New writer Laura Farrington has had her fair share of problems when it comes to student housing, and she’s learned a lot in the last year. As we reach that time when everyone else seems to be on track; Laura has some words of wisdom for those who feel like they’re being left behind.

By Laura Farrington

When you start university, everyone offers you advice. How to manage your money, how to deal with hangovers, etc. When I was a fresher, a third-year gave me a piece of advice that I threw to the back of my mind. She told me to prepare for the problems that come with student housing. I thought that this was so far away it meant I needn’t worry for a while.

Last year I lived in a flat in Cefn Bryn with sixteen other students on the same floor. Needless to say there are no seventeen bedroom student houses available (if you manage to find one, let me know!) We all came back after Christmas and were getting through refreshers when there soon there was a whisper around campus of house viewings and needing to pay bonds. The hundreds that we blew on eating out and alcohol were suddenly needed and we started to panic. Where would we live, and who with?

If you’re living in halls or in the village in the first year, a moment will arrive where everyone knows that a talk is needed of who will be divided into what house. The fact is, not all of you will want to live together. Just be honest and polite about it. Student houses are so close to each other that it’s easy to keep in close contact during your second year.

Once my flat had decided who would live where, we went through the process of viewing houses, picked one, and paid our bond to keep the property off the market as we didn’t want it to be snatched up by anyone else. We took the contract to the university to check over and it turned out the landlord wasn’t licenced for seven people and our insurance was invalid if we lived there. Brilliant. So what happens next? What do you do if your landlord lets you down? Call the University student housing support team! Located at the bottom of Penmaen, the team will help you in every which way they can! You don’t have to tell your landlords off- they will do it for you.

My landlord was told to meet regulations and had to install the required amenities over the summer before we moved in in September. The University followed up the case and even contacted the council ensuring the licence was obtained before the start of term.

The best advice I can give you in terms of finding somewhere to live? Relax. Take your time and visit the University Support team to ask them to read over your contract. They will tell you instantly if something is not right, and you’re legally entitled to twenty-four hours to look over a contract before signing it. Don’t let the landlord pressure you into signing anything and handing over money.

Don’t hand over any money that you’re not sure what it’s for. If you need to pay a retainer make sure you know what the arrangements are with living in the house over summer and if not – if you can store anything there over summer. Make sure your deposit is safe! I have heard countless stories of landlords using any excuse to hold back students deposits. Legally, they have to keep them in a government scheme so they never touch them themselves.

Over anything, DON’T listen to what other people are doing. If your friends have signed a contract and paid their first instalment then that’s fine but you don’t have to keep up with them. There are plenty of student houses in Swansea – so many so that some will be empty even in September. It seems majority of landlords are out to help themselves. You need to do your research and be sure of everything; don’t let them take advantage of you, just because you’re a student.

Good luck!