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Student Life

Student houses of horrors: A cautionary tale of student rental

Holes in the roof, haunted fire alarms and over-friendly cockroaches; Louise Tompkins has lived to tell the tale

Student housing has a bad reputation, probably because those houses designated for students sit at the very bottom of the property ladder.

If you’re lucky, your only neighbours will be also be students. If you’re not, then you’ll be getting very cosy with ants, slugs and cockroaches. Occasionally you’ll be dumped near real people but, for everyone involved, it is better to avoid those arrangements. Yes you would have less of a chance of living in a house held up by its mould, but then again you would also be forced, by the police if necessary to have a curfew on your pre-drinks. We all know which the higher priority is.

One man’s house horrors are another’s 'character building'

If your fire alarm insists on beeping every 30  seconds for three weeks, at least you'll learn how to survive several of the more basic forms of torture. Eventually it might even become something of a friendly voice greeting you in the morning and welcoming you home even when the house is empty.

Or if the door in your living room breaks, thus trapping you in the house, away from the kitchen, bathroom and exit, don’t panic. This is not a catastrophe, it is an opportunity to see how much you have learned from Bear Grylls, as you scour the rooms you can access for ways to survive and escape. It is also a test of your friendships as you begin the ring-round to see who is awake and willing to come over, let themselves in with the keys you’ve thrown at them from the window and see if they can aid you in anyway. If you are lucky and have friends willing to get dressed and leave the house at an inevitably ungodly hour, well, that’s when the situation turned into a team-building exercise as each side used their initiative to find something lying around that could unscrew the door handles.

Once none of that has worked, it becomes an excellent chance to test your strength and accuracy as you give up and break the door down. In this instance, it is also an opportunity to test your unhelpful landlord’s patience by sending him a picture of the broken door and a simple “this is what the door looks like now” message.

Who even needs a washing machine, really?

Instead of complaining that your washing machine drowns all of your clothes, take the opportunity to learn how to use a mangle. You never know when these old time skills might become fashionable again. Or when it traps your clothes by refusing to unlock the door, consider it the washing machine’s way of telling you to take the night off from housework and put your feet up – it’s nice to know the house cares about you.

Don’t worry when the tumble dryer’s filter is so full that it doesn’t work because it’s a fire hazard. See it as a challenge to find the best places to dry your clothes, while your ingenuity is tested as you try to work out how to remove the year’s worth of lint left as a present by the previous tenants.

Once you begin seeing the world in this way, then when a thunderstorm alerts you to the fact that you can see the sky from the walk-in wardrobe in one of the bedrooms, it becomes no big deal. Rather, you are quite excited by this unique new architectural feature, and the person who lives in that room gets to boast about how he now has a skylight - unlike the rest of you.

The fact that the only way to get TV signal requires it to be placed at such a height that you would need to be sitting a metre further away from it than is possible, given the size of a room, also becomes a feature rather than a bug. It’s an invitation to rearrange the furniture and the room's very feng shui in such a way that gives optimum view to the greatest number of Mario Kart players. You can worry about the chiropractic bills when you’re older; right now just be glad that you can now play the lava game with greater ease.

Above all, it is important to retain your sense of humour, because the after all this time, the house may still have a few tricks up its metaphorical sleeves – like the fridge light deciding to work for the first time all year the very week that you move out – that will make you feel like it is mocking you. Once that paranoia sets in, your only options are to laugh and feel proud that you survived with some great anecdotes or to curl up in a ball and let the house win.