The majority of students will move into private accommodation during their time at University, whether it be in your first, second or third year. There are important things you need to do or be aware of when renting private accommodation.
Finding a House
Finding privately rented accommodation will usually mean using a letting agent. Letting agents normally charge fees for some parts of the letting process. Letting agents cannot charge you to register with them or to view properties. If an agent asks you for money for these services, do not pay.
If in doubt, use Student Accommodation Services, also known as SAS Lettings. This is a joint venture between Residential Services, and the Students’ Union. It was set up to help you find good quality, suitable housing in the private sector. SAS lettings can help you to find accommodation for your second, third, and fourth years.
Most student rentals are assured short hold tenancy agreements for 12 - 9 months. You will most likely be on a joint tenancy agreement with your housemates. This means that you are all jointly responsible for looking after the property, and paying the rent. If one of you moves out, the rest of the housemates would be responsible for paying their share of the rent. Remember to ask the landlord what your contract says about your rent over the summer break. Most contracts expect you to pay at least half rent during the summer break.
You will most likely have to name a guarantor, who will be liable to pay your rent if payments can’t be made. A guarantor is usually a parent or guardian. It is important that you never miss a payment, as your landlord could be entitled to take you and your guarantor to court.
You will need to pay a tenancy deposit, which is usually equivalent to one month’s rent, before you move in. The purpose of a tenancy deposit is to cover the cost of any unpaid rent, or damage caused to the property during your tenancy. Your deposit will be returned to you, with or without deductions, at the end of your tenancy. Your landlord should place your deposit in a deposit protection scheme, shortly after you give it to them. This will secure your deposit until you move out.
Checking the contract
- Check that the start and end dates on the contract are the same dates that you have agreed with the landlord.
- Make sure your flatmates’, your landlord’s and your name are on the contract.
- Check the dos and don’ts whilst you are living in the property, also known as the ‘obligations’.
- Ensure that you check that the amount of rent listed on the contract matches what you have agreed to pay.
- Make sure that the contract allows for general wear and tear throughout the course of the year.
- If the landlord has agreed to make any repairs or replace any items before/after you move in, make sure that this is written into the contract before you sign anything.
When you move into a shared house/flat you need to decide how to pay the bills.
- Try to get in the habit of talking about this calmly, as a group. If you start doing this now, it will be easier to deal with any problems as they arise through the year.
- Make sure that all the housemate’s names are listed on each utility bill. If just your name is listed on the bill, you are responsible for paying the whole of the bill until you end the contract. This means that if one of your housemates didn’t pay their share you would be responsible for the entire bill.
- Let the utility companies know the date that you moved in so that you don’t get charged for any usage of the previous tenants.
- Get the home address and/or the parental address of your housemates so that you can contact them for any outstanding bills.
Cooking and Shopping
- Some houses like to cook as a group, as it saves them money to buy their food in bulk. You could have a cooking rota to share the load. Perhaps whoever doesn’t cook can wash up?
- If you all have different tastes or dietary requirements, why not do a weekly or monthly ‘essentials’ shop, buying individual food separately. This would mean that you could get toilet roll, washing up liquid, washing powder, eggs, milk, butter, and bread together but buy everything else yourself. If you shop as a group, it can alleviate the issue of ‘who stole my …?’
Top Tip: Do not steal your housemates’ food!
Cleaning and Chores
Not everyone has the same levels of cleanliness. Some people are lazier than others, and it’s best you accept this from the outset. Here are some tips to keep on top of the cleaning, and stay friends!
- Even if everyone doesn’t do the same amount around the house, make sure that all your housemates do a bit. This will help to even out the load, and avoid arguments.
- When the house is a complete state, get together, and tackle it as a team.
- Have a cleaning and chores rota. Make sure that everyone agrees on the rota, and that tasks are shared out fairly.
Top Tip: Don’t stack your dirty dishes in the sink. It just takes one person to do this, and then no one can get to the sink to clean theirs. It’s the start of a messy cycle, and it won’t make you popular!
Be Considerate to Your Housemates and Neighbours
- Turn TVs down, or listen to music through headphones after 11:00pm.
- Respect their privacy. Knock before you enter their bedrooms and don’t enter their bedrooms when they aren’t there or without their permission.
- Let your neighbours know in advance, before you have a party.
- When coming home from a night out, close doors quietly, and keep your voices down.
- Above all, be reasonable when a neighbour approaches you with a problem.
Rubbish and Bin Collection
You shouldn’t assume you know how to recycle. Every local council has a different procedure. You need to learn what goes in what colour bag or your rubbish won’t be collected. You should remember that bin day changes after a bank holiday! To find out the bin day for your area, download their app, or look at their website.
Top Tip: Don’t put your rubbish bags out before 7pm the night before, or after 7am the day of the bin collection.
Tips for getting most of your deposit back when you move out
- Take photos of the entire house/flat when you move in and when you move out. This gives you proof of the state of the accommodation before and after you moved in, so that hopefully you won’t be billed for existing wear and tear to the property.
- Check your tenancy agreement before you move in – does it state that you have to pay for a professional cleaner from your deposit money? If so, this will be deducted from your deposit at the end of your tenancy.
- Ensure that you complete an inventory of the property before you move in and when you move out. This is a checklist of the furniture and general condition of the property.
- Consider replacing things that you break as and when they happen. If you don’t replace them cheaply at the time, you may be billed for more expensive versions from your deposit.
- Make sure you pay all your bills in full and that you contact all the utility companies to let them know the date you moved out.
- Coordinate your leaving date with your other housemates. You don’t want to be the only one left to clean the house! If you plan to move out at the same time you can all share the cleaning.
- Clean, clean, clean! Clean once, then go around and check again until it is spotless. Throw out any rubbish, clean the oven, windows and anything you would not normally get around to doing.
- Finally, make sure that everything is locked up and secure when you leave.
Support within the University
If you have any community issues whilst you are in Swansea University, you can contact the Community@CampusLife team to speak to the Community Liaison Officer. They can help you to speak to neighbours, the police or the council to try and solve problems and diffuse issues.
Student Union Advice Centre
The Students Union Advice and Support Centre gives free, independent, and confidential advice and representation to Swansea University students. Their service is run by experienced, friendly advisors who are available for private appointments during weekdays. You can contact them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org