Lessons taken from Privately Renting for the first time...

At the beginning of our second year of university, Andy (my boyfriend) and I made the decision to move in together and commute to and from university. We settled on Darlington – a half hour train from each of our universities – and moved in at the beginning of September 2 years ago. Now, university is complete and we have temporarily moved home whilst we start to find our feet in the world of jobs, but two years of private renting has taught me a good few lessons. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, but I’ve definitely learned some things for next time I leave home…

British Gas and Sky will never, ever be on your side

This was obviously the first time I’ve had to deal with bills, utilities and the like, and I was a bit unprepared for just how unhelpful the customer service departments at big companies can be. British Gas regularly tried to overcharge us, and when we moved out demanded an extra £200 that I knew we didn’t owe. Sure enough, about a month ago, they sent a letter announcing our account was in credit by £200 and would we like a cheque for it? Erm, yes. Sky were a complete and total nightmare. We regularly had internet issues, and by the end of the two years our internet only worked consistently if the phone line was unplugged. Yes, that’s the phone line we were paying Sky for… It’s definitely taught me to stand up for myself a lot more, as if I hadn’t got cross on the phone, both companies would have had far more money from us than they had earned.

Water doesn’t automatically just come out of a tap

This sounds like a silly thing to say, but I’d never really thought about a water supply before. I knew it had to be paid for, but it’s something we just take for granted that we have in our homes. When  a huge water pipe burst about 6 months ago, it was panic stations time! The idea that there was no water in the taps was completely baffling, and Andy headed off on an emergency bottled water trip with the neighbours. This sounds silly, but the point is you’re dealing with things you’ve just never really thought about before. If there’s a power cut or water failure, there’s no parents to get it sorted!

Never underestimate the value of a good landlord

After hearing plenty of nightmare stories from friends, I don’t think we could have been much more lucky with our landlord, Andrew. He was there every step of the way, responded to questions or issues quickly, and whenever we did see him he was great to chat to. He was very present throughout the rental, although never invasive, and when we did have contact with them he seemed to genuinely care about how we were. When there were issues, such as when our smoke alarm broke, he was there to sort it promptly, and if he was away, we always knew who we could call in his place. We definitely got lucky with that one!

Bills and rent make your bank account sad

I would always have a great day at the beginning of the month, when Andy transferred his half of all our bills into my account. I had a very happy bank account indeed. Unfortunately, Sky took some money on the 5th of the month, and rent went on the 12th, and suddenly my bank account was sad again. I know Andy had transferred part of the money to me that was for those bills, but as it all then left my account, it felt like all the money was mine!

You can’t choose your neighbours

And, yet again, we got lucky. A lovely old man lived in the flat opposite, who would take in parcels for us and have a natter, and there was a generally very friendly atmosphere around the close. We had a slight wobble when a man with a DRUM KIT (IN A BLOCK OF FLATS) moved in upstairs, but he soon came down to introduce himself, ask the best hours to play, and to let us know we could ask him to stop at any time. Disaster averted.

It was HOME

I’m very lucky in that I have always lived in an absolutely lovely home with my family, and we are really close, so home has always been I place I have loved being. Equally though, nothing is quite like that feeling of a place really being your own. For Andy and me, it was the start of a totally new chapter, and we learned so much. I had no idea I’d get so attached to our little flat, to the walk into town, and to Darlington train station. For my 21st birthday, just after we left Darlington, Andy made a slideshow of all the memories we made there, and all I can say is it really was our second home.

Now it’s the start of a new chapter yet again. We’re both living with our parents at the moment, so we can take those steps towards a career, and getting some money coming in! Andy starts a placement tomorrow, and I start my new job on 2nd September. And when we do live together again, we’re going to be far more clued up as to exactly what we need.

Onwards and upwards!

Sophie x


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