check the shower and the bathroom in general for any mould or dirt in the grouting, it can be a real pain to shift when you move in. Think about it, you're going to be paying for a clean flat, that's what you should get! You also don’t want to be blamed for any bathroom damage which was already there when it comes your turn to move out of the house if you do decide to move in. Make sure that you ask if you can photograph key aspects of the house to ensure that you have evidence of everything.

Who is responsible for that?

Who is responsible for that? If the house has a garden, ask who is responsible for its upkeep and whether or not you will have to share it with other people. It’s also handy to see if anything is not allowed in the garden such as BBQs or fireworks…

What’s the TV/internet like?

It’s probably best to enquire as to whether there’s a TV license included in the whole package. If not, it’s best to ask what the general signal of the house is like, whether there’s a satellite dish and how internet spreads through the house. For example, in my student house I lived in the attic and barely got any internet signal, my landlord did say I could get an extension, but that I would have to pay for it! Considering all of this, it’s best to ask what the general situation is when it comes to signal.

Is the house well insulated?

Don’t spend more than you have to on energy bills because you’re losing all the heat out of your single glazed windows.

Likewise, ask if the heaters in the flat or house are efficient. It's all well and good having heaters blasting out heat, but if you have to stand right next to the heater to actually feel this, chances are they’re a little rubbish! The best heaters to have in your student house are definitely ones with bricks inside that hold onto heat before releasing it slowly throughout the day, even when you’ve turned off the heater!

Can you see the contract you have to sign?

Make sure that the contract is clear and easy to understand. Check what the terms of your tenancy are. When do you have to vacate the property? Are you allowed pets? How long does the landlord have to fix any problems you might be having with the house? What are the consequences if you or the landlord break the contract? Never sign a tenancy agreement until you’ve fully read and understood the terms.

It might also be helpful to ask about possible alterations, as well as whether the landlord will permit you to make décor adjustments. Some landlords permit their tenants to hang up picture frames or TV’s as long as they ask them first for the final decision. It might therefore be a good idea to see how lenient and nice your future landlord is by asking about this!

What is the local area like?

Is there much crime in the neighbourhood? Is there a local supermarket? Are there any pubs or places to eat nearby? And perhaps most importantly, how far away from the university is it? If the house isn’t within walking distance, you might need to consider public transport.

Don’t forget to factor this in to your budget!

Although it can be cheaper to live further out, it's always best to keep in mind that you may end up paying much more than you thought you would once the hefty price of a bus pass is added onto your rent.

There’s always the option of grabbing a bike, although you will need to make sure that the house has somewhere to store it.

What security features are installed in the house?

Student areas can be pretty notorious for crime, meaning that student houses need to be decked out in all the latest security tech to ensure that they’re going to keep you and your belongings safe. Ask which alarms are installed and where, check to see if there are locks on the bedroom doors and enquire as to whether the windows are also alarmed, as theft usually occurs by people pinching items out of windows. It might also be a good idea to ask about the nearest police station and to make sure that the house has at least two good locks! If, in the unlikely event that the landlord has installed no safety features, and has no plans of doing so, it might be a good idea to move onto the next house.

Finally, can you speak to any of the current tenants?

Chance are that your landlord has never even lived in the house he’s attempting to rent to you, so why not ask the people who actually have. They can tell you exactly what it’s like, from how good the landlord is, to how thin the walls are.

Chances are that they've been sat there watching you awkwardly while you've been wandering around their house, so fire a few questions at them before you head out the door.

 
 
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