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Shared houses vs Purpose Built Student Accommodation: Which is better for students?

Shared houses vs Purpose Built Student Accommodation: Which is better for students?

One issue which often crops up in discussions with students who have completed their first year of study is whether they should move into a shared house with their friends from university or whether they should continue to rent Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).

It is a difficult question to answer as it mostly depends on personal preference and what students want from their living situations. What is the most important thing to each individual? A good social atmosphere? Quiet study space? Location? These are all questions that students should be asking themselves before planning their accommodation for the following academic year.

Although many students do indeed find affordable and comfortable houses to share with their friends, the horror stories are plentiful and detailed. Anybody who has been to university or has friends who have been will have heard of students somewhere living in squalid conditions with a landlord who won’t return their calls. The results are varied but here we take a look at the ups and downs of both.

Location

The majority of PBSA is designed with location as a key consideration, as it is likely to be an important factor for students when it comes to their social life and travelling time to and from university. Strictly speaking, a purpose built apartment block is unlikely to be somewhere that is inconvenient for students as there is little possibility of getting quality tenants.

Houses provided by private landlords can vary wildly. There are some cities which already have existing student areas in which there are plenty of student houses to rent. Manchester, for example, has the popular Fallowfield area. Budget is often the main concern when it comes to shared houses, and the lower your budget the more likely you are to end up in a less desirable area. Shared houses can be found that are good value, but the results are extremely mixed, as there may be restrictions on what sort of social life you can lead if the area is heavily residential, and so on.

Facilities

When renting PBSA, rent will almost always cover bills too. Heating, electricity, water and other utilities are often covered by the rental agreement and, as such, tenants can budget much more effectively. Broadband provision and other services may vary depending on the accommodation provider, but it should be said that prices and provision are fairly consistent among private providers.

In contrast the facilities and bills in shared houses vary wildly. Some landlords do offer an ‘all-in’ arrangement where your rent covers your heating, water and electricity but others will not and there are numerous stories of students receiving huge demands for payment after their landlord has failed to pay the bills. If utilities are covered in the rent then it is advisable to get it in writing and keep a copy in order to head off any future problems. Broadband, TV and other facilities often aren’t included in these agreements and are covered at your own cost.

Landlord problems

The biggest and most obvious benefit of PBSA is that issues with the landlord are kept to a minimum and are often non-existent. PBSA run by professional lettings and management companies will have a dedicated service prepared to tackle maintenance issues and other problems such as noise complaints, rowdy fellow tenants and safety.

In contrast private landlords can be highly unpredictable. Some tenants report waiting months for heating repairs, leaks and other issues which should be sorted out quickly. This is not to say that all private landlords are bad, but that when tenants encounter a bad landlord it can be more hassle than it is worth.

There are many viable options available to students looking to organise their housing situation at university, but there is risk involved too and students should do their research and think carefully before making their minds up. On the whole, PBSA offers a more secure and structured environment which can remove a lot of the stress of renting. Landlords too are increasingly turning to buy-to-let investment opportunities in the PBSA sector as there is a growing realisation that this is where the best student tenants prefer to rent.