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16th November 2023

Renting at university is an extreme mental sport

Renting a house is one of the most tricky aspects of student life; but the rewards do rear their head at some point
Renting at university is an extreme mental sport
Credit: Alexandra Baynes @ The Mancunion

As a second year, looking back at it, this time last year was possibly the most bizarre time of my life thus far. I am sure many others will feel the same. Adjusting to what essentially feels like being handed a new life at university was tough. From Freshers’ week to starting lectures to realising how much independence you have is intense. For me, just as I felt like I was beginning to settle in, the pressures of renting for the next year began creeping up.

What do you mean I need to organise myself into a group with people I barely know? 

My social media was flooded with posts and videos reinstating the importance of sorting housing for next year. The idea that all the houses would be snapped up in a few months was ever-present. The most frequently asked question shifted from “So what course do you do?” to “Have you sorted out housing for next year?”

Finding housemates seemed like a near-impossible feat. Sure, I had made friends but how close were we? By that point, I had known them for just a little over a month. Would they even want to live with me?

Luckily, I had just been overthinking. By mid-November, I had found myself housemates and a house suitable for all of us. Nevertheless, I still remember the anxiety from that time and sympathise with the first years going through this process. 

Finding housemates and agreeing on a house seemed like the two biggest hurdles. I had been under the impression that from there on out, everything would simply fall into place. This was further from the truth as the other pressures surrounding renting were soon to creep up. 

Like most other students, I was in university halls for the first year. Landlords, letting agents, and bills were something I had not faced. Navigating what seemed like entities from a different realm was overwhelming. Trying to figure out the best deals in a short space of time was difficult. Fortunately, this process did not feel alienating as my housemates played a large role in these negotiations. 

Once the housemates, house, and bills had been decided it should have been pretty smooth sailing, no? Wrong. For many people, the lease for university halls and private letting do not overlap. My lease for my university accommodation ended a week before the lease for my new house began, which raised the question of what I was meant to do with the hoard of items I had accumulated within a year.

I know many people who either took all their belongings back home with them, or paid for storage, but neither of these options was viable for me. Luckily, my boyfriend’s lease coincided with the beginning of mine so I was able to use his room as storage. Nonetheless, the two-day trips I had to make from London to Manchester to move my belongings were tiring and expensive, to say the least.

I officially moved into my new student house at the beginning of September. Much to my dismay, many of the items that I had moved into the house in July had vanished. Kitchen utensils, towel, mirror, room decorations, lego flowers, North Face jacket; gone. The kitchen utensils – whatever, but the Lego and jacket – come on, too far. When I spoke to the estate agents about this I received absolutely no help as they continued to deny the stealing allegations. 

As a house, we have faced many problems with little help and poor communication. Fridges and hobs not working coupled with a sink falling off the wall in the first two months was certainly intense, and not exactly the most thrilling things to deal with. These issues were resolved, but only after weeks of constant pestering from myself and my housemates.

The stealing has made me feel unsafe in my own home and the lack of communication only adds to feelings of frustration. I find that I often ask myself: what is the point of spending the time and money on student housing only to have belongings stolen and then be neglected by the letting agency?

Ultimately, I am happy with my situation. I have a lot more independence, my house (besides the estate agents) is great, and I have lovely housemates. Nevertheless, I can still clearly remember the host of pressures that came alongside renting. I really do feel for first-years who are in this position. However, as stressful as renting at university may be, everything does work out in the end. 

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