Everybody has a very different experience when it comes to University. Some people choose to stay living at home and commute, others go into student halls or get a house share. This post is all about my experience, I know other people who have absolutely loved moving out of their parent’s house, and in with friends for University, unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for me.
In my first year, I went into student halls. It wasn’t so bad as I had a chance to get to know the majority of my flatmates before moving in, after finding them on Facebook groups. We all got along well but as the year went on, their friendships grew with each other and I ended up feeling like a spare wheel. I was constantly feeling homesick. I was lucky enough to have my car, and with my Uni being just a 40-minute drive, it was easy enough for me to go home at the weekend, but it definitely would have been too difficult for me to commute each day for lectures.
In my second year, I thought it would have been a lot better for me as I chose to live with friends I made on my course. Although I did feel a lot more comfortable around them, there were a lot more ups and downs with these friends and I ended up feeling just as home sick. Neither of the two places I lived whilst at University, ever truly felt like a home to me. I think, when it came to finding a house together for our second year, we definitely made a rushed decision. The house we chose was literally like the house from Fresh Meat. One word…AWFUL.
Let’s start at the beginning…
To give you a little insight about who I’m talking about, here is a photo of myself and my four flatmates at our Halloween party. (How amazing are our costumes though!!!).
In order, we have Ellen, Myself, Jodie, Maddie & Jason.
To be honest, we should have known from the viewing experience that we were going to have a terrible time with our agency. I’ll never forget the day we organized viewings.
So the day of our viewings, Jodie had to work and so Jason brought his friend Camron along to give us a little help and advice. We all arrived at the housing agency and Sal, the guy showing us houses said to us;
“The house is only a 5-minute walk away, it would be best if the boys walk, girls, you come in my car.”
I found this really creepy!!! The way he said it was as though he was incredibly happy about getting us alone. Then it turned out that the house was more like a 2-minute walk, it probably took us longer in the car with traffic so it was so pointless.
We were shown two houses, within a few minutes of each other, and, in all honesty, neither of them were great. The only reason I agreed to the house we chose was because it had parking spaces, and my bedroom was HUGE!!! I’ve always had a tiny room at home so I got a little over excited.
Anyway… we signed the contract and were happy for a (very) brief moment.
The signs were all there…
We kind of knew we were in for a rough ride with our agency when it came to paying an ‘admin fee’ and some other payment which I don’t even know what they called it. They had signs all over the walls in the office saying ‘NO DEPOSIT’ yet they still wanted us to pay £75 when we signed the contract, and then £150 before December 15th.
If you’re a student, you’ll know full well that this isn’t easy money to get a hold of. So I rang on behalf of the whole house, asking if we would be able to pay the £150 in January after we had all received our student loan, and thankfully they were fine with this, they just wanted an email of each of us to say a date we will have paid by.
Then came the phone calls. Every. Single. Day.
Literally, from the 15th December, each of us was being called constantly, sometimes even twice a day by different people in the office, saying we had a late payment and they would need to contact our Guarantor. They said they had put a note on the system but clearly there was a huge lack of communication in their office, even though the office was literally the size of my living room.
Eventually, the phone calls stopped, we all paid the £150 once our loans came in, and then the phone calls started AGAIN.
I was beyond the point of being calm. I was sick of being called every day being told I owed money so I went mad on the phone. I told the guy that he needed to stop ringing us all, if he looked properly, he would see that we had all paid everything we needed too. Get this.. he literally laughed at me down the phone and said;
“bloody hell love chill out, I’m just asking.”
Like no hun, you’re not asking, you’re accusing us of not paying and saying that if we don’t we could lose the room. Obviously, I’m not going to be calm. After this everything stopped, thankfully, they got the message.
Moving in Day…
When we had our viewing, we noticed that one of the sofa’s had a huge rip right down the middle. They told us it would be replaced before we moved in so it was all fine.
You can probably tell by this point, the sofa hadn’t been replaced. Apparently, the landlord only actually needed to provide one sofa and so this one was just an added bonus, if we didn’t want it, then we had to get rid of it ourselves.
Here’s a list of other things we noticed;
- The dining table chairs were all falling apart.
- the fridge was full of mould
- the fridge and freezer were way too small for 5 people to share
- the banister was hanging off the wall
- the blinds were broken in every room
- one of the rooms didn’t have a desk chair even though it was compulsory for student houses to provide a desk and chair
- one of the kitchen cupboards was covered in grease and dirt
- we only had one back door key for all of us, even though the back door led to where we parked our cars
- the carpet in the front room was coming up
- there was mould in one of the bedrooms (which later spread to another room)
We went around the house with the handyman, taking photos of everything whilst he took notes of everything we pointed out to him. He promised us that everything would be sorted to ensure the house was safe to live in, obviously, this didn’t happen.
Things only got worse from there…
After a few months, Jodie, who was living in the room with mould, noticed her asthma had come back, something she hadn’t had any bother with since high school. We sent countless emails about the issues in the house and got either useless or no response. In the end, we sent a very long, very wordy email and received the rudest response ever.
The landlord ended up coming round and painted over the mould like that would make a difference. Then the worst of it happened…
Our back door wouldn’t lock at all. We thought it would be okay because we had a group of guys living next door to us who were awake practically all night every night, and they could see anyone coming in our out.
One night, Jason went outside at about 11 pm because we forgot to put the bins out. He noticed a load of cardboard on the floor and went to put it in the bin. Next minute, a homeless man wakes up from under the cardboard and Jason just screamed. There are so many homeless people in Preston, but usually, they stay around town. This freaked us all out so much and we all just felt so unsafe.
A couple of weeks later, Jason was up at around 4 am and went outside for a cigarette, he noticed that the light in my car was on, so he went to check and the door was open. About 2-hours earlier, I had been outside as my boyfriend was driving home in the early hours to beat traffic and get a little extra sleep before work and I would have noticed if my light was on. When Jason told me what he saw, I went to inspect and noticed that everything from my glove box, thankfully it was nothing worth taking, but it was all over the floor. I was working late the night before and was adamant I had locked it, thankfully, my car was completely blocked in so there was no chance of anyone stealing it, but we thought that maybe the homeless man slept in it. Not a nice thought.
We complained multiple times about the back door and yet it took them 3 months to fix it!! I’ve never felt so unsafe in a house.
Getting the University involved…
So on the wall of the offices, they had other signs saying they had awards from UCLan for being one of the best agencies for students. We ended up talking to a support rep at uni who told us they haven’t any involvement with them. They told us to speak to the local council and have somebody come round to check the house was up to health & safety standards.
This was probably the first time someone from the agency responded quickly. The man came round a couple of weeks later and pointed out so many issues.
- The stairs were unsafe
- the mould needed sorting ASAP
- the drains, stopped outside of a bedroom window, meaning the smell travelled into the house and was incredibly unhygienic
- the gutters stopped directly above the back door so any rain would fall directly in front of it
The guy from the council was so annoyed about the fact they had allowed us to move into this house in the first place and told them they needed to fix it or it would be taken further.
One day, Maddie was in the house on her own whilst the rest of us were at lectures or work. She was upstairs hoovering, turned around and there was a man stood at the top of the stairs. It’s safe to say she was FREAKED.
In our contract, we were informed that anybody who needed to could stop by, granted that we were given 24 hours notice. It turned out the man was our landlord, he came by to fix the toilet which had been flooding the bathroom (another issue to add to the long list), but we clearly hadn’t been informed of him coming, otherwise, Maddie would have known to expect him. We emailed the agency to say that we were unhappy about this, especially with the homeless man incident.
A few days later, I was sat watching TV in my onesie, making the most of my day off, when there was an incredibly aggressive knocking at the door. A man I’d never seen before said
“So are you going to let me in or do you want me to wait here for 24 hours to give to notice”.
I was actually so speechless like 1. who are you? 2. what do you even want to come in for? and 3. Why are you so rude?
Turned out he was the landlord!
It had got to the point where we had just given up. There was nothing we could have done to ensure we had sufficient communication. Quite frankly, they were arrogant, useless and down right rude.
If we ever rang the office, they would put us on hold for 15 minutes whilst they ‘transferred us to the right department’, in other words, pass the phone to the only other desk in the tiny office. It was all so unprofessional.
Moving Out (FINALLY.)
For months, they had viewings for new students to rent the house the following year. Always at the most inconvenient times in the day. These went on for ages and even when we moved out, they still hadn’t found anyone to take on the house. IT just goes to show just how awful the property was.
A couple of days after the last of us moved out, we received an email saying we had £200 in damages to pay. All of these were for things that were already damaged when we moved in. This was the final straw. I couldn’t deal with just how unorganised and unprofessional this company truly was. I sent them a very long email again, including photos of what they were trying to get us to pay for, on the date we moved in.
In the end, they dropped the majority of the charges, we still had to pay £50, but it was a lot better than £200.
Living in that house was utterly disgusting, probably the worst decision I’ve ever made. Although I got along with the people I lived with for most of the time, all of the issues added so much unnecessary stress, stress that none of us needed along with all of our assignment stress.
Thankfully, this year, I’ve decided to change university to one a lot closer to home, meaning that I can live with my parents and just get the train into Manchester for lectures. What’s even better, I’m only at university two days a week, so the other three days I can work!! It’s going to save me so much money and I already feel so much happier about it. If you read my previous blog post about my family, you’ll know that I have an incredibly close relationship with them all, I live next door to my Nanna and Auntie, and see my other aunties, uncles and cousins on regular bases.
Being at home means I have more chance to see everyone, including my god daughter, who was born during my first year, so most of her life I’ve been living away. I’m able to save money, something I’ve not had the chance to do whilst living away (not if I wanted to survive anyway). I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I’m looking forward to getting my degree finished and looking at what options there are for me.
A little piece of advice I would give to anyone going to university is, make sure you do extensive research before choosing an agency to go with. Whilst living in the house, we wrote about our experience on a freshers page, so many people told us about their awful experiences with this agency and others in the area also. We also received comments of really positive experiences, mainly from the same agency who were FAB!! (Kexgil if you go to UCLan, honestly, you’ll be completely fine with them!) Just don’t make any hasty decisions and choose a house you’ll be happy to call your home!
If you’ve had a bad experience with a housing company, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!!!
Bye for now xo