Setting up a shared student flat.
A good student flat can be the venue for fun times and great memories but getting it set up isn’t always easy. It pays to take your time and gain a thorough understanding of the process ahead, especially if it’s your first time away from home. But don’t be overwhelmed, this isn’t third-year physics, and by developing a few new skills and some smart planning you’ll be flat-warming in no time.
Often the first hurdle for setting up any new student flat is money, students don’t usually have a lot, so it’s essential to accurately forecast set up costs for yourself and your future flatties.
Important things to budget for include:
- Rent (including initial deposit to the landlord, sometimes you’ll have to pay several weeks’ rent in advance)
- Utilities (electricity and/or gas, Internet)
- Water rates – if it is not included in your rent
- Contents insurance
- Living expenses
- Lawn and Garden maintenance – if not included in your rent
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School is in session – 10 tips for setting up a student flat
- Property inspection
You’ve secured your student flat and now it’s time for the initial property inspection with your new landlord. Student flats can get wild so this is an important step, it will help both parties check and agree the property condition prior to moving in. It’s an opportunity for you to make sure everything is functional and identify any areas that require repair.
Your landlord will want to complete a property inspection report to check against the condition of the flat when you leave. Be thorough and take your time because any damage you miss at this point could potentially be blamed on you later. It’s a clever idea to extensively photograph the inside of the flat including the walls, floors, kitchenware, white ware, taps, and showerheads to give both you and your landlord a clear record of the property’s initial condition. Save the photos in a safe place and share them with your landlord. Remember to point out any defects or damage you notice that hasn’t been mentioned. Ask for a copy of the report and double-check all damage has been noted.
- Checking the appliances in your student flat
Any appliances that come with the flat should be in good working order. Having the appliances functioning well can help you reduce water use and electricity consumption and keep down overall flat running costs. Examples of appliances to check include:
- Fixed wall heaters
- Heat pump
Effective insulation is important when considering a potential student flat. Insulation helps your flat keep warm during the winter and cooler during the summer months.
Insulating your flat with close-fitting, full length lined curtains will help trap the heat in from the sun during the colder months. In summer, the same method can be applied to prevent heat from entering – pull down blinds and/or close curtains. Additionally, purchasing new energy-efficient items may seem like a splurge now, but will save money long term.
- Energy-efficient lighting
Before you blow the student flat budget on bean bags and a pool table, give some thought to energy-efficient lighting. Making a modest investment now will help reduce electricity consumption in your flat and save you money in the long run. Replace the original light bulbs with a set of LED bulbs and remember to retain the original bulbs to put them back in when you move out. Then you can take the LEDs to your next flat.
- Hot water use
Reducing hot water usage is one of the most effective ways to save energy and money in a student flat. A few small behavioural changes are all it takes to see real savings on your monthly bill. Here are some simple ways you and your flatties can save hot water:
- Take shorter showers
Don’t be the flatmate all the others whinge about. By taking shorter showers you can save a significant amount of money for the flat. For serious hot water savers, turn off the shower during the middle part of your routine, lather up and then get it going again. Done regularly this can save a large amount of hot water.
- Wash your clothes in cold water
Most modern washing machines have a cold water setting, you’ve probably heard about it before. By washing with cold water your water heating costs will decrease. Washing four loads per week using this setting will save around $50 – $80 a year.
- Rinse dishes with cold waterRinsing your dishes with hot water is great for getting your plates clean, but that’s the job of the dishwasher. Using cold water to rinse helps reduce water heating. To save even more money and water, scrape your dirty dishes and don’t rinse them at all. Most dishwashers are more than capable of washing your dishes without you having to rinse them prior. If your student flat doesn’t have a dishwasher, you’ve made a terrible mistake, prepare for frequent student flat meetings.
- Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers
It is now a legal requirement that working smoke alarms are fitted to all rental properties. Ask your landlord to show you where they are and how to test them. See more information here. You could also discuss having your landlord supply a fire extinguisher as part of the house safety plan. Please see further advice on fire extinguishers here.
- Emergency fire exit plans
Having an emergency exit plan not only helps you and your flatmates know where the best potential exits are in case of a fire; it also exposes any maintenance that needs to be done on doors or windows around the flat that could restrict your escape. Speak to your landlord if you have any concerns. If any exits are blocked insist on this being rectified.
- Repairing damage
With friends visiting, impromptu parties, and occasional games of hallway cricket there are unlimited ways your student flat could get damaged. Remember that regardless of how the damage occurred it’s not your responsibility to make the repair – it’s your landlord’s but you would need to pay for it. Bite the bullet, call your landlord and report the damage so it can be fixed as soon as possible by your landlord or their nominated contractor.
- Paying the bills
Who is responsible for paying the bills? In short, everybody is – here are some useful tips on how to split your bills fairly.
Nothing can disrupt flat harmony quicker than a flatmate not doing their share of chores. Making a chore roster won’t guarantee all jobs are done, but it will help keep things fair and make it obvious who hasn’t done their jobs.
By Majella Aneru