5 tips for choosing the right student house for you

Trying to get your student house sorted? Already dreading the passive-aggressive notes on the fridge? We talk you through the most common problems – and how to avoid them.

angry note on fridge

You don't want to end up living with this person


When do I need my student house sorted by?

The scenario: All your new uni friends are starting to panic about getting a house for next year because the estate agents are telling you “all the best places go by the end of November.”

“This is where most student housing goes wrong,” says Craig Howlett, student welfare officer at Leicester University. “If you rush into a house in your very first term, it can be hard to recover from.”

The problems:

  • Your friendships are likely to change after Christmas. “People begin to fall out at the end of the first term,” says Craig, “and you tend to settle into your longer-lasting friendships in term two.
  • Some of you might drop out. There’s usually a few students dropping out after Christmas, but landlords don’t care. If you’ve signed a contract, “you’ll still be held to that contract,” warns Craig. And that means covering your housemate’s rent if you can’t find a replacement.

How to tackle it: Try and delay getting into a contract until after Christmas, even if your new friends are begging you. And don’t listen to estate agents, they lie.

Who do I choose to live with at uni?

The scenario: You totally LOOOOOOVE some people, however there are others in your new gang you’re not so sure about. But you’ll be OK in a house with them, right?

The problems: Actually, having the basic same living standards is better than merely liking people. “The three things housemates argue most about are noise, finances, and things like how much someone’s partner can stay over,” says Craig.

Also, come the second year, degrees get harder and exams start to mean something, so your super-fun and super-drunk mates that you love may become your worst nightmare.

How to tackle it: It’s tough, but being honest about your more unlovable living traits will save you hassle in the long run. And have a chat about how you want the house to work, including the following:

  • How much do you want to go out next year? And how much noise is acceptable?
  • How hard is your degree course? A knackering 9-5 day, every day, or six hours a week?
  • How do you feel about general cleanliness of toilets and kitchens?
  • How much money do you have for rent and bills? “Rows can really escalate about how much you put the heating on,” says Craig.
  • General house rules, like having people to stay.

Should I live in a big student house with lots of other people?

The scenario: You’re in a big gang. There are loads of student houses the size of castles. So, you should just all go into one massive house together, yeah? I mean, think of all the fun!

The problems: “The bigger the house, the bigger the chance that something will go wrong,” says Craig. There are more people to piss you off, or to potentially drop out. However, it does have its upsides. You’re never lonely, and if you don’t like a housemate, it’s much easier to avoid them.

How to tackle it: Again, it’s worth discussing boundaries and dynamics before you all move in – including who gets what room and how often you’ll clean a toilet that eight people are pooing in.

Who gets what room?

The scenario: OF COURSE you all secretly want the beautiful room with bay windows, you’re just all too polite to say so.

The problems: “This is a particular issue in big houses, as they’re usually converted Victorian houses,” says Craig. But it’s not just size that can cause problems – nobody wants the rooms above the kitchen or next to the bathroom, as they’re usually much noisier.

How to tackle it: There are three fair ways to sort this:

1) Division of rent – people who get the crapper rooms pay less rent. “There’s usually at least one person who will volunteer for a small room if it means they save money,” says Craig.

2) Lottery – short straw, names in a hat, rock/paper/scissors – but no throwing a massive strop if you get the shit room.

3) Swap rooms half-way through the year – just make sure you nab the big room first. (Usually, come the time to change, no one can be arsed to move.)

Nobody wants to live with me!

The scenario: Sometimes, in first year, things just don’t work out. But don’t blame yourself if you’ve taken a bit longer to warm up… or if you’ve just had an epic fight with everyone.

The problems: You’re stuck with no one to live with next year. You’re worried that everyone thinks you’re weird, and more pressing than that, where the heck are you going to live?

How to tackle it: “You’ll actually be in demand,” says Craig. “There’s a big market in students looking for replacement housemates as so many people either fall out or drop out.”

Check out noticeboards in your university union as they’ll be countess adverts for housemates. Or talk to a uni advisor about what’s best for you.


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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of note by Joe Loong