Six important things to remember if you’re signing for a student house in Newcastle soon

Yard rats aren’t normal, you say?

House hunting can be so daunting the first time around, especially if you don’t know how contracts work and have no previous experience of renting before. Estate agents can be really pushy and often scare you into signing for a house by mentioning how many other viewings are booked and how quickly all of their properties listed to rent will go. But there are so many important things to ensure before you sign a contract on a house that can save you a fortune or possibly even a year of absolute hell.

Go to the viewing!

Sounds self explanatory but the amount of people who sign for houses without visiting them first makes this point top priority. I cannot stress the importance of visiting a property yourself and in person before signing a contract to live there. There could be so many things wrong with the place which aren’t listed online or shown in photos or virtual tours. Super obvious stuff like security needs to be checked, whether doors stick and locks work as well as problems which are harder to spot like damp. I get it, damp is literally nothing, you won’t even be able to tell it’s there, right? I write to you now from my damp living room with a word of caution. Don’t fall for it.

@ my landlord

Get advice

Contracts are legally binding and aren’t something you can get out of if you happen to change your mind. Before singing anything you need to make sure you are fully committed and have things in place if anything goes wrong. Choosing a guarantor is often necessary to rent student properties in the case that you can’t pay your bills, so a discussion with whoever you choose to be your guarantor for your rent throughout the tenancy is where you need to start. NUSU have a housing advice page here, as well as NSU which can be found here.

Ask the current tenants

If something feels off or if you just want some insight on the landlord or the average bills ppm, the absolute best people to ask are the tenants currently residing in the house you’re interested in. House viewings are a really good opportunity for this if they happen to be in, but don’t be the annoying stranger in someones house who literally won’t shut up and make sure they’re happy to chat first.

You can often strike up a good deal with them for the wifi, as some nice tenants are happy to pass their account over to you once they move out and save both the hassle and price of getting a new wifi box installed.

Take pictures

If you listen to just one piece of this advice, let it be to take pictures when you move in. Anything at all which looks or is broken, list it on the inventory and take a picture of it. If it’s broken when you move in and you don’t have proof either via dated photographs or in written form then just accept you’re paying for it. Year after year tenants are charged back to back for broken items which the landlords have no intention of repairing but know they can get a cheeky £800 out of you if you haven’t reported it as being broken.

We were charged £64.80 for a broken bed slat, which leads me onto…

Challenge your end of tenancy costs

If your landlord is an arsehole then you’ll most likely be charged for all the things that they should have had done before you moved in and which they can’t be arsed paying for themselves  – and it will be massively marked up. A lot of these things you can challenge and either get taken off or split with the landlord but most students don’t realise this or just don’t bother. You’ll be approached with a “proposed landlord share” and a “proposed tenant share” by which you’ll be shown how much of each invoice you’re expected to pay. Take “proposed” with a pinch of salt – I am not paying 30 per cent of a £96 bill to replace a blind pull, sir.

Choose the right housemates

This will be drilled into you throughout your whole time at uni but so many people taint their university experience by choosing the wrong people to live with. Living with your mates is one of, if not the best part of being a student, so choosing the right group is really important. Estate agents like to push tenants to sign for houses in as early as October and November but it’s not worth living with four of your flatmates that you barely tolerate just to get a house with an en-suite. There will always be properties to rent and you will never be homeless. You might just end up in Heaton or Sandyford which is arguably worse. Jokes, only hot girlies know that most houses in Heaton are massively undervalued and underrated.

Back yourself

One of my biggest pieces of advice to you is have the confidence to say no and stand up to landlords and estate agents. Students get such a bad reputation for trashing houses and not cleaning up after themselves which can sometimes be the case – but the majority of people just get treated badly by their estate agents and are expected to put up with dire living conditions just because. Replying to emails about issues and viewings is a good way of stating a relationship with your estate agents and ensuring they don’t take the piss booking house viewings at 9am and then not showing up.

Either do your research or speak to someone who knows the ins and outs and use that to challenge your landlords when they try and pull one over on you. We shouldn’t have to put up with unliveable housing conditions and face extortionate bills just for being young and having little experience with renting.

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