Missed out on a space in halls? How to get the most of shared housing

It's not the end of the world if you didn't get a room in halls - in fact, you're going to have as much fun wherever you hang your hat

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The Independent Online

So, you’ve got into university; congratulations. But, you didn’t get a place into halls, and you’ve ended up in a house with a number of strangers. You may think it’s the end of the world because you’ve heard halls are what it’s all about. Don’t fret: that is not the case.

A first student house is an extremely daunting prospect; bills, shopping, maintenance and the sudden freedom. It will seem like a mountain of a challenge, but there are some things that you can do to make your first year in a student property an experience you’ll never forget.

That first day

The day’s finally arrived; you’re moving into your first house. You’ve got your life packed to the point of bursting in your parent’s car and you’ve travelled anywhere from 30 minutes up to 10 hours to get to your house. After the goodbye with the family, unpack and start chatting to your new housemates. You’re going to be together for at least 10 months so better get used to them.

Meeting people

Meting people was always going to be more difficult because you’re in a house, not halls. But this is what freshers' week is for. Grab your housemates, head up to your student union and start chatting to people. Also, look to the people on your course; you’ll be working with them for the next three years. Most importantly, be yourself. There’s nothing worse than having to keep up a lie.

Estimated bills and meter readings

Yes, it’s time to discuss bills. Eventually, a bill showing gas and electricity charges will fly through the letterbox and have what seems to be an obscene number scrawled across it. Don’t panic; it’s not right. This is an ‘estimated bill’. 

What are these meter readings? When you move in, you’ll be shown a meter with numbers on it, which you’ll want to make note of. Then, call the phone number on the bill and let the person on the other end know about your new metre readings. Pretty soon afterwards, you’ll get a newer, much more reasonable bill. It seems like common sense but seriously, there is that point where the ‘estimated bill’ comes through and panic sets in. Follow this and it’ll be fine.

Shopping and bills

The best ways to save money is communal shops. Pop down to the local supermarket, grab some ingredients and see what you can all come up with for meals. Pretty soon, the reduced aisle will become your best friend.

When it comes to bills, there are two ways of dealing with the responsibilities. The first is a joint bank account where each month and quarter, everyone transfers an even amount of money specified on the bill into the account. That way, there are no accusations of under-cutting. The second is diving up the bills; one person has gas and electricity, another has the Internet etc. and everybody gives the money to that respective person. The second way works because then people won’t forget when it’s money coming out of their account.


Look after your house; it’ll make your life easier. The worst problem is mould. You don’t want to turn around one day and see a wall covered in the stuff. You can prevent it by keeping the heating regular, but should it come up it’s easily solved. Pop down to the supermarket and grab some mould remover spray; it will become a valuable purchase when cleaning up the house. If you’re planning to move out at the end of the year, mould will be the reason the deposit will stay out of your reach, so keep it in check.

Emergency contacts

Most people won’t have a problem with their letting agent, but keep make sure you have emergency contacts like plumbers or electricians noted down. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a house on the weekend with no heating and power and no number to call, so make sure you’re letting agent has given them to you or left them on their answering machine.

Moving out

If you’re moving out of the house, it will need to be spotless, like you’ve never lived in it. The slightest mark, scuff or dirt can be the difference between a refund of your full deposit and a small scrap of it. Make sure all the accounts, like gas, electricity and internet are closed. Be prepared to give a final bill as proof, which you’ll need to contact your provider for. If you don’t, you can say goodbye to a serious chunk of money.

Follow the advice above and your first student house should be an experience you’ll never forget. Halls; who needs them?