The idea of home, of shelter and safety, is one of the most basic human needs. Leaving home is a major step in the process of growing up and, for most people, it comes when they move to university. A whole lot of responsibilities meet you at university, which is why for many people, after the excitement of Freshers’ Week is over, their first year is rather challenging. No one tells you how hard it is to remember to do the laundry before you run out of clothes, or that toilet paper, cleaning products and other necessities actually cost SO much – how do my parents pay for all this stuff without complaining?
After you navigate your university years, however, one would expect the whole adulting thing to become slightly less confusing. I got through 3 years of living on my own, renting accommodation, budgeting my money. I’ll be fine, I thought.
How wrong I was.
This is something I wish someone had told me well before the end of my final year: the accommodation market isn’t set out for graduates.
In the UK, your annual salary is expected to be at least 30 times your monthly rent. For instance, if you are renting a flat for £600, your annual salary should be £18,000. That doesn’t sound so unacceptable, unless you’re a fresh graduate, starting out your career. Most lettings agencies won’t even consider you as an applicant if you don’t have a full-time job, because they assume you won’t be able to cover the rent.
And no, they don’t take guarantors.
In the current situation, with the job market looking even more terrifying than ever, the amount of people that have full-time roles secured by the time they leave their student accommodation is very few. Personally, I am fortunate enough to have a part-time job that gives me enough income to be able to afford the monthly rent. However, it certainly doesn’t give me enough to cover 30 times the rent annually. What is a graduate supposed to do then?
It’s quite clear that the renting market seems to think graduates either just move home to their parents’ house or they have a job lined-up for them. In reality, there is a massive chunk of us who just want to rent a nice studio where we can apply for jobs, or who want to move in with their similarly graduate partners, or who want to take a year out before their masters but don’t want to move back home. There are various reasons why someone would want to rent a place after graduating, and the renting market does not consider any of them.
This blatant ignorance of a quite obvious need worries me, especially considering the growing awareness of the term Generation Rent – “the term used to define a particular demographic in our society that, due to high house prices and rents, are unable to save for their first home.”
Recent graduates are part of that generation.
Statistics clearly show that while the Baby Boomer generation had 60% rates of house ownership at the age of 30, only 30% of Millennials own a home by the time they turn 30.
So, why aren’t there opportunities for graduates? I could understand their caution as they need to ensure that the rent will be paid, but if someone has an annual income that is about the same amount as a student’s Maintenance Loan, then why rent to one and not the other? It’s not so difficult to just apply the same rules as lettings agencies use for students and call it ‘graduate lettings’.
It’s not completely hopeless, of course. Here are a few handy tips for anyone wanting to rent straight out of university:
Find places that rent to students and non-students. This ensures that they have the guarantor form process in place and if they are nice enough, they will probably let you use it.
Keep a savings account during university. If you have enough savings to pay the rent upfront – you have that leverage. They can’t reject you with the excuse of ‘you can’t afford this place’ if you can show them a statement proving otherwise.
Try to rent a place for 6 months… Or 12 months with a break clause in the middle that allows you to leave without extreme charges and fees while you look for jobs. This way if you find a position in another city, you can either take your losses and move or you can explain your situation to your future employer and ask for remote working opportunities until you can move.
Being a graduate is hard; the pressure is high, and you want to prove yourself, but everything seems to be against you. You’re not alone, so reach out. Ask for help if you need it, there are always others in the same boat as you.
Words by Regina Toth
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