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You have been here for month and a half and you have just about settled into living in a new place with new people in a whole new environment. Yet, suddenly everyone is talking about doing the exact same again for next year, choosing who to live with, where to live, what area, what housing company, even what type of house! The pressure put onto students to make a quick decision on their housing situation for the following year is suffocating.
We often panic under the impression that all of the good houses will go immediately and that we will end up living in a terrible area with a leaky roof and no back door. We also think that those great friends we partied with in Freshers’ Week will definitely be the best ones to live with and tend not to consider the fact that one of them may play heavy metal music into the early hours of the morning or that another one likes to grow a new type of penicillin on their pots before deeming it appropriate to wash them. Further fears include the prospect of a house that won’t be big enough for you all to live in, or it could be even worse and you could end up with a terrible landlord that charges you for miniscule things and comes round three days a week. We also panic over prices: will they be more expensive if we wait longer? Will only the luxurious, modern flats be left that cost three times the amount of your campus flat?
But there really is no need to panic or rush. LUSU have teamed up with the University Housing Office to develop the Don’t Rent Yet campaign. Katie Capstick, LUSU Vice President Campaigns & Communications, stated, ‘We know from previous years that students do sometimes rush into bad decisions on their housing, and we’re eager to ensure that they can avoid some of the common pitfalls. With increased competition for housing in Lancaster, we’re concerned that students may feel pressured to sign up for something that isn’t right for them – it could be the wrong property, the wrong landlord, the wrong flatmates or even all three.’ The campaign is to show students that rushing isn’t always the best answer and that no matter how much pressure some companies or landlords put on students, there will always be a suitable house left. The underlying aspect is that signing into something half-heartedly because you feel you need to could very quickly become your worst decision. News reports about Lancaster firm LPNM simply show how a bad landlord can have a massive impact on your time at university and LUSU are keen to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
The campaign is hoping to raise awareness of the rights that students have as tenants when renting a property. Students often are unaware of the legalities when signing a lease for a house, and if anything goes wrong during their tenancy are also unsure of the rights they have as tenants. Capstick went on to say, ‘This is important to all of our students, but there are some groups of students for whom this is particularly important. For example, for the vast majority of first year students, their move off campus will be the first time they have taken on a rental property of their own. We also know from the NUS that there are concerns about criminal gangs targeting international students with housing scams. Language barriers and inexperience with renting may cause issues for some students and therefore we hope our campaign can guide students effectively.’
The reality is that all the good houses will not be gone and if you look on the LU home accreditation scheme, you will be able to see the houses that meet the expected standard. If you are with a large group, then it is less likely you will find a house to accommodate you all; however, there are other options available, such as renting two houses next door to each other. Prices will stay the same, the rent price cannot change based on when you sign the contract (and if it does, perhaps question the quality of the landlord). Don’t Rent Yet is there to better help students understand how to go about selecting a house to rent, but also to ensure that they know what they are signing when they sign the contract for a house lease. You need to be sure that when looking for a house, you don’t just look at the number of beds or how close it is to the bus stop but also the period of time you are renting for, any deposits or cost implications and also any schemes that the landlord is involved in that assures a good standard of housing.
Capstick concluded, ‘Living in the right place is one of the most important things in terms of ensuring a good student experience. If you want to study effectively, enjoy your leisure time, feel relaxed at home and get the most out of your university experience, you need to avoid the needless stress caused by a bad property or a dodgy landlord. Lancaster’s on-campus accommodation has repeatedly won awards, and we see no reason why students shouldn’t expect good quality accommodation when they move off campus too.’ If your housing isn’t a comfortable, happy environment, it will make every other part of university life difficult, which is just unnecessary stress.
Do not feel that you are being pushed into signing for something you do not understand. And certainly don’t panic and feel that you need to be sorting it all out now. Take your time and pop into LUSU, or visit their website, for housing advice. The campaign is there solely to support students and ensure that they have the most appropriate and comfortable living space at university.
So, just don’t rent yet.