Moving Into a Student House or Apartment

Moving into a student house or apartment, be it as a newbie to University or a returning student, can be a life changing experience. If you’ve never lived on your own in a house before, it’s a great opening to adult life. If you have, then prepare for a totally alternate lifestyle!

Most people have been at uni for at least a year will often move into a house with people they know, though that isn’t always the case and can sometimes end up like fresher’s that don’t choose halls and will move in with complete strangers. Whatever your circumstance, here’s X tips to help you either make & stay the best of friends and brothers/sisters or at least co-exist peacefully as housemates.

Have At Least One Gathering

It’s important to get  know the people you’re going to be living with for the next year, even if it’s just a little bit about them such as they’re name,  their course and an idea of  their daily habits so you’ll know what to expect.

It doesn’t have to be a huge thing in you or they aren’t especially social.  Something as simple as drinks in the kitchen or a common space for a couple of hours will start you off nicely.

If you’re concerned about breaking the ice,  perhaps suggest an activity such as watching a film in addition,  playing a video/board game or

Physical a game such as football or pool/billiards (whatever you prefer).

The better you get to know your housemates,  the larger chance you will have of potentially increasing your social circle,  less of a chance of loneliness or isolation and a foundation on which learn to work together to live together easier.

Make a Rota

Accomodation needs maintenance to keep it in shape and since you’re living in a shared space,  it only makes sense to split the work on the areas you share fairly. Many households benefit  from a basic maintenance rota.

It can be as simple as a cleaning rota for the common areas. If you’ve grown to become a family away from home you may wish to apply to this or add other activities such as cooking or shopping (in the case of my housemates in our first  year together we  made a weekday cooking schedule and fended for ourselves over the weekend).

Try between you to stick to it and make amendments for those struggling to ensure you’re all contributing fairly.  Once the process builds  momentum you’ll find the workload better than managing a large place on your own and you’ll breeze through landlord inspections much better.

Agree Some Ground Rules

To ensure everyone gets the respect they deserve and people’s schedules don’t clash a few basic unwritten ground rules don’t go amiss. Most of them will probably be part of your contract anyway and many of them are common courtesy  so it may be be as simple as negotiating together locally so you’re all on the same page.

Typically most people will agree on noise levels and times (many contracts specify no noise leakage to the outside world after around 11pm), cleaning up what is made messy,  agreements on sharing the TV if you have one in a common space,  decisions on house parties or gatherings.

If you’re struggling,  searching online or speaking to your parents or accomodation officer should provide some inspiration.

Once you’ve all agreed,  use your head when you go about you day and remember which rules take priority.  It may be acceptable now and again to turn a blind eye (since nobody like a grass),  but breaching contract rules and law can lead to more serious discipline from your accomodation officer,  landlord or even the police.

Communicate the Important Stuff

If you’re going to introduce an important change to the ecosystem of your home which as getting a pet (good luck getting one allowed in university managed accommodation!), if you’re bringing someone to stay or  if you’re moving out. If it’s going to have an impact on your other housemates lives,  it’s only fair to give them a heads up,  rather than giving them an unexpected surprise. 

Communication is also important at the management level too. If you are a resident  warden or fire warden,  give your housemates plenty of warning if you’re going to test something such as the electric RCD fuses or the fire alarm and likewise if a problem occurs in the house,  voice these concerns to your warden or landlord.  Likewise if something happens and work is required in the house/apartment building  whilst you’re  a tenant your landlord or accomodation office should provide notice to you that contractors and/or their representatives will be visiting. If this communication doesn’t occur,  either party can end up in serious trouble,  so keep the lines open and everyone in the loop. 

Split the Bills

If you live in accomodation where your bills aren’t covered,  you’ll usually only receive one bill for the property.

Just like the cleaning rota,  unless someone is running up the meter with an entertainment system built for a small nightclub,  the bills will be fair game between you. There’s several ways to achieve this and it’s ususally easiest to automate the process through direct debit and run everything on a fixed monthly rate (which if you use less you’ll all get back just as equally in credit). So whether you wish to pick a utility each and pay each other the difference or you set up a house “kitty” and an elected treasurer or took on turns you pay it manually each month.

A creative approach is to set up a payment system like PayPal where each person pays said “treasurer”  each month into their PayPal (not bank account) as credit,  then you pay off your bills through this virtual kitty. You could use a pay book or maybe use a spreadsheet package like Microsoft Excel,  OpenOffice/Libre Office Calc  or Google sheets to track people’s payments and ensure nobody is falling behind. If you choose to do it this way though,  make sure there’s some credit in there first each month  and everyone has contributed  or your treasurer will have a hefty withdrawal from their bank account!

And finally…

Have fun! Uni is one of the first times you’ll be able to move in strangers and move out lifelong friends so take advantage of the opportunity to make new friends and enjoy the experience of living on your own (bit at the same time not in your own if your sharing with others) and –  if your going straight from college or sixth form  –  begin to learn what it is to ‘adult’ each day.


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