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•Looking for a place to live next year? Over the next four pages, we offer some top tips for house-hunters. Words: Michele du Randt. Photos: Keith Whitmore

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20

Concrete, Wednesday, May

3, 1995

Housing Guide 7995 ------~--~~~~~~~--~--~~--~--------~--------~-----------

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ven if you haven't thought about what you're doing next week, let alone next October, there's no getting away from the fact that the house-hunting season has started once again. Whether you 're a first year whose only experience is of a University Village pod, or a second year who's fed up with your housemates, Concrete's housing guide offers some useful advice for house-hunters.

elf you haven't found a place already, then you'd better start looking now. Th ere's only six weeks to go until the holidays ... Accommodation in Norwich is plentiful and the most popular type of student house is the older type ofterraced house, many of which are situated in the notorious student quarter comprising Earlham Road, Unthank Road and Dereham Road, affectionately known as The Golden Triangle. This doesn't mean all that glistens is golden here, far from it, but at least you won't be far from where all the parties are ... So, first thing's first: where to look. The Accommodation Centre

on campus advises on properties to le~ but there are also rooms and houses to let advertised on the noticeboards downstairs in Union House. If you can't find anything there, then your next bet is the local press. Thursday's Evening News and Friday's Eastern Daily Press advertise throughout the year. But if you are thinking of doing this, you'll need to be quick off the mark. lt's advisable to get hold of the papers as early as possible, phone up immediately and be prepared to visit any accommodation the same day so as not to Jose out to someone else. In addition to this, it is always a good idea to keep an eye out for adverts in the windows of local shops. There are several accommodation agencies in Norwich and some estate agents have property management and Jetting departments. However, you should be aware that some agencies can be very expensive and not all of them Jet property to students. If you do decide to use an agency, then make it clear from the start what charges are involved and don't be fooled into

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thinking that this necessarily guarantees you a trouble free tenancy, because it doesn't. As a member of the Student Union, you also have free access to the Landlords index which can be found in the Advice Unit, upstairs in Union House. Compiled by the Union Advice Unit, the index contains property details supplied by student tenants and filed alphabetically under street names. This way, you can check up on a house you may have already looked at, and see what the tenants say about it - you might be surprised at how honest they are. If the comment mentions particular faults about the house, like mould or damp, then make sure these are put right before you accept the accommodation.

As far as rents are concerned, these can vary from anything between £30 and £50 a week, although your first concem should be whether the amount contains any hidden extras or not. Charges like water rates, gas and electricity usually form the other large expense of living out. If they're not included in the rent, these charges will arrive in the form of bills which are then shared amongst the tenants. Always check whether or not the house is fumished, otherwise you might find yourself forking out an extra £150 for a bed and a second-hand desk. The amount of rent will also depend on the location of the house and the number of people living there. Last, but not least, you should

be extremely careful when choosing your fellow housemates. The best of friends can often become the worst of enemies so it's very important that you make the right decision. If her passion for Boyzone drives you mad, and his girlfriend makes your flesh creep now, then take heed, these pet hates will escalate into major issues once you are living together. So, make sure that you know what you are Jetting yourself in for, and don't just choose people you feel sorry for. All things considered though, prepare yourself for a good time in you new abode. Don't forget, student houses are infamous for their parties, so enjoy this new found freedom and happy househuntingl

CONCRETE•S TOP TIPS FOR HOUSEHUNTERS •Don't visit a house alone. Apart from obvious safety reasons, it helps If there are a few of you to compare what you havet -:'~ :C,~=:~f the contract and get it checked out •Never sign anything on the spo . s at the Union Advice Unit. ther than a whole house, check who else •If you are looking for a room on your own, ra liable for Council Tax. lives there. If they are non-students, you m,ay lt;eyyou have fewer rights. Again check be· •If the landlord lives In the same house, ega fore you sign anything. dlord a ree on the 'Inventory' of the con· •When moving in, make sure you and r:ur !a:ccused ~f stealing non-existent furniture tents of the house, otherwise you cou ge later on. I If someone 'breaks In' by having a key (a previous •Make sure that the house s secure. tenant, for example) some insurance won't coveyr::~ove In otherwise you might find •Get the household bills changed as ~~n as ' yourself liable for the previous tenants btlls. ing to pay for things like washing-up liquid •Agree with your housem~tes howyod~ :re!~h you all contribute will save arguments and toilet rolls. A weekly house fun o later. lng to pay for it The bill will have to be •If you have a telephone, work out how you a;e goponslble person to do this and get the under one name, so try and choose the mos res 1 bill itemised. Otherwise get the phonie tol bda:c(;:YI~~ o;.~· the water rates or does the •Check which household bills are ne u landlord?) bl ? Get a receipt so you can prove you paid. Other· •Deposit... is the amount reasona e wise, a dodgy landlord won't return it at the end of the contract.

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So where does all your rent go? We talked to Terry Mamey and Paul Goulder, two Norwich landlords, to try and banish the popular myth that they make loads and loads of money...

place of your own•••

M

att, Ge rry, Will and 'Brum ' are all thi rd yea rs who have all known each other since they shared a corridor on Norfolk Terrace in their first year. The four lads share a house on Lincoln Street, just off Unthank Road. Concrete talked to them about their views on living out, and how different they found it from campus life. Matt: "When we used to live on Norfolk Terrace, I could go three weeks without ever leaving campus. At least living here, the town centre is so close that

QUnlon Landlord/ Landlady Index Record with (honest) comments of past students' experiences and houses in Norwich, in the Advice Unit, 1st floor Union House. QUnlon Notlceboard Anyone is free to place adverts for either whole houses, or 'person needed to share' on the UH notlceboards. QCampus Accommodation Centre Large board giving details of many rooms, houses and flats. They will also provide general information. QAccommodation Agencies Pro-Let Tel : 4503841 ; Wensum Properties Tel : 623084; Kent Management Tel: 7671 00; Mitchells Tel: 622414. These may charge. QNewspapers Check out the Evening News' special supplement on Thursdays. QThird Years A good way of finding a house is to find a third year who's moving. They'll be able to describe the house and the landlord.

you haven't really got an excuse not to get out. "Plus, there are loads of good pubs around this area, so we never get bored of going to the same one, night after night. Even if we did, it's only a ten minute walk into town and there are even more to choose from there." . Brum: "The best thing about not living on campus is that you don't have to put up with nosy cleaners and Resident Tutors. We're really lucky to live near Unthank Road, because it's got everything you need; bakers, offlicence, video shop, take-aways and even a chemist. "I suppose the only bad thing about living out is the noise the bin men make every week, which is horrible at 7am if you've got a hangover." Will: "lt's really nice to get away from it all, and have somewhere to go home of a night. "I never really felt that campus was a good place to do work, because you were always popping back to your room in between

lectures instead of going to the library. "lt's better to have somewhere to come back to at the end of the day, especially if it's going to be comfortable and warm. "Plus, we've got the advantage of having a sitting-room which we didn't have in Suffolk Terrace." Gerry: ·we haven 't found sharing a problem. We do have the odd argument, but differences are soon settled over a pint or two. ·we don't have a problem with things like cleaning or washing up -because we simply don't do itll think if we had shared with some girls, there would have been more problems in that department. ·we all lived virtually on the same corridor in our first year, so we all knew each other fairty well by the end of the year. "I'd advise anyone to share with the people on your corridor, because you've probably seen them at their worst already." So it's as good as that - honest.

How long have you been In the business? Terry Mamey: I have been a landlord since 1969. I was always brought up to know that bricks and mortar were the best investment. There used to be quite a few professional landlords in Norwich, but they seem to be a dying breed. Paul Goulder. I started out in 1981 , so that means I've been a landlord now for 14 years. Most of my houses in Norwich are taken by students, and most of them are at UEA. Is it true that student landlords make a lot of money? Terry Mamey: No, I have to say that landlords don't make as much money as people think . There are lots of overheads involved in the business so people should realise that their rents aren't going straight into the landlord's pocket. Paul Goulder. Most of the houses we bought in the

1980s aren 't worth as much nowadays, so we're actually losing money. Plus, there are always refurbishments to be made on all the houses every year. What do you expect from student tenants? Terry Mamey: I think what's more important than anything is good relations with people. If the tenants pay their rent on time, and keep the house reasonably clean, then it all works out. Paul Goulder. To be honest, the minute they tell us they're students, we know they're going to be OK We've no list of rules. Can you recall any funny Incidents over the years? Terry Marney: I remember one time when a student came round to see me late one night, on the brink of tears because he had checked the count on his electricity meter, and thought he had used over£30 in one week. Of course, I had to point out that he had been looking at the

wrong counter, and had really only spent £3. Paul Goulder. There are too many th ings that have happened over the years, to even begin to tell. We get call ed out for all kinds of reasons. What advice would you give to students looking for a place to live? Terry Marney: Beware of hidden extras like water rates, gas and electricity. Some landlords will include these charges in your rent, and "" others won't. Get your contract properly checked out. Paul Goulder. There are four things that you need to think about when looking for a place to live; the rent, your housemates, the kind of house you want and the landlord or landlady. Also, you should be wary of taking up a six month shorthold tenancy agreement, because the landlord can often decide to ask you to leave halfway through the year.

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22

Concrete, Wednesday, May 3, 1995

Housing Guide 1995

Know HOUSING GUIDE

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efore you even con sider paying a deposit or signing a contract for the house you finally decide upon, make sure you are aware of the legalities otherwise you might find yourself out of pocket and without a legal leg to stand on. When renting a house, the vast majority of landlords will insist on each tenant signing a contract agreeing to certain conditions, and the level of the rent. In general it is better to get a contract than to go along with a landlord who prefers the 'just pay me cash' approach . Beware of such landlords as they could be fiddling their tax returns by not declaring income (not your problem), or it could be that they have mortgage or money problems

(quite possibly your problem if the house is repossessed by the mortgage company). Most agreements signed in Norwich are 'Assured Shorthold Tenancies' which are governed by the 1988 Housing Act. Such agreements must be for at least six months, but are commonly for a year, starting in June. This means that you will be paying rent over the summer, for a house that you might not be living in until term begins in the autumn. You could always risk waiting until October to find a house, although the best places might have already been taken . Some landlords will allow you to sublet the house, which means that you can rent it out over the summer to someone else, perhaps a postgraduate or a foreign student, but you'll need their permission. If you are given a license to sign rather than a contract, the landlord is definitely on the fiddle. Licenses exist solely to try and get round the protection of the 1988 Housing Act. The one exception to this is where the landlord actually lives in the house themselves. In this case you are a lodger and your legal protection is much less. There are also lots of things

our enem that appear in contracts that are also not legal. Clauses like 'no visitors to stay overnight' are illegal (but they do appear!), as are 'the landlord may make an inspection of the property at any time'. Such clauses would never stand up in court, but obviously it is better to get a legal and fair contract from the outset, rather than risk major problems later. The Union Advice Unit, upstairs in Union House, have a number of very helpful staff who have extensive experience of dealing with housing matters, and can offer the wary househunter a number of invaluable services. Whilst not trained solicitors, they are more than willing to look over any contract a student is asked to sign. This year the Advice Unit have produced a Housing Pack, which gives details of the legal side of house-hunting, and the staff there will be pleased to look through any contract you are given. Janet Peck, the Union's Welfare Co-ordinator, warns prospective tenants never to sign a contract on the spot, and always to get it checked out by someone first. "Once you sign a contract, as-

The Union Advice Unit's 1995 Housing Pack, and (inset) Janet Peck, Union Welfare Co-ordinator

suming it is legal, you are liable to pay the rent for the whole year", she explained. "In extreme cases, the Union pay for a solicitor to take up any problems that arise and give free advice." But don't worry as legal difficulties are still quite rare and can normally be amicably resolved.

The most pressing problem you are likely to face is an argument with your housemates over who toots the bill for the wine stains on the carpet after the never-to-be-repeated house-warmIng party.

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Concrete housing guide 1995 issue 46 03 05 1995  
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