If you’re heading towards the end of your first year at Imperial, you’re probably starting to think about your accommodation for the next year. There are several options such as private student accommodation or working as a hall senior in one of the Imperial student halls, but the majority of students will be looking into the private sector.
The advantage of renting a flat in this way is that it gives you more flexibility, however, it’s also the number one obstacle making the flat search a daunting task. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of every decision and act fast to secure yourself a good flat. But worry not, I and so many other students have gone through this process and emerged (mostly) unscathed and with the right attitude and action plan, and so will you!
Here are a few tips that will help you with organisation and setting your priorities.
Above all, manage your expectations! Being too perfectionistic about the flat search will likely end in finding nothing at all – or something for a price well-exceeding a student budget. Tiny kitchen, no living room or commuting to campus – chances are that you’ll have to compromise on something.
Making a list of deal breakers early on will help you sift through the offers (if you still haven’t, you’ll soon find out just how exhausting browsing properties can get). Most people team up for flat search with other students so being clear on each other’s requirements is a definite must if you want to avoid serious disagreements. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some things that you might want to think through:
- Double- vs single-glazed windows. Cold and rainy weather and single-glazed windows don’t go together well, but, unfortunately, this is the reality for a lot of London flats. Make your decision wisely as even if the rent is cheap you might end up paying the difference in bills because of the poor isolation. That said, single-glazed windows are not the end of the world – investing in thermal curtains (or asking your landlord to provide them – always worth a try) can help a lot with keeping the cold out.
- Floors – carpets or wood? It may not seem like a key factor at a first glance, but it’s in fact a significant decision. On one hand, carpeted floors make the flat cosier and muffle stomping, though on the other hand, they’re also much harder to keep clean, so watch out for old flats that haven’t been recently refurbished.
- The number of bathrooms. Sharing the bathroom with other flatmates is generally something you’ll have to come to terms with, but if there’s three or more of you, it’s a good idea to have two bathrooms/toilets. Again, it’s best to discuss with your future flatmates whether they tend to take long showers or plan to often invite people over.
- UK guarantor. It’s worth mentioning that non-UK students are usually required to pay six months of rent upfront as they usually don’t have a UK guarantor. This can amount to a very high number for your first payment but there’s no avoiding it in most cases so do plan for that too. One way around is the College rent guarantee scheme – check it out here along with plenty of other resources on private housing.
Negotiating the tenancy conditions with the landlord or agency can be exhausting and you might be tempted to complete the process as promptly as possible but remember to always prioritise renting safely and securely. Landlords/agents might urge you to sign the contract quickly and pressure you to accept a longer fixed tenancy, however, it’s important to be assertive and only agree to what YOU want. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify any confusion before returning the signed contract. And the same goes for the rest of your tenancy – send a request to your agent/landlord if there’s something that needs to be fixed or resolved.
Although finding a flat that fulfils your requirements is not easy, ultimately, it’s worth the effort as this will be your accommodation for another year or so. Plan ahead to not get too overwhelmed and I’m sure you’ll be fine!