Living Out At University: The Survival Guide

With the announcement of exam results having been u-turned, and a scramble for university places across the country, quite a few of us are preparing to live away from home. Some for the first time as they embark on their university adventures, and others who are seeking that escape from home again after several months in lockdown.

Whilst I personally can’t wait to return to my university home-town, part of me is endlessly grateful that I didn’t have to finish my second year in a house full of mould, woodlice, and no heating.

The excitement to be moving out of this student house into another should be intermingled with the feeling of anxiety that this house could be just as disastrous, yet, part of me realises it can never actually be quite as bad.

Most people probably look back on their university housing qualms with nostalgia at the mess constantly filling the kitchen sink, noisy housemate disputes and the occasional scare by the TV licencing company. Yet my second year experience is instead full of trips to Citizens Advice, hiring private electricians, and broken bathroom doors.

Which is exactly what’s led me to creating the ultimate student survival guide with the 6 things you should be prepared for before living out.

Six tips for living out of halls.

  • Know your rights as a tenant: After far too many late-night phone calls with my parents, crying about how I didn’t think I could ask my landlord for this or that, I finally realised that landlords actually have a duty to provide safe housing. That includes housing with a safe boiler, heating, and working radiators. As scary as landlords seem, we eventually realised they’re just as scared of us threatening to sue.
  • Following from that one, it’s time to stand on your own two feet: fix as many of those problems as you can yourself, before crying to your parents every single time when there’s little they can do from a four hour drive away. This meant learning to ask the university for help, rather than suffering on our own.
  • Citizens’ Advice is a godsend (and on your side): as students who had zero idea of any legalities surrounding our rights and the safety of the house, Citizens’ Advice were there for us to fight our battles when we were too scared to. If you do need to take a step further, the council is only an email away.
  • As much as you’re on a student budget, don’t let your health and safety be the cost of being stingy: with a faulty boiler, I spent three months layering up on duvets and blankets, wearing leggings under a onesie, and showering at friends’ houses. I should have just bought an electric heater in the first place, which (although confined to the limits of my room) was actually life changing.
  • Some fights are worth picking with your housemates, others are definitely not: over time I learnt to get used to the piles of mess in the kitchen, the bathroom floor being wet, and even the occasional forgetting to lock the front door. Adapting myself to having to cope with other people’s annoying living habits definitely dropped my standards, whilst also causing me far less stress throughout the year.
  • Use your voice as a student and do your research before, during and after: before we actually moved into our disaster house, we were brave enough to ask on the university Facebook group whether anyone had experienced bad land-lording with our estate agents. And it turns out that our problems with the boiler and heating were only on a long list of things our estate agents were messing up. From a girl who shared her experience of an insect infestation in their house, to the endless comments criticising one particular member of the estate agency, we thought we were more than prepared. However, as the year went on and we found more issues to moan about, it definitely helped having a support system of other students faced with the same problem, which meant something we could all battle together.

To finish on a happier note, living with these survival tips ensured that by the end of the year, we were in the perfect position to ask for some money back, so then all that was left to do was warn the future tenants of all their miseries to come as we happily moved on to other student lettings.

Words by Meghna Amin


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