My Sheffield student house was damp, dirty, and dangerous, but what was it like to live there?
Home is where the damp is
A Brief Overview of Student Housing
1. Student housing is shit.
2. I'm not saying I lived in definitively the worst house ever, because there are worse. And it's better than student halls anyway.
3. Student housing is shit.
"I'm going to find a really nice house to live in this year", you'll say to yourself.
"We'll make it really and cosy, a relaxing utopia to get away from the trials and stresses of university", your friends will say.
"Hahahahaha, fuck no", student housing will say.
A Brief Generalisation of What it's Like to be a Student
Every student goes through the same experiences at university – I'm talking drunkenness, debt, exam after essay after exam, experimenting with a new you, trying to grow your hair, wearing retro sportswear, becoming an amateur DJ, joining the Quidditch Society because you watched Harry Potter but only really enjoyed the bits with Dobby – we've all been there.
Yet student housing is one of the main parts of university life. Living with other people is inescapable – we are millennials and this. is. our. life. So when I moved into my house in second year, I was ready to experience firsthand what it was like to live in a student house for the first time.
Student houses are different from student halls in that there is the freedom of not living in a controlled, gated community, like Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World or CBBC's The Slammer. Gone is the wrath of security guards, in is the wrath of neighbours. There are no strange lads in the flat across the hall who only ever seem to be playing FIFA when you walk past their window, who always go to the supermarket together and only seem to buy Pringles and a crate of Budweiser, who are all called Sam. This is the big league now.
A Brief Overview of How Shit My House Was
Before me and my friends moved in, we, of course, viewed the house. I'll be honest, it was the house from Fresh Meat. It wasn't the best looking house, but it was cool and quirky, and had enough space for the six of us and a large kitchen and living room. It had 'character', as someone on Location, Location, Location might say. We were told we would get a large TV, a brand new fridge, and that the house would be cleaned throughout the year by, and this is quote-on-quote what the landlord said, "a very slow woman who only does one room at a time".
We'd viewed some other houses during the day which weren't as appealing as this one, but the price seemed steep compared to the others. We told him this, so he DROPPED THE PRICE. WHO IS THIS MAN?
The deposit went from £150 each to £100, and the admin fees went from £50 to £0. Now I'm no Lord Sugar, I'm not sending out blatantly racist tweets and then saying "it's just because I'm funny" or some shit like that, but I know dropping the price is either bad business sense or a cover up for the house not being as it seems. Or at least I know that now – I did not at the time.
When we moved in, there was no hot water or electricity, and it was apparent that it hadn't been cleaned, by the 'slow woman' or anyone. Opening the cupboards meant looking at the exposed brick of the house and piles of dead flies and spiders, slugs came in at night, two of the bedrooms had no locks, the dishwasher didn't wash dishes, there was a solitary disco ball hanging from the ceiling in the hall.
On my bed I found a notepad left behind by the previous tenant that had his name written over and over in calligraphy and a note that said "valid for one time turner", and then just a whole load of cigarette filters. Another of my friends' mattress was a Trainspotting level of dirty, the TV we were promised wasn't there (and never appeared), and the brand new fridge that was in the kitchen when we viewed it had been replaced by a leaking old fridge that rocked whenever you walked past it.
Time went on, we did the usual housemate things housemates do with their housemates, fall out over the bins and so forth, and we heard little from our landlord. Well, he tried to tell us we didn't pay our rent and said we owed him money, sending angry letters every month. After a little look at our bank statements, he dropped all charges.
He sent workmen who spoke no English to our house to 'make improvements', and by that I mean chop down all of the trees in the garden with a chainsaw, before leaving all of the rubbish in the garden for us to deal with, or pulling out all of the plants in the front garden and replacing it with black tarpaulin with some stones over it, before leaving all of the rubbish in the garden for us to deal with.
The drain broke in the bathroom, so naturally I rang him to send someone to fix it. BUT NO. He told me to buy a plunger and do it myself, explaining to us how to do it over the phone. So we did what he said, plunging the drains, and he was right, it was just blocked – blocked with the worst mould and rust you will ever see, I'm talking the setting of a Charles Dickens novel kind of dirt. In. the. pipes.
The radiator pipes didn't work in my room on the top floor, as the boiler couldn't send enough pressure up to the top of the house, so in winter my room was permanently cold, so cold there was condensation on the outside of the windows. It was colder than a lecturer replying to your email with one word after you've drafted them a fucking love letter.
Towards the end of the year we, and this may shock to you, decided not to stay for another year. He signed up another group of suckers to take of the lease, but one dropped out, so he texted me asking if it was alright to show the house to someone else. I said this was fine. When the time came these lads came to the house, but they came alone. Turns out he has told them that I WOULD BE DOING THE VIEWING. ME. Just me and a bunch of random lads. Who knew I'd get a job as an estate agent straight out of uni.
After we moved out, we told us we would be losing most of our deposits for damage to the house, including smoke damage and chips in the wall. Charging us for damage to that house is like adding a random secondary source in an already shit essay. Or anything to do with Brexit. The house was a shithole when we moved in, it was no more or less of a shithole when we moved out.
A Brief Conclusion to This Article
Before I moved into that house I had the naive view that only some student housing is a nightmare – I now know that all student housing is a nightmare. But then, what is life but an absolute nightmare?