Your guide to student living in north London
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Moving to London for university? Chances are you’ll end up living in Camden, the borough with the highest number of students in the capital. Here’s what you need to know about finding a home in the city
Students can have a hard time both finding homes and staying in them without any major upsets. This is often down to dodgy landlords, excessive estate agent fees and unfortunate deposit disputes, but there are some things you can do to avoid any problems:
Finding your property
In north London the best way to locate student rental property is online. While sites like Zoopla, Rightmove and Gumtree can be tedious to use, they do spring some gems if you make your search terms specific enough and are prepared to make a lot of phone calls. If you’re looking for a property just for yourself, try Spareroom – but again, be prepared for a lot of unanswered messages. If you have Facebook it’s also worth checking out the London housing co-op groups, where people often post if they’re looking for housemates.
Preparation is key
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When attending property viewings, imagine it’s your finals at university, except more important! It might be a good idea to create a list of questions you want to ask the estate agent or landlord, and if you do one thing, make sure you check that all the appliances are in working order. Look out for red flags such as damp growing in the bathroom and broken furniture.
Getting the right price
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The London rental market is expensive, especially north of the river, but try not be caught out by any illegal fees or scam agents (they do exist – trust me). Most estate agents will expect you to put a deposit down on your favoured property to secure it on the day you have viewed it, which is normal practice, but try not to become caught up in a bidding war with other potential tenants, and remember that even though it’s a rented property you don’t have to settle for the price that the landlord or agents give you – you can bid down rather than up, especially if the property is a bit grimy.
Bills, bills, bills
One of the most important things to do once you’ve found your new home is sort out your bills – think electricity, gas and water. Make sure to inform the energy companies as soon as you’ve moved in as the previous tenants could have debts on their accounts which you’ll be charged for. A good idea is to set up a joint account for all of your bills with your new housemates and set a fixed amount (about £40-£50 each per month should do it), to put into the bank account. At the end of the year you might even get a little bit of money back!
It doesn’t have to be taxing
Students don’t pay council tax, but if you don’t get proof from your university that you are exempt then you will end up being taken to court by your local borough. To avoid the red letter bills make sure to get hold of your exemption forms as soon as you move in and don’t wait around to mail them off. If you live with any non-students do be aware that although you might get a discount on the council tax you’re paying in the property, your housemates might still expect you to contribute, so it’s a good idea to live only with students if possible.
Checking it out
When you move into the property you should be given an inventory that lists any present damage to the house. Keep hold of it! When checking out of a property make sure it’s cleaned to the specifications on your contract (it might say you have to hire a professional cleaner), and that you’ve minimised any damage. There are usually provisions for wear and tear, but if you smashed a hole in the bathroom door you will be expected to pay for it. Be wary of being charged unnecessarily high prices for repairs from your deposit, however, and be prepared to challenge them.